Q&A with Gustavo Martinez, Marketing and Advertising Consultant

Interview Gustavo Martinez

Background of Gustavo Martinez 

Gustavo Martinez has spent the last 35 years in the marketing and advertising industry. Over that time, he has led some of the most important firms in the business, overseeing the creation of iconic ads that have become pop-culture touchstones. He has served as the CEO of one of the largest and most legendary marketing firms in the world, J. Walter Thompson Worldwide. He has also served as the president of McCann Worldgroup as well as Olgilvy and Mather, two of the most venerable names in the marketing industry. Before that he worked at Henkel and Price Waterhouse.

We sat down for an interview with this experienced manager of the modern marketing and advertising industry, who graciously offered to share some of his many insights with us as well as his vision for the future of this dynamic sector.

Gustavo Martinez, thank you for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

Recently, you have gone in a slightly new direction, which may appear to some as being outside the scope of traditional marketing. Could you explain to us what role you see consulting and business acceleration playing in the future of marketing?

First, let me address the question about consulting. The term consulting is just a shorthand way of saying an independent contractor who provides high-end services at the strategic and operational levels. So, it turns out that consulting has been a cornerstone of the advertising industry since the beginning. And the consultancy model has been a time-tested and proven means of delivering top-flight results within the marketing industry for nearly 100 years. I myself mostly worked as a consultant and for consulting agencies prior to becoming the president and CEO of major established firms.

One thing that people coming from other industries need to understand about the marketing business is that the single most important asset to any advertising agency or marketing firm is creativity. This is very different from other industries where there is a set process that has been refined, perfected and well-established. In most businesses, you need people who are reliable workers, who complete their shift and competently execute their jobs, which are often quite repetitive and even formulaic.

The marketing industry is the polar opposite of that. You can picture advertising as being a kind of applied artistry; each agency will have a broad artistic process just as a painter or composer will have a process that they generally follow. But these only exist in the loosest terms. There are hard business elements to running an ad agency, of course. That’s what I have specialized in throughout the latter part of my career, acting as an executive, which is a position in which one of the hats you wear is that of the company’s chief business administrator.

But the engine that drives marketing is raw creativity. And I’m not talking about just normal people you might meet who are funny or usually have interesting things to say. At the firms I’ve been involved in, we have elevated recruitment to a science. And I can tell you that we go for the absolute best talent that we can find in the world as do all of our competitors. We are really going after the creative geniuses from each new crop of college graduates. And the fact is that those people don’t typically work well within or even tolerate highly structured, nine-to-five environments. They do best as independent contractors, another word for which is “consultant”. This is the fundamental reason that the consultancy model works so well within the marketing business.

As for business acceleration, I am working on an exciting project with a company called UV Business Acceleration. The fact is that the world of startups is brutal. 90 percent of new startups fail within three years. What I have recognized from my experience in the marketing industry is that, increasingly, the product is the advertising and vice versa. So, we are helping companies to streamline things like user experience, insight gleaned from analytics, technology design and functionality right from the first day.

We’re hoping to change the success rate from 10 percent to 90 percent through total-marketing-strategy optimization that they would otherwise have to develop by trial and error. This stuff is getting more complex by the year, and the trial-and-error approach to marketing and product development is simply no longer viable for many of today’s startups. We’re seeking to help startups, established brands and marketers to apply proven marketing, product development and strategic principles. Recently, I was lucky enough to be called by another company, Massive Data Heights, an Artificial Intelligence company that analyzes millions of consumers reviews transform them in actionable marketing and business insights. This is now helping our consultant offering.

What does your typical day look like?

I am what some people might refer to as a workaholic. I typically wake up at 7 a.m., have breakfast with my family when I am not traveling, go through my emails and skim the day’s business news. I then typically head to the office and work from 9 a.m. to between 7 and 9 p.m.

I am now in a new phase of my life that is more entrepreneurial.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Creativity is the raw ore from which great marketing campaigns are forged. I have found that diversity of thought, background and experience among my team members tends to foment the widest scope of ideas and creative solutions to problems. As a team leader, one of my most important functions is to keep people not just motivated but genuinely inspired. So, putting the right people on projects that really interest them is important. Another big factor is recognizing those who have done great work. Recognition is really a huge human motivator, which is hardwired into us. I view my team members as highly talented artists, and I strive to create an environment in which they are recognized as such

What’s one trend that really excites you?

From a pure marketing & advertising perspective, the emergence of the Internet of Things is something that I think, even with the considerable hype surrounding it, is being largely overlooked by my peers in the industry. Imagine if you’re selling ice cream. What would be the ideal place to pitch your product to prospective customers? How about when you know that they are overheated and craving something to eat as well as to cool them down. What if I told you that said customer’s refrigerator could determine both those things with shocking accuracy, by taking into account the outside temperature, the last time the door was opened, corresponding to the customer’s last likely meal, and other strong-signal metrics? Now, what if I told you that the refrigerator could suggest your brand of ice cream to that customer, place the order, pay for it and have it delivered by drone to the customer’s home within 15 minutes? How much do you think an ice cream seller would be willing to pay for that kind of positioning?

And this is just one example out of infinite possibilities that illustrate how powerful Internet-of-Things technologies are shaping up to be from a marketing perspective.

What is the one habit that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Active listening, generosity and always making people feel important by knowing their worth. Everyone, no matter who they are, has interesting things to say and contribute.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be more patient and always be eager to learn from different kinds of talented people.

Tell us something that’s true that almost no one else agrees with you on?

Charity is very important. But it must be done out of genuine kindness and should never reflect a desire to status signal or be perceived as good. Anything else is not charity but advertising. I should know. And when the two are conflated, strange and undesirable things can result, often for the recipients of the charity. If you have done well and want to donate $10 million to a school, then do so. Just don’t put your name on the library. And remember that true charity always starts at home.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do consistently and would recommend to others?

You should always be generous, genuinely interested in others’ viewpoints and open to working with a wide diversity of talent.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The answer may seem surprisingly straightforward. We get our edge from hiring the top talent that we can find. We are, you could say, ruthlessly magnanimous in our recruitment. We will pay top dollar and throw in the kitchen sink to get the best. In that way, advertising is kind of like professional sports. But that is the philosophy that has helped me to grow businesses under my leadership by huge margins.


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