I think we need to celebrate the happy moments in life. If I could wave a wand and turn all my social media feeds into a celebration of everyone’s good moments in life, I would. I think we have pretty amazing people in this world living good, everyday lives. We can all benefit and lift the world in the process. If everyone shared a good thought, a positive feeling, a meaningful event, we might use technology for good rather than a divisive platform. Sharing happiness can become a powerful reality.
I had the pleasure to interview Maureen Maldari, the CEO of an independent Brooklyn-based branding, advertising and content creation agency The BAM Connection.
When I was in business school at Pace University in NYC, I had a marketing class with the VP of Marketing from Revlon. I was so inspired and engaged. At the end of the course, he approached me and asked if I ever considered a career in advertising. I hadn’t. I thought I was going to be a journalist. That conversation changed my life. He introduced me to several advertising agency CEO’s, one more inspiring than the next. I was offered a job by one of those CEO’s and started my career in advertising at Benton & Bowles, where the majority of my peers were Ivy educated. I was a city kid in the big world of advertising and I couldn’t wait to get started!
Over the course of a career, you develop as a brand. My brand has always been direct and “no bullshit”. I am relentless when it comes to tackling a business problem and will do whatever it takes to get to a positive and productive resolution. When my partner and I launched our company, BAM with a trademark strategy tool, The One-Shot Answer, Clients said, “of course, this fits your brand. BAM — get it done”. I was slightly flattered and confused since the reality was BAM is an acronym for our names, Baiocco and Maldari.
I worked on a celebrity campaign with a super famous actress when I first started in the business. I was in charge of getting the celebrity up in the elevator without distraction, so I worked with security to close down several of the elevators when the celebrity was heading up to the executive floor. I was so nervous I mixed up the number of the elevator and the elevator the celebrity was in was shut down. I realized the error, so she wasn’t stuck for long. She laughed and was gracious but, I was humiliated! The key lesson I learned was to keep my composure in the most stressful situations. Calmness breeds clarity and clarity wins the day.
The BAM Connection was born as a contrast to holding companies that were really formed for financial gain and not in pursuit of great ideas that build brands. Our company was formed under the philosophy, “Simplicity Liberates Creativity”. We believe that ideas thrive when you cut through all the layers and bureaucracy that typically come from large company structures. Whenever I sit down with clients, they wholeheartedly embrace the concept of simplicity and want a partner that can break the shackles of complexity within their organizations. That’s when I knew we had a winning go-to market strategy. At the BAM we don’t just talk the talk, we live it.
We just completed an extraordinary project for the Office of Special Narcotics of New York City to create awareness for the Fentanyl epidemic. More than 1,374 New Yorkers die of Fentanyl overdoses each year. The BAM Connection spearheaded a social media and digital effort that educated people on the dangers of fentanyl. The ultimate goal of our effort was to save lives and cause people to think twice when purchasing drugs on the street. The campaign surpassed any expectations and social engagement soared. As a result of our advertising program, we were invited to the White House to sit on a panel and provide counsel for opioid addiction. It has been one of them most rewarding moments of my career.
Listen well. Every person is unique on a team and it is so important to understand what drives their success, what limits their potential and how their life impacts both. I always spend time getting to know a person’s family life, so I can better help them manage businesses through any of life’s ups and downs. I believe a person’s ambitions and insecurities are all rooted in their life journey. That’s what makes each individual special and being able to connect on that basis is powerful for both the manager and employee.
I always managed large teams the same way I managed smaller teams. I led a team of over 250 globally when I was at Grey. My goal was always to have a high performing team and I believe the only way to achieve greatness is to know the strengths and weaknesses of every player. This allows you to put people together in ways that support one another. It is equally important to have a continuous feedback loop with key managers. I always did monthly business reviews and in addition to business status, managers shared the mental and physical health of their team. Subsequent conversations took place when it was clear an employee was struggling. Celebrations also ensued when even the smallest victories (even birthdays, anniversaries and births) took place.
