Andrew Susman spent the past two decades empowering brand marketers via content marketing. Now he plans to do it with a broader array of media services at an agency known for truth, trust and independence. Susman, who sold seminal content marketing platform Studio One to CHR Group late last year, is returning to the agency business as head of a new New York office of Cincinnati-based Empower MediaMarketing, a family-owned media services agency known for its independence and its Midwestern roots.
Susman, who will be vice president in charge of the New York operations, said his goal is to establish a beachhead for Empower in the ad industry’s largest market, to "expand the depth and strength of its planning relationships," and to "identify merger and acquisition opportunities" and other partnerships.
Susman, who is from Kansas City, MO, says he was raised on "Midwestern values," and this is his first agency job since he came to New York in 1992 and landed a job -- after 91 interviews -- in the new business department of Young & Rubicam.
Media Daily News: Why are you returning to the agency world now" And why are you doing it with Empower?
Andrew Susman: After selling Studio One, I went to the Association of National Advertisers conference to take an objective look without a motive at the industry for the first time in 17 years. What I saw was an enormous amount of change, a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers. And a real undertone of "How are we going to handle the infelicities of the modern media world," such as ad avoidance, fraud, agencies not being trusted. It seemed like the two key words coming out of the conference were a four-letter word -- and that was "data" -- and a five-letter word, and that was "trust."
The reason I ended up at Empower was that I had interviews with the CEOs of every major agency trying to understand the environment and Empower was the one that had all the markers of trust, as well as world-class capabilities. Empower is a 100% family-owned independent agency based out of Cincinnati with strong Midwestern values. What I’m looking to do is bring those Midwestern values to Madison Avenue.
The fact that Empower is independent is a necessary element of working truly for the client and not for other masters. At Empower, its masters are its clients. That’s it -- no conflict of interest. You need to be an independent firm in order to be completely free of conflicts.
My mission was to find something where I could be a zealous advocate for something I really believe in. And I believe in Empower and I believe that trust will win.
MDN: Why is bringing Midwestern values to Madison Avenue an important thing?
Susman: I think those values represent a broad-shouldered, truth-telling work ethic. Those are things that don’t exist enough in Manhattan. In the Midwest, if you were to tell a fib, everyone would know who you are. It’s important to expose the market to sunlight and to bring these independent operating principles and show incumbent media clients what transparency looks like when it is done right.
MDN: For those people who don’t understand the culture -- or the services practice -- of Empower, what do you think is their secret sauce and their capabilities?
Susman: Empower is a company that was spun out of the Procter & Gamble media department and combines those capabilities with trust. Trust is the lubricant of business. And anytime trust goes down, costs go up and the speed of doing things goes down.
Look at this industry right now. That’s exactly what’s been happening. It has become highly contractual, because there is no trust. When my [Studio One] partner [former NBC sales chief] Bob Blackmore used to sell for NBC, there were no contracts. It was all word. And when GE acquired them and came in and asked where all the contracts were, he said, "There are no contracts."
MDN: Aside from trust and Midwestern values, what differentiates Empower’s capabilities?
Susman: Proof. What differentiates Empower is that they are focused on delivering proof to their clients that something worked.
MDN: Why did you want to come back to the agency world after creating a content marketing platform?Susman: I was in content marketing for 17 years. When I started that business, there was no word for it. And when I left, it was a $64 billion business. I feel the agency business offers an opportunity to see the whole breadth and diversity of media. There’s a lot more to media than simply content marketing. I wanted to re-enter that world because I wanted to be involved in a broader part of the business. Content marketing was always a powerful solution, but it wasn’t the total solution.