Series Launch! Five Questions With…Markus Sheldon

Markus’ first selfie taken nine years ago..before selfies were a thing. #innovator

We are thrilled to kick off our first edition of “Five Questions With…” with MKTG NY’s Markus Sheldon who is our VP of Innovation. This series will share a deep dive into what makes the Humans of MKTG tick and help make up this great family. Enjoy!

What’s a typical day/week like for you at MKTG New York (who do you interact with, what keeps you busy)

Thankfully I can say that in my role, the word “typical” is rarely something that comes to mind when thinking of the daily grind. No two days/weeks are quite the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could be leading a pitch presentation Monday morning knowing that after the presentation I have to fly west for innovation workshops with clients Tuesday. All the while, requests are coming through; new client briefs, working with the creative team to formulate new ideas, or in some cases leading the charge on proactive pitches. At the end of the day, everything has to get done, so a lot of my week is also about managing priorities and expectations to make sure that what needs to most attention gets it, and nothing falls through the cracks.

I also get to interact with our Dentsu Aegis sister-agencies, strategic partners and a short-list of vendors to develop solutions. Internally, I find myself partnering with anyone who is in need of solutions that involve technology or those that I’ve worked with on past projects who just want to pick my brain for a POV. Coincidentally, the conversations often start with technology, but lead to a conclusion that it isn’t the entire answer. Sometimes it’s an hour-long conversation, sometimes it calls for me taking the lead on a longer tail discovery effort. It always calls for problem solving, empathy, un-divided attention, and a willingness to acknowledge when I don’t know the answer, all while understanding what it will take to find it.

In your five+ years here at MKTG, how have you seen what you do affect the trajectory of MKTG’s business (you can be high level here or give examples)

I’ve seen a pretty massive shift in the agency from where it was 5+ years ago. In my humble opinion, I think we’ve never had as much momentum producing technology-led solutions as we do now. I’ve noticed an evolution in our day to day behavior, our conversations, and our level of strategic thinking around innovation and technology. It is what gets me excited every time I take the 6:37AM train in to get to the office, and what keeps me motivated every time I head to the airport on a Sunday night for Monday meetings. Credit is due to the general pervasiveness of technology in society today, but the genuine interest of my fellow MKTGers, and a recognition of what innovative technology can bring to the forefront has brought us to where we are today.

I’ve never been bullish on the idea that driving further awareness and adoption of an innovation mindset is going to happen by writing decks and presenting slides. I’d rather we show the world we have an innovation mindset through the experiences we create, as opposed to telling them that we are innovative. To that end, we’ve been doing just that. Over the last couple of years, we brought to life a few campaigns that involved pretty complex technology solutions that solved real problems.

We launched the award-winning Gatorade Fuel Lab and the lifestyle-gem that was Smirnoff House. Both harnessed technology to immerse guests into the experience but also to make each more dynamic, more memorable, and more measurable for clients.

We capitalized on forming new partnerships with Brandzooka and Cinebody to support a big experience for Tropicana early this year, who challenged us to deliver an event that is “experienced by few, seen by many”. This resulted in a new formulaic approach to capturing and distributing compelling content at the speed of social, something that I believe represents a huge opportunity for us.

We then pitched and won a game-changer project with Beats by Dre, offering the agency the ability to define, develop, and own a business intelligence platform. It represented a new beginning for the agency, where we own an equitable product that will be able to support a wide range of business needs in the future.

All said, I still believe that we’ve only just begun to establish our identity as it relates to innovation and technology. To that end, I’m focused on formalizing the discipline in partnership with our leadership, while proving our value with the output.

What excites you about your work?

I get most excited when we collectively identify an opportunity to go into uncharted territory and capitalize on it. I’m a firm believer that it is impossible to innovate without challenging the status quo, without feeling a bit uneasy, so any time we step out of our own shoes, read what the brief doesn’t say and think differently is when my mind gets giddy like getting a full-size Snickers bar at Halloween. I want MKTG to be known for delivering positive firsts, so any time we begin to move into new areas I get pretty stoked.

Independent of that, I get excited knowing that what we are doing is providing a positive impact for the agency, clients and consumers who engage with our experiences.

What has been the most meaningful advancement(s) you have seen that has moved/can move our business forward?

Like I was saying earlier, over the last couple of years there has been a pretty massive shift in both interest and day-to-day dialogue around innovation, technology, and solutions that live in the digital space. I’ve seen a very positive shift in both our capability to think integrated and our ability to deliver on the promise through the output. I see a lot more integrated strategies that combine technology, culture, and content to drive a closer connection between brands and humans, which gets me very excited about the coming year. We’ve seen a lot of positive momentum on the accounts where we push the limits of our experiential purview, delivering ideas that extend through the line. We’ve also seen a drastic expansion in the staff that can support delivering innovative solutions, and every office bringing ideas to the table that will bring the agency to new heights. Ultimately, the most meaningful advancement has been the people, the mindset, and the focus. Everything is a bi-product of that.

Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it?

You’ll have to check back with me again come February, as there will be a baby boy blowing up my days. I’ll focus on highlighting my morning routine when I am in town, as my travel mornings tend to be a bit more streamlined due to a much simpler commute.

My wife and I both wake up between 5:30 and 6AM, sometimes earlier for me if we have a pitch that morning and I want to get in early. We get ready together, chatting throughout our preparations about the upcoming day. We collab on making coffee, letting the dogs out and feeding them, prepping any left-overs or bagging aussie bites (from Costco, they are amazing). We then usually head down the hill together to ride the train in from Highland Avenue. There are times where we have to head in at different times, so when that happens I walk down the hill to the station, which gives me a nice (but distant) view of downtown along the way. When walking down the hill I tend to get into a meditative mindset where I focus on appreciating the fresh morning air, contemplating the day, and most importantly getting a smile going.

When we ride together, we’ll sit together in the quiet car every once in a while, whispering back and forth to the chagrin of fellow passengers (even though whispering isn’t illegal). Most often we’ll sit separately, because the train is pretty full by the time it hits our station. She gets off at Newark Broad Street and then I head into Hoboken. When she exits we always say goodbye and tell each other, “I love you.”, whether we sit together or not. I know that may seem sappy, but it is something that I learned from my grandpa who passed away when I was in my late twenties. Every morning and every night, he’d tell my grandma, his wife of over 60 years, that he loved her. While he never explained it to me directly, it meant much more than the words to me – It was more about making sure that neither person start the day or goes to bed angry. It isn’t always easy to do this when I travel like I do, but I always find a way to tell her so she knows I am thinking about her.

Now back to that routine….

I tend to let my ride in adjust to what inspires me that morning. I’ll mix things up; listening to a Spotify daily mix, scanning my Flipboard and Medium to catch the latest in tech/innovation trends and stories from the previous day, listening to podcasts, reading a book, or playing a mobile game or two. I am definitely a creature of habit with where I sit on the NJT train, where I stand on the platform and within the PATH train, and the path I take in walking through and out of the Oculus and up Church street to head into the office. It isn’t that I am against breaking the pattern, because I sometimes stop along the way to grab pastries or even an extra coffee for the day, but I like the consistency of the process, and being deliberate about my way in.

When I arrive I always greet the guys downstairs, use my wallet to tap the elevator buttons, and I always follow the same general process when I get to my desk. After that, everything changes. Like I said before, no two days are the same, that is, aside from the bookends.

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Written by Mary Kate Pleggenkuhle
Mary Kate Pleggenkuhle

November 2nd, 2017 at 11:30 am

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Posted in Experience

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