Mary Gerzema

Universal McCann

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When Mary Gerzema was promoted to U.S. president of Universal McCann in February, she was faced with a tall task: helping Worldwide CEO Nick Brien revive a media agency that had fallen on hard times.
Mary Gerzema, President, U.S. Universal McCann

In just a few months, Ms. Gerzema has been at the center of a flurry of activity, from the reorganization of Universal McCann's digital operations to the hiring of key personnel such as Graeme Hutton, senior VP-director of consumer insights and research.

As Ms. Gerzema tells it, there are three main areas of focus in her new job: First, the Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned agency has to deal with the operational challenges that stem from Universal McCann's financial separation from McCann Worldgroup (Mr. Brien now reports to Interpublic Media CEO Mark Rosenthal); second, she has to help deliver a core planning product that assists clients in navigating traditional media while staying on the cutting edge; and, last but not least, she has to attract talent.

"We're going through a lot of change," Ms. Gerzema says. "There has been and will be an influx of talent. It's going to be an evolving organization. There's a layer beneath those gaps of people who have stayed. We've stemmed some of the churn that's endemic to this industry and this company."

Ms. Gerzema, 43, grew up in Minneapolis and attended the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in anthropology. She was all set to attend law school at the University of Minnesota when a friend working as an assistant media planner at Campbell Mithun convinced Ms. Gerzema to check out that career. She did and hasn't looked back.

"If you create a place where people are recognized and rewarded for doing great work and are next to like-minded people, it'll go a long way in helping to weather the storms," she says.

Now Ms. Gerzema lives in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood with her 3-year-old daughter and her husband, John Gerzema, Y&R Brands chief insights officer, whom she met at Campbell Mithun.
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