Source Marketing’s Kersten Rivas on the Advantage of a Smaller Agency

New president says you can be more nimble, entrepreneurial


 

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni

Specs
New gig President, Source Marketing
Old gig Managing director, Havas Worldwide New York
Age 43
Twitter @mittonrivas

What drew you to Source Marketing?
I was at Havas for eight years, and we weathered a lot of turns and twists over that period. I was at a point where we’d been through the squeaker days, and we had won a number of pieces of business, and the agency was gaining a lot of momentum. Ironically, that’s when the conversation with a friend of mine started about the opportunity at Source, and I was just really intrigued. I think smaller, more nimble agencies—it’s sort of their prime time.

Why would you say that now in particular is an important competitive time for smaller agencies?
There are a lot of entrepreneurial clients and CMOs and even vps out there who are looking to have an impact and make a difference. More of the clients I talk to, they want that personal, senior attention, and they want that constant thoughtfulness that agencies provide. But I think as you get bigger and bigger that’s harder to do. As you get bigger, the more clients you have, the more relationships you have to nurture and the more talent you hire to facilitate that. I’m really very hands on in the way that I work. At Havas I also ran multiple pieces of business as I helped steward the agency. It’s really important that you stay close to the problems that the agency is trying to solve for clients, and it’s the best way to figure out how to be the kind of agency that will deliver the best results. In a smaller environment you can be more nimble and entrepreneurial, you can think laterally and in a lot of different ways.

What was your trajectory into the advertising world?
After college [Ohio Wesleyan] where I studied international business, I moved to New York and DMB&B was hiring. I went to work there, and in the early stage of a career you’re just a sponge. I worked on this project with the head of strategy, and I thought the psychology of things was so interesting. Honestly, if I wasn’t in advertising, I would either be a psychologist or own a flower shop. They sound like completely different paths, but they’re both at the heart of people and how they think and, in the case of the flower shop, what brightens their day. My brain lit up when I saw that translate to work in a creative environment. I just thought it was really awesome. I left DMB&B and went to Grey. Everyone told me that the best training was working on Procter & Gamble.

So working at Grey was like grad school?
In some ways it was because at the time the way P&G was working with their agencies—I don’t know if they still do it this way—you were a core part of the team. I did a job swap with a brand manager. He came and sat in my desk and did my job for a week and I went and sat in his. So it was an amazing opportunity to be trained in marketing, communications, touch points and insights. It wasn’t about “Oh, I’m just going to go and produce an ad.” It was about learning about the brand and the people who love the brand and how those things come together to tell a great story.

What’s been your focus since joining Source?
Who are our people? How do they think? Where do they have a natural propensity? Are we spending more time in the direct space? Social space? Trying to figure out what the thread is between all of these things. I believe it’s no longer a business of channels. It’s not about the channel, it’s about what does this person need or want. How does this brand help them achieve that, and how can we tell a story that will show that we get that?