As senior vice president, director of process and production management, for New York City-based advertising agency Wunderman, Martha Rhodes loves to learn. In fact, that's one of the things she likes most about being in multichannel direct marketing.
"I really like working with people who know more than I do," she says. "I think it's a privilege. It just gets me to the next level."
Rhodes, who started her marketing career 21 years ago, joined Wunderman just over a year ago, and what she likes most about the company is its philosophy.
"They're always looking for new ways to do things. They're innovative, they're channel agnostic, and what's terrific about this agency is they continue to think about direct marketing as opposed to direct mail," she says.
Rhodes' career path began on the creative and production side of the graphics arts business, as an art director.
"Even before that I set type in the days of traditional production. I became a back-end art director, and from there moved into management and specifically process management."
Her experience in marketing is well-rounded. She has worked in many facets of the advertising world, including general advertising, online marketing, as well as for direct mail companies, and considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to cover all those phases.
Rhodes entered the advertising world with McCann Direct, making stops at two other agencies, the now defunct Ayer Direct and a small agency in Connecticut, before moving back to New York for a stint with Chapman Direct and in general advertising with Ogilvy & Mather. But it is with Wunderman that Rhodes has found a home. And, from the sounds of it, she'll be staying awhile.
"It's a very robust marketing strategy that they are able to offer their clients. They totally embrace technology here, and are very adaptable to industry practices."
CHALLENGES BECOME OPPORTUNITIES
When addressing the ever-changing environment in which she works, Rhodes is optimistic in her approach. She'd rather refer to challenges in her business as opportunities to learn something new and implement new innovations. The recent economic downturn is one example in which Rhodes was able to teach her clients how to market more economically, and turn work around more quickly and efficiently.
"You can look at the glass half empty or half full. I know that sounds trite, but for us it's definitely half full. [The recession] has given us an opportunity to show our clients that, in spite of the economy, we can keep their response rates high and keep their businesses flourishing."
Rhodes faces challenges by understanding her customers' client data, and knowing what targets to hit, what markets to be in and what marketing channels are best suited for that particular data set.
"We have very smart clients, and just as they want to have a piece of mail land in their customers' mailbox, they know enough about their customers to know that what shows up in their mailbox is something their customers want."
DAWN OF THE DESKTOP
Rhodes holds the early part of her career as a typesetter near and dear to her heart, and was discouraged when its existence was threatened with the arrival of desktop publishing.
"I feel fortunate to have lived in the days of traditional production practices. To me, type is an art, and there was a lot of trepidation when we went to desktop that typesetting would become less important. But the truth of the matter is technology has done its best to preserve the world of type."
In addition to desktop publishing, the ability to produce advertising digitally and on-demand have had a major impact on her business over the past several years.
Her agency is also doing more in-house production. As publishing organizations both small and large begin to do more of the production process internally, Wunderman and other large agencies are following suit. Rhodes says Wunderman does its prepress in house and sends ready-to-roll disks to its print vendors.
"We use printers, but we also use a lot of letter shop services. And we'll hire photographers for photo shoots, but we're very in-house sufficient," she says. "It's allowed us to save our clients money."
Rhodes comes from a musical family, and her husband of 28 years teaches music. So it's no surprise to learn that she enjoys the arts. And there's no better place to do that than in Manhattan.
- Warren Chiara