Adam Bleibtreu (ASGN) - Entrepreneurial Soul

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This is a podcast episode titled, Adam Bleibtreu (ASGN) - Entrepreneurial Soul. The summary for this episode is: <p>Vincent talks with Adam Bleibtreu, the CMO at ASGN Incorporated. They talk about Adam taking on the CMO role at both ASGN and Creative Circle simultaneously and his past experiences leading him to where he is today. Ajay is traveling, and Vincent takes on this episode solo.</p>
How Adam got into marketing
01:55 MIN
How Adam balances 2 organizations
03:00 MIN
How recruitment has changed throughout the pandemic
02:40 MIN
The importance of being proactive rather than reactive
01:18 MIN
Advice for those who want to get into marketing
02:25 MIN
Why personalization is important
01:26 MIN

Vin: Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Vincent talks with Adam Bleibtreu, the CMO at ASGN Inc. They talk about how Adam is taking on the CMO role at both ASGN and Creative Circle simultaneously, and his experiences in the past that led him to where he is today. Ajay is traveling, so Vincent takes on this episode solo. Give it a listen.

Vincent: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's, The Marketing Stir. I, of course, am your host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products here Stirista. Before I explain what I'm doing in not my normal location, I will also explain who Stirista is, you're probably like," Who are they?" You should know by now, we have so many amazing listeners. But Stirista, we are a marketing technology company. We focus on identity. We have our own B2B data, our own B2C data, customers and our partners utilize that data to get new customers, to send that data. We have our own email sending structure. We have our own DSP, Adster, so we can send display, OTT, connect to TV. We don't use cookies. That was a big thing about this conference I was just at, I will talk about that. I'll talk to my guest about that. Just, cookies are not maybe in my guest's world, but I'm just tired of talking about it, so maybe I won't even talk about it. Anyway, it is so good to be back. The other thing that's, there's two things that are different today. One is I am from my home. You've heard me on the podcast mention that I don't like working from home. I didn't like working from home prior to the pandemic. I am in New York City. It's not like I have a spare den. I don't make that much money where I'd have a spare den. You just have your bedrooms and you use every square inch of your space. But I tried to get into my office today, the elevators were down. 18 flights up, I said," I'll walk up 18 flights." Even though I partially tore my hamstring a few weeks ago, if you're catching up on those episodes, you'll know how. But the stairs, they couldn't even access the stairs. I'm like," This is not right. I don't think you're supposed to do this, ladies and gentlemen. Something's wrong with this building." But anyway, I came home and I did not want to miss this podcast. Also, my co- host, ladies and gentlemen, you know Ajay Gupta, my partner and crime, the CEO of Stirista, he's not joining us today. I'm flying solo, because he's flying. He's flying back from a board of directors meeting. Look at that, how official. I wasn't invited. Anyway, here we are. But I'm happy to be back with the audience and I'm happy to be back with this next guest. I say these things a lot on the podcast, right? I say where, a lot of times I get to talk to the guests prior, we just flow. I feel like it's like those people that you're like," You know, I feel like I've known this person a long time." We just met. I always say that, you'll hear, I don't say that for everyone, if you listen to the podcast you'll know. I don't say to everyone. I love all of our guests, but I don't say that for everyone. I say that for this gentleman. He's joining us, ladies and gentlemen, please a warm welcome. This is the CMO of two different organizations. We're going to get to that, very unique, right? We haven't had someone on like that, but let's start with the first organization. CMO of ASGN Inc. Please ladies and gentlemen, a warm welcome for Mr. Adam Bleibtreu. What's going on Adam?

Adam Bleibtreu: Hey man, how you doing, Vince? Pleasure to be here.

Vincent: Oh, happy to have you, Adam. Thank you for bearing with us, because Adam has been awesome in hanging with us. We had to postpone this podcast twice, and for crazy, well one's not a crazy reason, but one is the, when I broke my arm, as you listeners are now discovering because we talked about it in a few episodes. And then I got called into a conference. Conferences are back, they're back. There was like 500 people at this conference, the Programmatic IO conference here in New York. So I got called in and I was like," All right." And oh, and then we had to move it, but I was not moving it. I wanted to talk to this gentleman. So Adam, it's great to talk to you. Do you feel the same way I do about, I feel like we've known each other?

