How Pete Stein's Entrepreneurial Spirit Led Him To Become Merkle Americas President

Pete Stein stepped into his role as president of Merkle Americas on March 1. Inside Performance asked him whether it felt different. You know -- like when you are 49 years old, about to turn 50.

“Yes, there’s a little bit of adjustment going on in my head -- changing my focus and reorienting,” he said.

In his previous role, Stein led Merkle’s Experience and Commerce practice.

In 2021, he was instrumental in the acquisition of LiveArea, bolstering Merkle’s global experience and commerce capabilities and further positioning the business as a go-to experience partner for brands around the world.

Stein wanted to become an entrepreneur since high school. He started several companies, including landscaping and painting, during that time. “I saved up enough to travel around the world after college,” he said. “Part of me was curious about other cultures, finding out how other people live and experiencing them. It was that entrepreneurial spirit that drove me.”

He got hooked on helping others, including working at a hunger relief organization after traveling around the world. The curiosity applied to culture, but also business and how people work more effectively.



Stein joined Merkle from global experience agency Huge. As CEO at Huge, he led a team of 1,200 people across 13 offices. Prior to that role, he served as general manager at Fullscreen Media.

Stein also spent more than 18 years at Razorfish, rising to global CEO. At Razorfish, he expanded a base of digital offerings by creating new global capabilities in ecommerce, social, mobile, and programmatic media.

When asked whether the entrepreneurial spirit was hereditary, Stein said his father worked in advertising back in the Mad Men days and started an agency, but it didn’t work out, so he went to work on Wall Street where his dad worked.

Stein’s New Year’s resolution for 2022 was inspired by another Merkle employee who vowed to read 10 pages in a book daily. “So, I made one for myself this year,” he said. “I started with fiction. I just finished Jonathan Franzen’s new book, and now I’m reading one from Murakami.”

In Franzen’s books, he said, usually the characters are slightly crazy with internal interesting stories.

“I would put it in the same curiosity in how businesses tick and how to work with people more effectively,” he said. “The magic is to bring them all together. It’s about connecting businesses across the silos of their own organization.”

The best piece of business advice Stein every received is from Jim Warner, when the two worked together at Razorfish.

“He and I co-led New York,” Stein said. “He used to say ‘It’s not the how, it’s the who.’ People respond to challenges. Giving people accountability is an effective way to get things done.”

Stein went to Merkle for its expertise in data and identity. Other agencies just didn’t have what Merkle does, he says. He also had good relationships with Craig Dempster, former CEO at Merkle, and others who work and have worked there.

While his goal for the year is to further the company’s clients along in their journey, he did not define precisely what that means. He also plans to focus on acquisitions and bring in more students, as well as strengthening the company’s strategy on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Challenges in 2022 range from recruiting talent to work at the agency, and convincing people it’s okay to take time off. Don’t let the work bleed into home life. Set boundaries, he said.

Stein has two wishes for change in 2022. Reinvent the capabilities for in-store shopping, and make the pandemic go away, so Merkle can have many more in-person meetings. “It will lift a weight off everyone,” he said. “We have had a couple of amazing in-person meetings. I’d like to see that happen again.”

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