Special Report: Media Mavens 2012

Media Mavens: Ross Martin, Viacom Media Networks

Exec VP Founded Scratch, a Unit That Consults With Brands About Connecting With Consumers

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Ross Martin
Ross Martin

Résumé: After teaching poetry and working in development both at Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks and his own production startup, Ross Martin joined Viacom in 2004 as head of programming for college-focused network MTVU. Now exec VP, in 2010 he founded Scratch, a unit that consults with brands about connecting with consumers.

Quick fact: Mr. Martin is a published author who is working on his second book (his first, "The Cop Who Rides Alone," was published in 2002). He also currently holds the world record for the most ear wiggles in three seconds (76). Seriously.

Mr. Martin quite literally started Scratch from scratch -- it was a five-person experiment that formalized in 2010. Today the profitable in-house creative agency and consulting arm has used its deep knowledge of the millennial consumer to work with brands such as General Motors, Microsoft, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble and Unilever in everything from product development to design, branding and training millennial employees.

He views his previous life as a poetry professor and published author as critical preparation for his career in the TV industry and as having helped shape his leadership style.

Leaders are focused on communicating effectively, but sometimes it's OK if ideas are misunderstood, he said. "If you … allow yourself to be misunderstood, you allow the brilliant and unique minds around you to be free to create." Mr. Martin said that giving the people you work with the opportunity to interpret your idea in a different way can potentially turn out something that 's even better than the original concept -- similar to poetry, which can be interpreted in different ways by different people.

He began his career at Viacom in 2004 as head of programming for MTV 's college network, mtvU, before becoming senior VP of MTV 360 Production and Development, where he worked across the MTV channels. Prior to MTV , Mr. Martin founded the production company Plant Film and served as a development executive for Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.

His writing has appeared in several publications and anthologies and he's taught at Washington University, the Rhode Island School of Design and The New School. His first book, "The Cop Who Rides Alone," was published in 2002, and he is currently working on his second.

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