Adam Bleibtreu: Yeah, it's crazy. I, like you, you get dozens of phone calls a week from folks, and every now and then you just connect with someone and you just kind of think to yourself, we had to have met somewhere before. We had to have had a cold, frosty adult beverage at some oak top counter before. But if we haven't in the past, I can promise you, we will in the future.

Vincent: We will in the future. And it's so, I love that you said that, because when we originally started this podcast, The Marketing Stir, we talked about, we want it to be like if we met our guest at the bar at a conference, because you talk about so many different things. Right? And it was really nice to be back in person at conferences. I was going into this conference kind of thinking, Adam, all right, well, it's in New York City, so the proper protocols, it's indoors, right? The vaccination cards, the proof of vaccination. I was like," How many people are coming to this thing? 36 people?" It was like 500 people, or even more, I'm sure. So it was good to see, and so to strike up those natural conversations again. So yeah, that's kind of how, and yeah, we probably were at the same conference in the past, me and you, and we just haven't met. But for those listeners, tell us about what you're doing there at ASGN and also at Creative Circle. Creative Circle is the other that you are the CMO of, I love that. We're going to get into the, balancing those two hats. As if being a CMO was an easy job, it was not an easy... It's not an easy job and now you're doing it with two organizations. But tell us about yourself, what each of those organizations do as well.

Adam Bleibtreu: Happy to, yeah, I would say it's one of the more unique opportunities I've had in a slightly varied and nontraditional career. I actually started eight years ago as the CMO at Creative Circle. It was then, it is now the largest digital creative marketing staffing company in North America. It's primary strength is matching exceptional creative and digital talent with clients that need them. It's an incredibly efficient model, and I was recruited into it by the founders and really thought they were two of the smarter gentlemen I'd had the opportunity to work with. And I've worked with some, really I'm fortunate to say, worked with some pretty cool folks in the past. I came on board and about three and a half years into that journey, we were purchased lock, stock, and barrel by a company, which was then called On Assignment, now renamed by some CMO schmuck, ASGN. And as a part of that acquisition, I got to meet the CEO of ASGN, Peter Dameris. And he offered me this really unique opportunity to be the chief marketing officer of the parent company, which at that point we owned five primarily staffing companies that did business in North America, a little bit in Europe. And I thought it would be a fascinating opportunity to learn the public markets and how to help manage that process. And we shook hands on a deal that said," I'll go do that. And I'll do my day job at Creative Circle for about a year." Well, five years later I have two distinct jobs and I really enjoy both of them.

Vincent: That's awesome. And now, Adam, we always love to ask this question on the podcast. We like to get right into it, because we love to see people's backgrounds, how they got into this space to begin with. How did you get into marketing?

Adam Bleibtreu: I was walking down the street, white, windowless van pulled up, guys put a pillow over my head. And the next thing I know I'm a marketing guy. No, I-

Vincent: Snagged you, right? A lot of that happens in New York and New Jersey. I love it.

Adam Bleibtreu: I thought I wanted to be a coach when I was younger. I thought that would be fun, and then I realized coaches really, in that day and age, didn't make a whole lot of money. And I also took, early on I took a Pavlovian psychology class, and for me a switch really clicked when I began to understand a little bit about the human mind and about emotional triggers, and how the rudimentary concepts of decision making takes place. So I had that piece. I had a father, who at the time was a writer, and really was a phenomenal storyteller. And I learned a lot about him from that piece. And then the last thing was, I had a very unusual childhood. I didn't go to school, I went to a one room school house. I lived in a bunch of different places. So by the time I got to high school, I had an incredibly adept visual mind, but a not really up to par math and analytical mind. I had to work really hard on the math and the sciences part. I thought the easiest way to marry the two was to be a filmmaker, and I went to film school. And went to the University of Southern California, which is still the finest film school on the West Coast, took the psychology class and went, oh, this is interesting. I think I'm going to minor in advertising, because it just sounded cool. And I directed a documentary my senior year at USC that won an Emmy and won AFI's national video award. And I was the most highly awarded student filmmaker coming out of college that year. And as is my luck in life, the entire town was on strike, so my 42nd interview was with a television icon named Norman Lear, who gave me a job as a driver. And I quite honestly started at the bottom and worked my way up, first on the TV side, then a pivot or a transition into advertising.

