November 25, 2020

The Boss: Collaborate and Compete

My first job, at 14, was managing private tennis courts and giving lessons. Someone often double-booked the courts, so several people would show up simultaneously for the same court. I quickly learned conflict management. I’d apologize profusely and offer the court free at another time, or offer a free lesson.

That job was also my first foray into advertising. There was a restaurant nearby, and I got the idea to let the owners advertise at our tennis center in return for lunch every day.

I played a lot of competitive tennis while at the University of Miami and became friends with some of the other athletes. The school always had the football players stay in a hotel off campus the night before a game. One night, I was hanging out with them at a hotel. Some of the players decided to have some fun and threw some furniture from their room into the pool. After a while, they figured that they’d better replace it and decided to break into the room next door to get the substitute furniture. A couple of the players decided that because I was smaller, I’d have the easiest time climbing in the window and unlocking the door from inside.

We were on the 10th floor. They lifted me onto the outside ledge, and I shimmied along the wall and climbed into the room. Looking back, I realize that, had I fallen, I might have died. The lesson I learned was to be careful of the company you keep.

I graduated in 1977 with a business degree. At the time, jobs were hard to come by, and it took me six months to find one. It was with Ed Libov Associates, a media buying service. Some companies wouldn’t give me the time of day, but a few would spend time with me whether or not they had a job to offer. I’ve never forgotten that. I try to be accessible and an open listener.

In 1984, I moved to Media General and opened a New York office for it. In 1989, the company successfully fought a hostile takeover attempt, but the investors decided to diversify and to sell the media division I was managing. I convinced the company to lend me the money to buy the division. I borrowed $13 million. I was taking a huge risk, but they agreed and I formed Horizon Media. Today we have more than 600 employees, four offices and $3 billion in annual media investments. Our clients include Geico, Capital One and Arts Entertainment Television Networks.

Clients used to have one agency — the agency of record — that handled everything for them: media buying, creative campaigns and public relations. But that has changed over the years. As communications have grown more complex, agencies have become more specialized. Companies now often work with more than one agency simultaneously. These days, it’s all about being an agency of collaboration.

Advertising has gone through other significant changes as well. Privacy issues are at the forefront of digital communications, especially regarding ways in which consumers are going to be tracked for advertising purposes. Regulation is coming. Whether the industry monitors itself or the government steps in, we need a solution so that consumers are comfortable with being tracked.

We’re in a self-service media economy. People have the option of tuning in or tuning out when it comes to advertising. Understanding how to navigate the media landscape gives you the keys of the kingdom.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=61e9232c43b25bacd45f20c21ef20689

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