Edward Meyer, former CEO of Grey, was an amazing teacher. He was a student of the business and thoroughly enjoyed getting into the details and I really enjoyed learning how he tackled business issues. He also knew what motivated each business leader and catered to their interests. Whenever I met with him and told him I had an interest in a particular area of the business, he supported me and allowed me to pursue it. I was working on Procter & Gamble, which was a high profile and important business for the agency. There were opportunities to work on new business in the “dotcom” space and would require full time focus. I raised my hand with Ed to lead the Agency’s new business efforts in this area. It was a risky decision for me but, I will never forget Ed’s fascination and unwavering support. I went on to focus on this new area of business development and was privileged to work directly with Ed and win sizable businesses for the Agency.
Our agency has supported many efforts on behalf of the Ad Council. The one I am most proud of is the F.A.S.T. campaign for The American Heart and Stroke Association. The effort educates people on the five steps to spotting a stroke and saving a life: F — Face drooping, A — Arm weakness, S — Slurring of speech, and T — Time to call 911. If a person recognizes those symptoms and gets the person to a hospital, there is a drug that can be administered that reverses the stroke. The work holds a special place in my heart since my mom passed away from a stroke so every time I have the opportunity to educate and potentially save a life, I happily do.
1. Nothing will happen unless you take the first step to initiate. If you want something to happen as a leader, you need to lead. The ability to take charge and be the catalyst for the work is key to becoming a successful manager. In the ad world, account managers are the hub for moving projects forward. I once had an account manager tell me that since a Creative Director was in the room during the timeline briefing they weren’t accountable to the dates. Nothing could be further from the truth. The account lead must always direct and connect all the projects to fruition including keeping the Creative Director on the timetable.
2. No one knows more than you on your projects, so stand tall. I tell this to so many people starting out in the business. Many managers become unnerved during presentations when their work is challenged, and they burrow. But, the reaction should be the opposite. I encourage people to push back because when you are prepared and thorough, chances are you know the right answers.
3. Follow the money when it comes to decisions. In the service industry, it is important to understand where the decisions are being made as it relates to moving projects forward. In many cases, Clients are under extreme financial pressures and it impacts their ability to affect the business. Being sensitive to this dynamic and knowing who they have to clear in their organization is extremely valuable. It is an advantage to both the day-to-day client and the agency to understand how to get money released within an organization. Typically, people assume the day-to-day contact is being difficult by not approving budgets when in actuality they just had a tough time to selling it to their boss or key finance person.
4. You can’t talk to the wrong person and expect to get the right answer. Enough said.
5. Every person on your team counts. Sometimes managers only focus on their direct reports but, the reality is everyone affects the culture of an organization. It is as important to have a meaningful connection with the junior staff as it is with senior staff. Ideas also flow best in a collaborative team environment and diverse perspectives bring an energy that is unmatched. At the BAM, junior staff and even interns participate in brainstorming business-building ideas. In fact, we are creating a spot for the Super Bowl this coming year and each person on our team has shared ideas.
My answer may be surprisingly simple and not too grandiose. I think we need to celebrate the happy moments in life. If I could wave a wand and turn all my social media feeds into a celebration of everyone’s good moments in life, I would. I think we have pretty amazing people in this world living good, everyday lives. We can all benefit and lift the world in the process. If everyone shared a good thought, a positive feeling, a meaningful event, we might use technology for good rather than a divisive platform. Sharing happiness can become a powerful reality.
When I was 12, my dad gave me a poem called “Don’t Quit”. It has guided me throughout my personal and professional life. There are two passages that are particularly powerful to me and I often reflect on them. The first passage, “Often the goal is nearer than it seems to a faint and faltering man; often the struggler has given up, when he might have captured the victor’s cup”, underscores to me that I should never stop trying. There is always an opportunity to have a successful outcome even when things don’t seem to be working out as long as you remain steadfast in your decision-making. The second passage, “ So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit, it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit”. There are many ups and downs in the advertising business. Clients come, and clients go. It is always important to be resilient and keep moving forward.
Originally published at medium.com