Vincent: Wow. That's, again, let's take the CMO of two organizations, right? We were talking about that's the unique part, our first Emmy Award winner on the podcast. And that's, I love that story. I'm familiar, I'm a big entertainment film buff myself, Norman Leer, that's All in the Family, right? Just to name that.

Adam Bleibtreu: Yep.

Vincent: He's all, the sitcom king. He's, I know they honored him a little while back. I saw someone honoring him. That's amazing. And then, we do hear a lot of people where there was a love for television, or maybe they went down that route in film, not to the degree that you went into. Also some music fans that we had on the podcast that kind of did that. And then sometimes advertising, that natural kind of transition. I love hearing that. That's amazing. I should have asked you to bring the Emmy on, that would've been pretty cool. But Adam, talk to me about, is there a lot of the same type of marketing you're doing within both organizations? But how do you balance out both? Because you're kind of putting on, it's the same hat, but it's two different hats, and it's, is it different audiences that you're targeting? Talk to me a little bit about the whole balancing the two companies together.

Adam Bleibtreu: It's a great question. And sometimes I have to think about it, because it changes a little bit day to day. But the easiest way to understand it, is that ASGN is a 6 billion market cap, as of this morning, publicly traded company. We have, our primary audience are shareholders, investors, analysts. We really are a company that we believe delivers a phenomenal return on the investment, and the faith, and the trust that these institutional investors and private investors place in us. Our business is managing four companies broken into two sectors. We have a commercial sector, which includes Apex Systems, Creative Circle, and CyberCoders, which really focus on the staffing side in the commercial sector. And then we have a company called ECS, which heads up our federal segment. And there we are a highly qualified consultant into the government, DOD, NSA, DARPA, all the acronyms. Those companies are the operating entities. And my role at ASGN is. On a top line basis three primary focuses, strategy and execution with our CEO, Ted Hanson, who by the way, is the reason I'm still there. He's phenomenal, phenomenal man to work for who really understands the concepts that we're trying to put together from a marketing perspective, which I think is rare for CEOs, and particularly some that I've worked for. A lot of the conversation is around investor relations, analysts, and the strategy. The second part is, over the last three years I've become very involved in the ESG process. I am responsible now for all environmental social governance reporting, which is a little unusual for some CMOs, but something that I've leaned into and am really enjoying. And then the third piece there is, I have oversight over all four of our companies and my role there is to try to make their marketing teams better. I can say with confidence that over the last five years, we've really done a much better job in their day to day marketing activities and tactics. Now, on the Creative Circle side, it's a phenomenal team, a very robust team, headed up by a woman named Katherine Forbes who's one of the most proficient tacticians and executional folks I've ever had work for me, and she has built a phenomenal team. So lead generation, client acquisition, all sales support materials, all of the component pieces to the candidate or the contractor acquisition path, all digital properties all fall into her bucket, and therefore my bucket, plus strategy, budget development, and then a little bit of inaudible activity.

Vincent: Yeah. Wow. That's a busy day. That's a busy, that's a busy month.

Adam Bleibtreu: It gets me through noon.

Vincent: Yeah. Yeah. That's... Oh, wow. Adam, talk to me a little bit about, because I hear, so at the core, right? The recruitment aspect, how has that changed in the last, just if you could talk about the overall industry, if you, you obviously have insight into it, but how is the overall, especially in the last, almost two years, how has recruitment changed? Right? Because the in person interviews are not there anymore as much, just the whole, I mean, a lot of strategies have changed. Can you talk to a little bit about that?

