Erik Herskind: CEO & Founder, greenlight

My NativeAdVice:


For the past 25+ years, Erik has solved marketing and branding challenges for local, regional and national companies and brands. Prior to founding greenlight, Erik worked for agencies including Loyalty Matrix, Brierley & Partners, and Tracy-Locke. While at these agencies, he gained extensive experience working on successful brands including Apple, Starwood Hotels, 24 Hour Fitness, General Growth Properties, United Airlines, Blockbuster and General Mills. Outside the office, Erik seeks inspiration for greenlight’s heritage branding initiatives through his extensive collection of all things vintage and by driving his restored 1970 Ford Bronco. Every fall, Erik carries on a family tradition dating back to 1957 when he makes his annual pilgrimage to Lambeau Field (the only thing tougher than coming up with a brilliant marketing strategy - being a Packers season ticket holder living in Dallas.) Erik is a graduate of SMU in Dallas, Texas where he and his wife, kids and two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs reside.

How did you get into the industry?

Went I went to college, much like many other 18-year-olds, I had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. About halfway through while I struggled through business classes, I breezed through English and writing courses. At that moment I knew that there would always be a place for those who could effectively communicate and write. My first job was with Sunwest Communications – a sports marketing and PR agency in Dallas -- with an incredible leadership team. Agency life had an allure that appealed to me in many ways. Thirty years later, I still vividly remember my first client meetings and pitches. And I still get fired up helping clients solve business challenges through big ideas and creative messaging.

Any emerging industry trends?

Chasing trends can be a slippery slope. I’ve always believed that authenticity overrules all. So for me, in many ways, there is a tension between trends and authenticity. Not to say that as marketers we should not keep up with trends, but rather keep them in check. Great work is rarely defined by the channel, but rather by the emotive impact in delivers.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

For that past few years there has been a relentless pursuit for content. Brands are dedicating more and more resources to produce, generate and curate content. This is not going to go away.  An opportunity we’ve identified and are seeing more of our clients embrace is shorter, less-produced video content.  Instead of spending money on big video production, marketers are embracing the rawness of short burst video messaging featuring real consumers. No more extracting video snippets from B-roll and repurposing for social content. Now it’s all about shooting something today and having it up tomorrow.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

We started greenlight out of frustrations we felt at behemoth agencies.  Becoming the enemy of the client because of thing like bickering over fees felt like failure to me.  I have always believed that an agency person is there to make clients look good (and therefore successful).  Bigger agencies with layers and layers and growing fees became prohibitive to me being an exceptional agency resource.  The goal was for greenlight to deliver world-class creative based on insight-driven strategies for fewer fees.  Eleven years later I can proudly say that we’ve done what we set out to do.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The last 15 months have been some of the most draining and rewarding in the agency’s tenure.  Heading into our 10-year anniversary in March of 2016, we took on the ambitious task of relocating our agency to the Trinity Industrial District near downtown Dallas.  Moving from a more corporate location to a grittier, more authentic warehouse space has been life changing for all of us.  In addition to becoming neighbors with craftsmen, artists and even a stunt car driver, we created a dedicated creative meeting venue – HOWDO – adjacent to our agency offices.  Created to be a space where big ideas are born, HOWDO is a flexible meeting space ideal for corporate meetings, happy hours and creative brainstorms.  We saw a white space in the meeting space marketplace and think we are on to something big.  And as a bonus, a lot of great companies get exposure to greenlight through experiencing the space we created and branded.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Two years ago we fine tuned the agency’s core offerings and put a stake in the ground.  By streamlining what we do, we were able to better target potential clients and ultimately produce more impactful work.  In the process we resigned a few clients that needed agency support outside of our newly defined services.  That was tough.  But two years later, we’ve seen our revenues more than double.  It feels good to focus narrowly on what you can do best.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Not winning RFPs is always a challenge for agencies our size.  We put so much time and energy into the process and it feels like almost everyone in the agency is emotionally invested in the outcome.  Over the past couple of years we have learned how to better frame up the RFP process so that not matter the outcome we as an agency learn something – either about a company or an industry or about ourselves.  Some of our best work has been for companies that never hired us.  And that’s alright.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Those clients that would go to bat for us are the ones who truly leveraged our passion for their success to its fullest.  We become part of the client team and never stop presenting new ideas, new approaches and new ways to drive business.  Our role is to support our clients under all conditions and that is what makes us invaluable.

How do you motivate others?

I subscribe to the servant leadership philosophy and this approach permeates our agency’s culture.  Other agencies I’ve worked at are really brutal, cut throat cultures.  When we started greenlight we said that we would exist on a foundation of love and respect.  That will never change and is the primary reason why it’s not a challenge to motivate people who feel cared for and respected.

Career advice to those in your industry?

I would counsel any young person interested in getting into the advertising agency world to ask themselves two important questions:  1). What do I love to do?, and 2).  Do I like to serve others?  If the first answer has anything to do with being creative then go to the second question.  Then they better be able to answer the second question with a resounding YES.