Media Mavens 2010

Media Mavens: Dave Adelman, Mindshare

One Big Loss Gave CMO Lessons to Win Billions in New Business and Key to Understanding What Clients Need 

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NEW YORK ( -- The early part of 2009 wasn't one of Mindshare's best runs. But in the words of Dave Adelman, the agency's chief marketing officer, "You can learn a lot from losing." In losing one of the biggest media reviews that year, Home Depot, the WPP-owned shop learned a lesson that would help it 12 months later land two high-profile accounts -- Radio Shack and CVS -- and sustain a nearly yearlong winning streak.

Dave Adelman
Dave Adelman
That lesson? "Never underestimate the urgency of retail and how important newspapers are for a retailer," he said. "In this age of digital and social and sparkly shiny things, you can lose sight of what's important to your client, and that can cost you a pitch. It's one thing to demonstrate that you have a vision for the future, but you need to show these people how you are going to drive traffic and beat their comps every week while delivering solutions at a scale level so people cross the threshold into the store."

Since the summer of 2009 the agency -- with Mr. Adelman, a three-year veteran of Mindshare, managing all of the pitch teams -- has retained and won more than $2.4 billion in business. The agency retained the massive Unilever U.S. media account while picking up the Canadian portion of the business. In addition to Radio Shack and CVS, the shop has also snagged 21st Century Insurance, Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer, Sun Products and Skyy Spirits accounts.

"One of the big reasons we are winning now is because of all the losing we did last year," Mr. Adelman said. "If you are going to go through the pain and heartbreak of losing, you better learn something from it." Mr. Adelman said winning new business is also about decoding the brief and understanding why the business is in review. "I used to try and do some fancy things, but what we're doing now is asking: What are the clients asking for?" he said.

"Understanding not just what they want, but what they need, is the hard part. The only way I know how to do that is by putting a lot of smart people into a room, digging deep into the research and working hard at airing ideas, challenging them and vetting them. Then we integrate them into a coherent plan and strategy."

Phil Cowdell, North American CEO of Mindshare, who shares responsibility for the agency's successful run, said new-business people such as Mr. Adelman need to inspire both prospective clients and the team around them.

"David's energy and enthusiasm is positively infectious," Mr. Cowdell said. "He has helped us tell our story in a way that's being far better received than it had been previously."

That knack for storytelling extends to Mindshare as well. "We have gotten much better at telling our story and really making it relevant to clients and much better at the core product we bring in to the room," Mr. Adelman said, adding: "We have leaned how to use the resources of the larger company."

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