Adam Bleibtreu: No. No, I'm kidding.

Vincent: No?

Adam Bleibtreu: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Just having fun.

Vincent: No, no, me and you could talk about sitcoms all day. That's no problem. I love it. No, actually I can't, next question.

Adam Bleibtreu: No, I spent five years with Jim Henson. I have a lot of stories that were fun, but anyhow, yes. What happens in the American economy, and to a degree the global economy, is that the pendulum swings back and forth and it goes from a talent rich environment, which means there are more people looking for work than there are positions available, to a candidate driven marketplace, which is where we are now, which are there's a candidate or a talent shortage. A lot of this is obviously brought on by circumstance related to this horrible pandemic, that hopefully and God willing, we're on the last legs of. So what's happened that, there's two primary things that have happened, I think, in the last two years. The first and the most in important one is that, remote works. Period. There's no conversation that can be had anymore about that. In most sectors, in most industry segments, remote works. Now, older style managers may not agree with it, certain people may be trying to fight it, but the productivity of the American worker at home, or at alternative locations from offices works. Period. The second part is that, what used to be referred to as the digital divide, 35 and under grew up with cell phones, and laptop computers, and digital devices, and they managed their entire life that way. There was no fear of credit cards on the internet. There was no fear of privacy, because they really didn't have any, they didn't care. And 36 and above, we were a little cautious. We weren't all in yet. We had fax machines somewhere in the closet at the office, right? So when COVID hit and we all went home, we all became digital natives. With a digital divide that's gone and a candidate shortage that's comfortable working from home and feeling legitimately empowered to want to continue to do that, all of the recruitment and the messaging around job opportunities, whether they be part- time, freelance, or full- time really have to take into account the overall sort of ethos of where the talent pool is now. You have to be a little more intelligent. You have to be a little more thoughtful. You have to focus on things like ESG and diversity at green inclusion, because these are components that matter to this audience. And then it's 99.9% in a digital environment.

Vincent: Yeah. And another thing that's kind of happened is before you were, when you were looking for people, remote roles were very limiting, right? Now, it's kind of, like you said, it's crazy to hear that there's a shortage of talent, because I would think now you have more areas to expand. It's like, okay, well I own a company and we're in Omaha, Nebraska. Well, I could have an employee in New York, Atlanta, I could have an employee all over now. It's crazy to hear that there is a shortage, but I see that. There's a shortage in a variety of different fields right now that you're seeing. I live in New York City and you're seeing a shortage in people who are working in restaurants, people who are working in Broadway shows and theaters, ushers, and so forth and so on. That's interesting to hear. Adam, talk to me a little bit about, staying on that, the recruitment piece, what do you think recruitment firms are doing well in marketing and what are they not doing so well in?

Adam Bleibtreu: It's a great question. And I think, I think staffing and recruitment companies that are treating their customers, right? You're talking about a talent, you're talking about someone who's looking for a job, which candidly, I think is one of the most emotionally debilitating processes you go through. You have a variety of pressures economically, emotionally, and physically about having to find work. You send out resumes and nothing comes back, it goes into the black hole of the application pool. It's horrible. It truly is. I think that the recruitment firms that are winning are the ones that are treating the applicants like human beings, they're utilizing technologies to keep them abreast of what's happening in the application process. They're using technology to help facilitate the evaluation of applicants so that less time is spent, less human hours are spent on the evaluation process and more is spent in one to one Zoom video or in person conversations. Companies that are doing that well are winning, companies that are treating the applicants like fodder are losing. And unfortunately, there are more of the latter than the former.

Vincent: And I would agree with that, because you always kind of hear that when you're applying for a job it's, well, it's better if you know someone there already. That's the best way to do it, because then you get lost and then sometimes you're just looking for certain keywords in a resume. Yeah, thanks for that insight there. Let's take a little pivot, because I wanted to talk about your five years within this particular organization, but a lot of experience, what's been, maybe it's five years, 10 years, what's been a shining moment for you in the last, say five to 10 years, that happened at work where you say," Oh, you know what? I really enjoyed this moment. We did this, and it resulted in this." Love to hear that.

