But now Mr. Singer, 48, takes a center stage of his own as the newly tapped chief marketing officer for CCG.XM, Cordiant Communications Group's recently unified global interactive venture.
NEW AND OLD
"I consider us the new/old kid on the block-we're new because we've just unified our interactive resources, but we're old because Cordiant has had some of these shops-like Bates Interactive-for five or six years," he said.
Sitting in his office, a long, narrow space with soaring windows overlooking a gritty, westside Manhattan, the self-effacing Mr. Singer spoke candidly about both the uncertainty and excitement in the task he's shouldered.
"It's a fabulous moment of questioning in this sector," he said. "So much money has been wasted on ineffective technology. So much has been wasted on getting Web sites up. So much has been wasted spending on expensive media to get the brand name out there. Now companies are saying, `What's our play?' "
Mr. Singer came to Cordiant from Siegelgale, New York, where he was senior VP-director of marketing for North America. But he began his communications career as a speechwriter for the chairman and senior executives of Chase Manhattan Bank. He was a free-lance journalist when he met the Chase PR team. Fortuitously for him, the chairman's speechwriter had quit that day. They were impressed enough to give him a speechwriting test which he aced, in spite of-or maybe because of, he said-a corny banking joke.
"So the retired banker gets up to speak at his 50th anniversary party. And they ask him, `What's the most important thing that's changed in banking in 50 years?' He thinks for a moment and says, `Air conditioning,' " he recalled with a laugh. "My new boss loved it."
SPEECHES FOR ROCKEFELLER
As part of his Chase job, Mr. Singer once had to write a series of speeches for David Rockefeller to give on a tour of sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Rockefeller listened and reviewed and, in fact, even asked to read the speeches out loud.
Mr. Rockefeller and company left on the expedition with Mr. Singer's massive tome of speeches. When the group finally got back, Mr. Singer questioned the chief PR person about the speeches' success. The man said simply, "I don't really know. He translated them all into French and spoke off the cuff."
Mr. Singer laughed, as he did frequently during the interview. Yet he is quite serious about the goals of CCG.XM.
"I saw a sign in a barber shop in Connecticut that said, `We fix homemade haircuts,' " he said. "Our clients come to us and they've usually been doing some interactive stuff and they ask us to help them. We see ourselves as fixing homemade haircuts."
"Everybody talks about integration and I say that's great, but it doesn't mean much if it doesn't have an idea behind it."