What You Can Learn From One of the Ad Greats

10 Lessons Learned From Ed Meyer

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Milt Weinstock
Milt Weinstock
In today's high-tech world, it's not particularly fashionable to refer to lessons learned from yesteryear's ad leaders.

"Times are different," people say. "It's a new world out there."

I beg to differ. We are still in a service business. We still need to make clients loyal to our agencies. And some of our past agency leaders knew how to do this better than anyone.

For 35 years I worked for one of those leaders, Ed Meyer. Long regarded as one of the most admired, talented and successful leaders in the advertising business, he ran Grey with an iron hand and inspired the kind of client loyalty that most agencies could only dream of.

And he taught me the following 10 lessons. At a time of intense industry change, I thought they would be helpful to anyone who might want to emulate his success.

Perform with a sense of urgency. When a client has a request or a boss asks a question, respond quickly. No matter where in the world Ed was, he answered questions promptly, often within 15 minutes. If Ed could do it with all he had on his plate, why can't we?

Acknowledge the good. A simple "Nice job" or "Well-written" can be so motivating and rewarding to your people and even to clients. Ed's unique "green pen" acknowledgements over the years were like the gold stars I received in grade school.

There's no such thing as a small client. Ed believed every client needed to be treated as an important client, even if their billings were modest. Small clients can grow to become big clients either at their current companies or elsewhere in the future. And they'll never forget how you treated them.

Milt Weinstock is CEO of consultancy Stone Soup Marketing. He worked at Grey Worldwide for almost 35 years.
Relationships are our most important asset. Businesses can go up and down. Sometimes you can help, but often the ultimate success or failure can be beyond your control. Relationships, however, can last forever. Nurture them and stay in touch. Ed never failed to stay in touch with clients.

Share the bad news early. While it's natural to share your success with your boss, it's even more important to share the potential failures. One of the early lessons I observed was when an associate was having difficulty with a major client and tried to "fix it" himself. When the client ultimately left, Ed was steamed -- not by the departure but by being kept in the dark until it was too late.

Loyalty is long remembered. The most important time to support former clients may be when they are between jobs. When a client loses a job, be at the forefront to help him network. It's not only the right thing to do, but your gesture will be greatly appreciated and long remembered.

There is no substitute for knowledge. Knowing the client's business is step one. This is a prerequisite for any dialogue with a client, whether in a formal or informal setting. If Ed was to even shake hands with a client, he would make it his business to be fully briefed on the business.

Winning is a team effort. Grey has always had a collaborative spirit, which reflects Ed's style. He used all the resources available to contribute to an effort and was never title-conscious. Ed CC'ed all parties as appropriate. When Grey won, we all won. When Grey lost, it would not be for silo or fiefdom reasons, whether that was geographical or subsidiary-based.

Recognize that business is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Focusing on the short-term victory shouldn't obscure longer-term opportunities. With a little patience and time, I ultimately understood the wisdom of Ed's sometimes puzzling decisions, which resulted in much greater long-term success.

Being proactive makes you stand out. When you take the extra step to anticipate clients' needs and offer new perspectives they never asked for, you will win their respect. Ed would always encourage us to go beyond the brief and demonstrated, by his example, how to really add value to all assignments.
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