Adam Bleibtreu: Other than walking my daughter down the aisle, right? I can't talk about that, that would be a shining moment.

Vincent: You could... No, that's a shining moment in life. That's amazing.

Adam Bleibtreu: By the way, for-

Vincent: And being on this podcast is the second crosstalk-

Adam Bleibtreu: She's a marketing pro for Disney, so she's a lot smarter than her dad.

Vincent: Oh, nice.

Adam Bleibtreu: Yeah. Hardest speech I ever had to write and give, by the way, for those that are girl dads out there and are going to have to go through that, my heart's with you. It's a great question. I think there, really there's two answers. At a different point in my career, I was an entrepreneurial soul and I was working in a category of industry called digital signage, which really, pre smartphone, was putting digital screens closer and closer to the point of purchase. And long story made incredibly short, a partner and I came up with the concept for putting TV sets on gas pumps, and we launched a company called gas station TV, GSTV. And at that point it was one of those moments in your life where you really, really knew that this would work. And there was a tremendous amount of obstacles, based on technology, based on health and safety, based on putting an electronic device on a box that can go boom. I mean, minor little things like that. And solving that and proving all of the naysayers wrong, raising money, and the whole bit, that was tremendously satisfying and cool. The second part, three years ago when the company asked me to take the helms in the CSG piece, and like all of us, you have environmental sustainability concerns. You're certainly aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. But when they handed that to me, it was an opportunity as a dinosaur, a little older than you, have a few more beers under my belt, to really learn something that was new, that was incredibly relevant at this point, the issues with the horrible murder of George Floyd and these things had not happened. And I really felt it was a way to have an impact in an incredibly positive way in the immediacy of my surroundings, so that was the second one.

Vincent: Yeah. And it kind of, it goes into a question, it's how important is it to be proactive, rather than reactive, in marketing?

Adam Bleibtreu: I think that if you're reacting, you've already lost. I think that the greatest marketers that I've known, the really strong brands that I've worked with, or more importantly admired, they pay an incredible amount of attention to their customer, an incredible amount of attention to their customer. And they go through the persona modeling exercise, or however they get there. So you have to be able to anticipate, within a high degree of certainty, where your customer's going to be four, six, eight months down the road. And you have to be able to deliver to them an experience that matters. The classic example is Netflix. There isn't anyone under 35 years old listening to this that knows they started as a competitor to Blockbuster, who they've never heard of, delivering DVDs over the mail, right? Because we were too lazy to get our tookus' off the couch and go to Blockbuster, so Netflix mailed them to us. And now they're the number one streaming service in the universe, but the fascinating thing is if you think about Netflix, everybody knows Netflix. Everybody's got a favorite show on Netflix. No one has Netflix branded merchandise.

Vincent: That's right.

Adam Bleibtreu: They understand their consumer, they understand their business and their service, and they're really good at delivering that. They're not trying to inaudible it up with all this other stuff.

Vincent: Now that's a great example, because you're right, I remember Blockbuster, of course, and I remember Netflix. I did the two DVDs at home, and it was, I thought, that was game changing. Where it was like, okay, to my home, no late fees. That was the thing with Blockbuster, you get one late fee, forget it, it was like$ 48. 13 after three days of late fees. And then you always see this on LinkedIn now, where you say," Hey, don't give up, just remember that Netflix started out as DVDs and they pivoted." And I remember the first time, I was like," This isn't going to work." And they put out shows like, there was Orange is the New Black, and had House of Cards, and a few of those. And now look at them. And you're right, no one, you never see... If you have Netflix merchandise, it's because your work there, at this point. Love that example. Staying on game changing, because I love your story, Adam, for a variety of reasons and CMO of two companies for five years, oftentimes a CMO, that's sometimes a 20 month job at a lot of places, 24 month job being one CMO, and you're the CMO of two companies. But what do you think has been, let's stay with that word, I'm going to say it, game changing, right? What's been game changing for you that has set you apart, you feel, in this career, that you do differently, that you'd love to give advice for other people getting into marketing, other CMOs that has set you apart?

