The Story of Ray Markman – Part 8
Friday, 4:00 pm
Ray has it good in his dream job at Leo Burnett, but he leaves for a new role at McCann Erickson.
Why does he do a thing like that? Sure, it’s one of top five agencies but he always wanted to work for Leo Burnett. Why does he leave his dream job?
Just as I’m playing with an idea that maybe he’s already realized one dream and it’s time for the next, I come across this: He’s leapfrogging to a much bigger role. If he sticks where he is, it might take him ten years to get there. So he takes over the Chicago office of McCann Erickson and his life changes dramatically.
This turns out to be a turnaround story. As Loop Lonagan is fond of saying, “A turnaround guy uses the same skillset as an entrepreneur.” That’s where Ray seems to have fun—making new products, new companies.
He knows the agency is in trouble over their huge Helene Curtis account. They already put seven guys on it but they haven’t turned out much so far.
If you’ve seen Mad Men, you know all about it. At that time the whole advertising industry is run by men. Ray figures men don’t use cosmetics so they don’t know cosmetics. To make it worse, these same seven guys split their time with a meatpacking account. What the hell does meat have to do with cosmetics?
So here’s an agency in trouble over a big account and what does Ray do? He buys stock in it. It’s not insider trading—there aren’t any mergers, surprise earnings reports or other secrets in the works. It’s pure self-confidence. Call him cocky. He believes he can grow the business. How many guys got the chutzpah to be that sure? He bets his job. He bets his wealth. But he’s not rolling dice—Ray knows what he’s doing.
So he tells the company, ‘Don’t fire these seven guys but take them off the account. I don’t want them.’ He plans on hiring just one person. In come 12 resumes—all male as usual—and he goes through the politics of reading them all and dismissing them all.
Then he learns about a woman that once worked in the P&G business. She just came to Chicago. So he quietly phones her, saying, ‘Don’t come into the office—meet me at this restaurant.’ He has lunch with her and hires her on the spot as an account executive. This is at a time when women are fighting for their rights—they still are if you stop and think about it.
The two of them turn out more marketing plans in a month than those seven guys did in three years. They turn the account around.
So he hires a female creative director, a female account exec, a female media director, a female research director, and just one guy. That’s his team. In effect, he’s creates an agency within an agency—almost 100% female.
They double the company’s business.
Thinking back to that era, I’m struck by how unusual it was to have women in those roles. His lead gal later becomes vice president of a major corporation. Then she starts an agency of her own and wins ad woman of the year. She’s still a friend of Ray’s.
I smile and root for Ray in my heart—the guy that creates something counterculture to solve a practical problem:
The first all-woman ad agency.
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