Wade's Magic trick: Reach 3 multicultural groups with 1 agency

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Russell Simmons. Keith Clink-scales. Magic Johnson. These are some of the individuals who've helped Barry Wade hone his marketing skills, and now Mr. Wade has joined Mr. Johnson and veteran adman Jordan Zimmerman at new multicultural agency ZMagic.

ZMagic is the result of an informal meeting between Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the former NBA great who now runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, and Mr. Zimmerman, founder and chairman of Zimmerman & Partners, the Omnicom Group agency that recently picked up the $75 million Six Flags account.

"There were so many similarities [that] we were finishing each other's sentences," Mr. Zimmerman said of that meeting with Mr. Johnson. "Magic has always wanted to enter into the advertising world."

"It's incredible to put people together in a room and introduce them, and see what can happen, whether it's just a conversation or it's a real business," said Mr. Wade, ZMagic's chief operating officer. ZMagic, like Zimmerman & Partners, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will operate as an independent shop.

Mr. Wade, 35, brings to ZMagic experience in urban and multicultural marketing. He previously was a consultant to Allied Domecq. Before that, he oversaw the Courvoisier account as senior VP-account director at GlobalHue.

This isn't the first time Mr. Wade has linked up with Mr. Johnson. About six years ago, he worked on an online venture that involved the basketball legend. Mr. Wade also was editor in chief of Impact at Mr. Clinkscales' Vanguarde Media and worked under Mr. Simmons at GlobalHue at Rush Media, an agency formed by Mr. Simmons.

"I didn't just work with these individuals from afar," Mr. Wade said. "I worked hand in hand with them. That's [essentially] a college education that is so valuable."

"Barry and Doug [Melville, ZMagic president, who earlier started Off the Bench Marketing and URCute Entertainment] bring unique experiences in the multicultural sector" that dovetail with the business philosophies of ZMagic's founders, Mr. Zimmerman said.

ZMagic clients have included MTV and some Turner cable networks. Miller Brewing Co. also tapped ZMagic for a repositioning of Olde English 800 malt liquor. "That relationship [with Miller] is about to expand to take on additional brands," Mr. Wade said.

The shop offers expertise across African- American, Hispanic and Asian-American markets. "What we've been able to do is show the client that working with three cultures under one roof can give them a more synergistic approach to their marketing," Mr. Zimmerman said. "Years ago, we all thought that everything had to be marketed independently, but the world has become one."

This approach also mirrors how Mr. Johnson has succeeded with his own businesses.

"What I thought was so beautiful is that Magic had over 20,000 employees serving 30 million customers in the multicultural community around our country, which to me said he touches a third of the multicultural population, or 10% of the total population," said Mr. Zimmerman, who with Mr. Johnson holds the titles of co-founder and co-chairman of ZMagic. "His Starbucks [franchises] are in Asian communities, his Burger Kings are in African-American, Asian, Hispanic communities. He's a full multicultural provider-he goes to every sector."

"Some people get hung up with the idea of [Mr. Johnson] being a celebrity [vs.] him being a businessman," Mr. Wade said. "I can tell you right now he is better at ringing the register than he ever was at dribbling a basketball."

Just Asking

Barry Wade

ZMagic

You grew up in Connecticut. How are you adjusting to life in South Florida?

I'm a workaholic. ... Work is not work for me. I'm having fun.

Does that lifestyle leave any room for a personal life?

I have an amazing woman in my life, and I look forward to one day getting married to her.
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