Adam Bleibtreu: I love that question. It's challenging to answer, I feel like I got to go find a couch and lay down, and talk about my childhood, and how my mom was nice to me or not. But the short answer is, I have come to understand, later in my career than earlier in my career, that I possess something that not a lot of my peer group does, and that is perspective. Because I've had literally eight different careers in the last 40 years. When problems arise, or situations arise, I have the capacity to look at them from a variety of angles. And I always make the analogy to a single sport athlete versus multi- sport athlete. Kids that start pitching at eight years old, their elbows are blown out and they're having Tommy John surgery by 16, right? Multi- sport athletes may not have a single specific skill, but good gosh, they're great athletes, and they stay healthy, and they can play football and basketball ball in high school, or whatever. I've been fortunate to get there. That's not something that a lot of people are going to have the opportunity to do, because they're not ADD professionally like I am. The other side of the coin is, you have to be insatiably curious, first and foremost. I read tons of stuff from National Geographic, to Hollywood Reporter, from The Wall Street Journal, to The New York Times, you name it. I have a really interesting capacity to ingest information from a variety of sources, because I am legitimately curious. The second thing, which took me 25 years to learn, is you don't have to have the answer. Ask for help, be honest about what you know and you don't know, because people will respect that, offer you help, and give you time to help figure it out as long as you're moving down the path in the right way. Be curious, don't be afraid to ask for help. And then certainly last but not least, hard work will always win. The only thing you can control is your motor. So as long as you're the hardest working person in the room, you don't have to be the smartest, you don't have to be the fastest, just be the hardest worker.

Vincent: I love that. I love that advice. And all of it resonates with me, but what I love is, and then when I talk to some of my teammates, if they're on calls with clients or prospects, it's okay to not know everything. That's what I always say," It's okay." What you say is," Look, let me check on that. I don't have the answer to that, but I'm going to follow up and I'll have that to you by tomorrow." Make sure you have it to them by tomorrow.

Adam Bleibtreu: Exactly.

Vincent: Because then you're establishing your credibility, but I love hearing that. Adam, what do you think is, I know these are like... I know these are like big questions, right? These are, if we had a couch, we'd be laying down, but the most important marketing tool that you think that you've used, or there is, or maybe it's not even an actual software program, but it's just something that one must possess. You kind of hit on it there a little bit, but it could be marketing tool or software, it could be a role within the organization that you must have. It could just be something intangible. Talk to me about it.

Adam Bleibtreu: Love that question. As technology has changed, we went from guys with sandwich boards and billboards, which was the earliest form of most people accepted advertising in North America, to 6, 432 emails spamming us since we've actually been talking. What hasn't changed, really ever, in our last two or three generations are the emotional triggers associated with decision making. The volume of information we consume is massive, the choices we have in front of us are substantial, but the emotional triggers that are really the differentiators between purchasing and shopping. And I use those terms broadly because they can be related to decision makings from a date, to a beer type, to an IPA, or to substantive issues that are really helping guide your company. So if you understand that the emotional triggers really haven't changed, then your next job is to get out of your head. And most importantly, get out of your team's head and the chain of leadership's head, because everybody comes to marketing and advertising with an opinion that they know what's right. Get out of that mindset by creating an incredibly detailed persona of your key consumer, your target. Call them Jim, call them Jennifer, how old they are, how many kids do they have? What kind of car do they drive? What zip code do they live in? How much do they make? What are their concerns in life? And then as you create these campaigns to impact their emotional decision making, ask them the question. Don't ask your boss, don't ask your peer, don't ask someone that works for you. Get them all into a room and say," Jim is going to be the decision maker." Or," Jennifer is going to be the decision maker." So by concentrating on the emotional components of decision making and focusing solely on your key customer, you are more likely than not going to consistently make the right choices.

