Why This Former JWT Leader is Happy to Be at a Mid-Sized Digital Shop

David Eastman on the benefits of being back in the trenches

Who: David Eastman
Current gig: Managing partner MCD Partners, a digital experience design shop with estimated revenue of $20 million and offices in New York, Chicago and Rochester, N.Y.
Previous gig: Partner at MCD Partners and, prior, North American CEO of JWT
Twitter: @easto
Age: 51

What attracted you to MCD in the first place?
I wanted to go to something a lot more smaller and intimate where change can be effected quickly. I also missed being involved in cutting-edge digital work. That has been my background—way back from Agency.com days. And even though I landed at JWT as global head of digital and then became CEO of North America, I gradually became further and further distant from the work that I was passionate about, which was where the Web is going and how brands are using it.

How would you define your new role?
They wanted someone who could put the agency on the map and help with positioning, understanding how to get the agency on the radar from a PR point of view, corporate development. How should we grow? Should we be looking to partner with other agencies? Should we be looking to sell?

What about the inevitable confusion with the ad holding company MDC Partners? Are you OK with your agency name?
Yeah, we are; we're sticking with it. The reasoning came down to the fact that we had more important things to do than brainstorm a new name. And my key question when we were having the debate about it was, where do we think it has led to confusion? Have we lost any business? Actually, one of the partners said, 'Well, interestingly enough, we've had quite a few calls over the years from people who thought they were phoning MDC and couldn't get ahold of their agencies." So, I guess it cuts both ways. 

Anything you learned from JWT that will help you here?
What I learned at a big agency is really client relationship stuff. I think the much maligned discipline of account management is still [valuable].

What do you hope to accomplish by this time next year?
A year from now I would expect that you would have heard of us, and by you I mean the press and media generally. That's part of getting the word out. I've always believed in this work-reputation-growth circle. You do great work, you build your reputation, you grow the company, you get more work. The whole thing sort of builds upon itself.