The Player: Cummins comes home for second chance at Martin

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Second chances sometimes pay off twice.

In the late 1980s, when native Virginian Ralph Cummins had a chance to join Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency in Richmond, he instead headed west and worked for several shops before eventually starting TackleBox, a brand-marketing consultancy in San Francisco.

But while in Virginia last summer for an extended vacation, he and his wife looked at each other and said, "Maybe it's time to come home."

This time, neither side let the opportunity slip.

"We missed the opportunity to hire Ralph as an account executive 15 years ago before he headed west. We weren't going to let that happen again," said John B. Adams, chairman-CEO of the Martin Agency, who hired Mr. Cummins earlier this year as exec VP-director of account management. "Ralph's combination of big agency and brand experience, and his ability to build strong, lasting client relationships is very valuable to our agency. "

Mr. Cummins will have his hand in nearly every account at the Martin Agency, from longtime client United Parcel Service to the agency's latest collaboration with Coca-Cola Co. on the launch of Vanilla Coke.

There's a reason for that, he said.

"In the old days, the mid-`80s, the notion about being a proactive steward of your client's business was rarely, if ever, discussed as part of retention," Mr. Cummins said. "In this day and age, the first conversation you have is what we do to retain and grow the business. It's not rocket science, but the complexity is much greater and there's all kinds of financial pressure to make it that much more tricky to spend the time and attention on what they need."

Mr. Cummins, 41, was able to do much of that in previous stops with Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Co., WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide. Each agency influenced him, he said.

DOG Days

On Burnett: "I was a puppy, but I got a very classic and thorough foundation in the basics of advertising."

On Ogilvy: "I worked exclusively on Mattel, which was fascinating at the time. O&M really put a premium on a style and way of communication with clients, more so than any place I've worked at before or since."

On BBDO: "My main passion there was Pizza Hut. You learned where to take the time and really invest your strategic and creative resources."

That breadth of experience will serve Mr. Cummins well with Martin's clients. Moreover, he has a reputation for being able to tailor the needs of the marketer to the capabilities of the agency.

For his part, seven months on the job and being back home hasn't swayed Mr. Cummins' original opinion one bit. "Martin Agency is a perfect combination of everything I wanted, from the national creative reputation to the location to the undeniable quality of the people," he said. "The culture here is everything you hear about, times 10."

Fast Facts

Name: Ralph Cummins

Age: 41

Now: Exec VP-director of account management, The Martin Agency

Challenge: To be proactive with the clients and tap into what they're doing

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