Vincent: And it kind of goes right into a question I had about personalization, right? Because you're really getting to know your customer and we see that a lot on the business to consumer side. My world I live in, I mean, Stirista does a variety of things, but B2B and B2C, I'm on the B2B side. And it's a lot more, there's a lot more marketers talking about how to make B2B marketing more personal, how to inject that emotion, because at the end of the day, like you said, Adam, the decision makers are people as well. Do you've feel, and can you comment on, the importance of personalization, but also making a brand personal, but spanning into the B2B world as well?

Adam Bleibtreu: Two pieces, the first one is, in the old days when you used to catch a train to work, or the subway, there'd be a guy in a suit and a tie headed down to Wall Street, financial services, and he'd have a New York Post and a Wall Street Journal. And he'd read them both on the train. And when he was reading the Wall Street Journal, he was in a business mode, and he was reading the post, he was in a social mode, right? The key is to know when to intervene or interrupt them in their journey as your customer. You have to know when their mind is going to shift and be receptive to the kind of messaging that you're going to put in front of them. You cannot assume that because it's cheaper to buy a CPM rate at this hour, or because there are a phenomenal number of those people online at this time period, that that's the right point within which to reach them. The second part is, before they open your email, and order a crud ton of your product, and fall in love with your brand, they have to open the email. You have to treat them with authenticity and respect, because they're smarter than you. They know their business. Never assume that you know their business, know and assume that you subject matter expert to help their business improve.

Vincent: I love that. Yeah. Never assume their business, never assume budget, right? Never assume what what's expensive to one person may not be expensive to another. I love that. Let's switch gears, because I want to get to know you a little more personally, right? I want my audience to know you more personally. But let's first start with a signature question, that every single guest, I feel like James Lipton right now, that we ask everyone. We ask everyone a LinkedIn question. LinkedIn, it's becoming even more popular nowadays, right? Because of a way to prospect, there's conferences just coming back, right? A lot of those face to face. Someone of your title, Adam, is constantly probably getting reached out to. What is a LinkedIn message that resonates with you and gets your attention? And then, my favorite piece is, what's a LinkedIn message that you hate and you don't want people to keep doing anymore?

Adam Bleibtreu: I'm a sucker for sarcasm and humor. You know and I know that you're trying to get me to respond to something, so be honest about it, have a in of humor about it. The messages that come to me that either have a little sense of personality to it, or a sense of humor about it, I pay attention to. In fact, I'm actually known for sending salespeople back emails going," Dude, I absolutely loved your email. I'm not a target. I'm not somebody that's going to buy your service, but just marketing professional to marketing professional, I totally dug your message and I think you're on the right track." On the other hand, if you try to tell me my business, if you insult my intelligence, if you misspell my name or use someone else, all of those things, I'm like," Nah, you're dead to me."

Vincent: Yeah. I love it. It's, sarcasm always gets me because I think of myself as a sarcastic person, a funny New Yorker. And the credit... And also, because of my sales background, where I've done sales before, and I get it, people have a job to do, but little things, right? The other day, someone called me Vicnet, V- I- C- N- E- T, and you know, Adam is not a tough one, Vincent's not a tough one, our last names are, so if you're going to include our last names, you better get that right. But yeah, I'll even respond and say," Hey, I'm not interested, and I know that a no is better than a un- response, or unresponsive messages, or even a maybe, right? I love that. Also flattery gets me, tell me, sometimes now, and this is a message out there to the PR agencies doing your job, doing a great job, or reaching out to get their guests onto the podcast, which we rarely do, but keep them coming, but say you like the podcast first, opening sentence." I'm a fan of the podcast." That gets my attention, as opposed to," Get my six clients on who want to just talk about the company." Anyway, I'm going on a rant here, Adam. I'm getting a... But you brought up something crosstalk-

Adam Bleibtreu: Rants are good.

Vincent: Rants are good. Tell me about yourself, personally. Where are you calling in from? I know you're not on that beautiful landscape there, but tell me about where you're from originally, where you live now. What are some of your interests?

