For more than 15 years, Julia Mee has worked with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as a client. This week, she joins the San Francisco-based Omnicom shop as its first CMO.
Mee, who most recently worked with the agency as senior director of global advertising, media and sponsorships at Cisco, assumes responsibility of the agency’s marketing and new business strategy, a new role at the agency reporting to Derek Robson, partner and president of GS&P. "Julia’s been better at advocating for us than we’ve been over the years," said Robson.
Mee has been a client of the agency’s for much of her career, working with GS&P while in marketing roles at past clients such as HP and Yahoo and at current client Cisco. "On a number of those occasions, it’s been pretty clear that if she had not been there, we probably would not have been with those companies," said Robson. "You start to realize, she’s better at the marketing of our brand than we are."
Various partners have led the agency’s new business development over the years, and while the agency has had employees in new business roles, it has never had anyone dedicated to a larger marketing function. "It’s always been somebody’s part-time job," said Robson. "Marketing for advertising agencies is like the shoes of a cobbler. They always look terrible because it’s the last thing you get around to."
In her new role, Mee oversees marketing and communications strategy for the agency, as well as the management of consultancy and prospective client relationships. The perspective she brings as a former client makes her uniquely qualified for the job, said Robson. "She has an inside and outside perspective on us," added Jeff Goodby, co-founder of the 33-year-old agency. "She’s worked with us as a client on three different big clients, so can she can speak authoritatively to other perspective clients."
While the agency has experienced a good year of growth, said Goodby, adding assignments from existing clients like Frito-Lay and Comcast and bringing on new ones like StubHub and mobile gaming company GREE, staying competitive in today’s business environment requires a greater rigor and dedication to creating and maintaining client relationships, perception management and marketing to keep the agency’s story top of mind. "It’s a much more complicated job," he said.
Mee had left her role at Cisco earlier this year and had been working with GS&P as a consultant in recent months when Robson and the team suggested a marketing role for her at GS&P. "If another agency had asked I would have said no," said Mee, who began her career in agency account management before moving client side to Electronic Arts and later to HP, where she first began working with GS&P. "In a way, it feels like coming home."
During her four and half year tenure at Cisco, Mee, who was part of the team that hired GS&P in 2012, collaborated with the agency on campaigns such as "The Internet of Everything," an effort that repositioned the company from a network provider to a technology leader and impacted the company well beyond its communications, she said. "They delivered exactly what clients need, smart strategic thinking, deeply embedded in the business, right to the c-suite," said Mee. "It’s fundamental to the Goodby brand, steeped in planning, strategic insights, and ideas executed in whatever form they need to take."
And earlier in her career, while at HP, Mee worked with the agency on the creation of the Effie-winning "+hp" campaign that repositioned the company after its merger with Compaq.
"She has always made our work better," said Robson. "We work on the premise that if she can make our work better, she is going to make us better."
Mee joins the agency at pivotal point in its evolution. In August, the agency named a new leadership team, promoting Margaret Johnson to the role of chief creative officer, Robson to president from managing director, and four new partners, Brian McPherson, director of account management, Leslie Barrett, director of new business, Bonnie Wan, director of brand strategy, and Christine Chen, director of communications strategy.
GS&P has also enjoyed its best awards show performance in years, winning 13 Cannes Lions this year for five clients, including Frito-Lay’s "Doritos Rainbows," Sonic’s "#SquareShakes," "Unacceptable Acceptance Letters," the Ad Council’s "I Am a Witness," and the Dali Museum’s "Dreams of Dali."
However, even though prospective clients may already be familiar with the agency’s work, said Mee, what they may not know is the story about how the agency got there. "How do you get to a great idea? Are we going to enjoy working together? Are they going to provide insights for my business?" said Mee. "At some point, you know there is a bunch of good work out there, but how did you get to it and is that how you want to partner with an agency? That’s the story clients want to hear."