Julie Michael: President, Team One (Publicis Groupe)

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Julie Michael is President of Team One (Publicis Groupe). She is both fiercely competitive and “Minnesota nice.” Her clients benefit from her tenacity and flair for making the seemingly impossible, possible. She has led dozens of integrated marketing programs for modern brands, from launching the car-of-the-future with Steven Spielberg to giving affluents permission to fly private jets again. Julie has been with Team One for more than 18 years, and has held a number of senior management positions, including director of experiential marketing, director of business development, and executive director leading numerous agency clients, among them Lexus, The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, HSBC Premier, Häagen-Dazs International, American Express, Flexjet, Icelandic Glacial, Anaheim Ducks, Northern Trust, and Procter & Gamble. Before joining Team One, Julie was the Marketing Director at a premier Northwest resort, Crystal Mountain, running all aspects of marketing and sales.

How did you get into the industry?

When I was 12, I drew pictures of the agency that I would run someday. It was called “J. Allison Advertising.” Since that time, I took steps to make it happen. In college, I studied all things communication, marketing and business. When attending an International Business program at Cambridge University, my thesis was on “The Future of Saatchi & Saatchi.” Graduating from the University of Montana with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Minor in Journalism, I moved to Seattle with $175 in my checking account … and that’s where my career began.  

Any emerging industry trends?

Oh, how I love this question. And yes, there are tons. Here are a few that are top of mind this week:

Creativity wins more than ever. In a world where data and technology seem to take center stage more frequently, the lead act is still creativity. Without it, there is no inspiration, innovation, delight or joy. Companies that know how to nurture unbridled creativity are the ones winning with consumers right now.

Marketing and news are converging. Marketers need to think more like newsmakers. Credible newsmakers. Passive, expected or overly formal communications get ignored in a nanosecond in people’s social feeds. Timely, surprising, fact-filled, helpful or entertaining content gets shared and discussed.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are here. The human-machine learning loop is an accelerator for business. In addition to the obvious improvement of data processing, AI and machine learning will create more helpful robots, better virtual assistants and more intuitive ways to measure emotion and sentimentall extremely relevant for brands and marketers to predict needs and deliver a brighter future.  

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

As marketers, we are responsible for putting images and messages into the world which promote inclusion and love. The content we make should provoke positive conversations, redefine what families look like, promote underdogs as heroes and ensure that we establish people of all races, beliefs, genders and sexualities into meaningful roles. As Geena Davis, advocate for gender equality in media, says, “If she can see it, she can be it.” The significant opportunity is on all marketers to make sure people SEE IT. So they can BE IT.  

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

Team one was purpose-built as a fully-integrated agency focusing on premium brands and affluent consumers. We have deep, global knowledge of modern affluents-how they think, what they value, why they shop and what they aspire to be. Our company’s purpose is to help our clients deeply connect their upscale brands with these important buyers. Success is when our clients earn top pricing margins in their respective categories. In our highest ambitions, we aim to positively influence the way modern affluents want to live their lives.

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

Team One is investing heavily in virtual and augmented reality. We are incubating a new creative/production offering that is 100% focused on providing brands with immersive, 360-, virtual and augmented video experiences. In the year after Facebook spent $2B to buy Oculus, the number of venture capital deals and total dollars invested in VR and augmented reality have bothtripled (CB Insights). Since then, nearly every global technology player is deeply invested in the space-Samsung, Sony, HTC, Google, Unity, Magic Leap, etc. With increased technology adoption, there will be increasing demand for more and more 360-- content. That’s where we come in.

The applications are broad-sports, medicine, training, education, gaming, entertainment, marketing, sales, events.

Imagine … seeing every detail of your new Learjet before it’s been built? Or sitting on the 50-yard line to select seats for your season tickets without ever setting foot in the stadium? Or test-driving a $120,000 sports car on Fuji Speedway without leaving the dealership? Or knowing that a chief surgeon from Johns Hopkins can sit at her desk and assist with a complex surgery in a remote part of Africa?

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We have two areas of focus:

1)    Launching more remarkable (shareable, positive, exciting, newsworthy) ideas into the world

2)    Guiding our clients into the future (strategically, technologically, creatively)

All parts of the agency are dedicated to spending our time doing these two things, expertly and frequently.

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

Throughout my career of over 25 years, I have lost a couple clients. Clients that I loved, cared for, worried about, lost sleep over. Clients that had huge market potential. And clients that were getting category-changing ideas from our company on a regular basis.

While the reasons given were sometimes unsatisfying “We needed to work with someone down the road” or “It’s not you, it’s us,” there is still a deep moment of introspection about what could have been done differently to keep that client infatuated with our company.

Thankfully, we have won (and kept and grown) many, many more clients than the couple we have lost. The departures have been few and very far between. And from those we learn. And then move quickly on. Our business is about creating for tomorrow. Nobody can afford to be in the past. There is so much important (and fun) work to be done.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Fortune 500 companies have hundreds of “vendors” and only a handful of true “partners,” the chosen few that are allowed inside the business planning, inside the sales trials and tribulations and inside the rooms where the hardest stuff is getting discussed. This partner seat is a coveted seat to earn. And people in my business know the intense responsibility and honor that come with earning a seat inside a client’s boardroom.

For Team One, our desired experience is one where a client feels a deep sense of trust and camaraderie.

For example:

Clients know we have their backs, during good times and bad.

    We consistently inspire and excite them with new ideas and technologies.

    We exude-and clients feel-a sense of warmth, honesty, kindness.

    We discuss and debate the hard issues with directness and respect.

    We bring the voice of the consumer into the room.

    We tie everything we do to business results and we exhibit how deeply we care about their business success

How do you motivate others?

I have high expectations of people. Those who work with me know that I value intensity, industriousness, expertise and proactivity. We have no room (or time) in our organization for passive leadership, bureaucracy or not knowing your stuff. Those qualities don’t help advance our mission and are demotivating to ambitious co-workers.

Motivation is something that starts and lives inside someone. Employees and clients will arrive at their own conclusion about what is important, what is a priority, what needs action. As leaders, our job is to give a clear and simple picture of what success looks like. Apply a heavy dose of high ambition and dreaming. And then help break it into digestible bites so that the mission doesn’t seem daunting. The questions “What’s your first step to achieving this” and “What does it look like when we are done” are used frequently within our company. 

Career advice to those in your industry?

This is such an exciting time to be at the convergence of creativity and technology. One will not live without the other. My advice is to jump in headfirst and never stop learning. Keep yourself hyper-relevant. And let your light shine brightly.