Marc Brownstein, President & CEO: Brownstein Group

My NativeAdVice:

Bio: Marc has been CEO & President of Brownstein Group since 1991 and has grown the family business into a modern, brand-centric shop that prides itself on early innovation and an award-winning company culture. Under his leadership, the Agency has more than tripled in size, adding many blue-chip clients to its roster, including IKEA, Comcast, Lincoln Financial Corp, Saint Gobain, RICOH, AmeriGas, Microsoft, eBay, Western Union, La Colombe, and United HealthCare.

How did you get into the industry?

I have had a love affair with advertising since my first client meeting with my father at the age of three. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University, I spent eight years as a copywriter in New York—mostly at Ogilvy & Mather—but when my father asked me to come back and join him in the family business, I couldn’t refuse. In 1989, I returned to Philadelphia as Brownstein Group’s Executive Creative Director and then worked my way up to President & CEO.

Any emerging industry trends?

One of the biggest trends that has emerged over the last few years is the need for ongoing and strategic content marketing. What exactly is content marketing? An on-going thematic narrative that helps define a company's reputation and convey its story in concert with other forms of marketing. It includes blogs, newsletters, media coverage, podcasts, social media, SEO, white papers and video. It lives or dies by the company's ability to publish and distribute this content swiftly and consistently. The impact of content marketing done right can truly move the sales/reputation needle for brands. It has grown in popularity because companies have a growing need to populate empty pages on blogs, websites, social platforms, and audio channels.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Many companies are no longer looking for large, integrated AOR relationships.  Moreover, they are seeking smaller, specialized niche agency to work on a project-by-project basis.  Our agency is the right size and has the right offerings to meet this new market dynamic, while still servicing our legacy AOR relationships.

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

My father, Berny Brownstein, launched Brownstein Group in 1964 from his home with the goal of bringing the high sophistication and creativity of Madison Avenue advertising services to Philadelphia. The main focus of the business has always been on reaching people, both employees and clients, and motivating them.

When I joined the business in 1989, I persuaded my father to steer the agency away from local retail clients to regional and national accounts. Recognizing early the dominant role that digital would play in advertising, we opened Fingerprint Interactive in 1999, the first digital marketing agency in Philadelphia and one of the first in the country. Blog management services evolved into social media, which we were early to, and an in-house, dedicated strategy and consulting group came next, an investment that most small/mid-size shops haven’t made. Today we are a fully integrated and full service agency encompassing the digital, creative, public relations and brand strategy disciplines.  

We are never stagnant or satisfied, however, and know that we need to continually evolve our service offerings to remain relevant and contemporary in the marketplace. Narrative/content marketing will be a main focus for us moving forward.

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

We have just hired industry veteran Carrie McCament as Brownstein Group’s Chief Marketing Officer. We have been a successful advertising agency for the last 52 years but we felt that we needed something, or someone, to help take us to the next level of commercial success, by attracting clients beyond our region, where we are known best. Carrie brings 30 years of marketing and business development experience from agency holding companies IPG, Omnicom and Publicis. With her wealth of knowledge, I am confident that she will bring in new opportunities to fuel our next generation of growth.

We have also brought in Terry Dukes as our new Director of Client Services. Terry is a seasoned advertising executive that boasts years of experience at agencies such as Havas Worldwide and Young and Rubicam.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

My business philosophy is two fold. First and foremost it’s important to create a company where the best talent and the most attractive clients want to be.  Establish a very high standard of work product and then hold your team accountable for executing on that work product. And stay relevant with your service offerings. Secondly, it’s important to give back to the community. Yes, it’s essential to have a certain amount of paid clients but it’s also important to make sure that you make a positive impact in the business community.

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

Making the wrong hires, especially at the senior level, and having to cut ties sooner, has been one of the toughest things that I’ve had to do. It’s disruptive to the business. So I’ve learned to be even more careful in our hiring process, and socializing candidates with more internal interviews, at more levels.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

The ideal experience for our clients is that we delight them—meaning the work, relationship with our agency, timing, budget and results all were executed at a high level and at or above expectations. When our clients trust us, we know we’ve attained the kind of relationship where we can take smart risks and achieve even bigger outcomes.

How do you motivate others?

Brownstein Group is a team of super smart people with scary talent. We hire from our values, and have found that when we hire the right people, we don’t have to motivate them. They are self-starters, highly ambitious and proud individuals who demand greatness from themselves. Because of this shared value system, we reward our employees with unlimited paid time off. We find that it takes the stress and worry away from our employees and that they are ultimately more invested in our company and our clients because they feel appreciated and are trusted.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Never stop learning and evolving.