Adam Bleibtreu: I'm calling in from lovely downtown Santa Monica, in California, where it's 72 and sunny 340 days a year, so bring the hate on, it's okay. I was born in New York, so I am a true native New Yorker, New York Hospital.

Vincent: I knew that even if you didn't say it, I was going to ask. I said, I knew that.

Adam Bleibtreu: And I love New York. My sister still lives there, but I am a complete wuss and my blood thinned, and I'm done. I'm staying where it's warmer. I moved 17 times between ages two and 16, so I grew up all over the United States and spent a little time in South America. My dad was a stockbroker, became a writer, dropped out and became a leader in the personal awareness movement. So very sort of interesting childhood. I moved out when I was 16 and as a sophomore in high school, and really have lived alone until I got married to an amazing woman 33 years ago. I moved LA to go to college and I stayed because it's 72 and sunny 340 days a year.

Vincent: That's amazing. Yeah, for me, and I talk to people, former New Yorkers, and I knew that about you, even if you didn't say it. I'm like," No, there's something about him. I know you must be a New Yorker." And for me, I would miss the holidays for the cold weather. I don't know, and maybe you're like," Well, you just haven't tried it, man." But I haven't done the... I don't know if I could do Christmas time, or the holiday time, or Thanksgiving when it's 80 degrees. I don't know. I don't know if I can do it. That's what I would miss.

Adam Bleibtreu: It only takes one.

Vincent: I know, yeah. Because I always talk to my wife, my wife used to go away to like tropical destinations as a kid for Christmas. I'm like, I was like,"Wait, really? No." I was like," I need to have a coat on." That's just me. Well, she says," Well, just try it once and you'll see."

Adam Bleibtreu: I'm not disagreeing. I was in, my wife and I went to Chicago over last weekend and the early part of the week, to visit our daughter and son- in- law who are now living there, and it was cold, and blustery, and rainy. And I went," This is great." For four days, I got fall. I got the coat, I got the scarf. I'm all good. And now it's shorts weather out here, and I'm okay with that.

Vincent: Yeah. Well, Chicago's one of those, I don't... I can't do Chicago. Yeah, I love visiting, but you're right, that's too cold. That's like October, it's like February here in New York. I can't do that. But also I want to know this, what was, was there a film, or a TV show growing up where that kind of influenced you to do film, to get into that? Was there something where you're like," I saw Casablanca..." Or," I saw Jaws..." Or," I saw something..." I'm just curious, I'm a big film fan myself. I always geek out on that. I subscribe to Entertainment, it's the one magazine that I subscribe to almost 25, 30 years now, Entertainment Weekly, just to stay up on it. Was there something like that for you?

Adam Bleibtreu: Yeah, it wasn't Jaws. I saw Jaws and I was afraid to go swimming in a lake.

Vincent: Everyone was, yeah. I don't like murky water to this day because of Jaws.

Adam Bleibtreu: Nah, that's okay, man, there's big fish with big teeth. No, there was a film you've never seen. Very few people have, that was called The Stunt Man, starring Peter O'Toole. And it was shot at the hotel Del in San Diego, but it was a movie about making a movie. And Peter O'Toole was a crazy director., And he used to tell the lead actor that film is a fantasy and that King Kong was three feet, six inches tall. And something in that clicked for me. And I went," I could tell those kind of stories." Because you're creating an artificial reality to look real. And as long as you accept that dynamic, hopefully you'll find success. So that was the film in high school that the switch went off, and that's the path I went for a while.

Vincent: That's amazing. Was Peter O'Toole an actor as well, right?

Adam Bleibtreu: Yep.

Vincent: Very big, well known actor.

Adam Bleibtreu: Yeah. He was, he played the character of the director.

Vincent: Oh, okay. Yeah.

Adam Bleibtreu: Yeah.

Vincent: Yeah. Because, yeah, I know Peter O'Toole. I don't know the film, but I know Peter O'Toole.

Adam Bleibtreu: Now two people will go watch it and that'll be cool, Netflix will be happy.

Vincent: That'll be cool. Yeah. Netflix will be happy. And that's, little wins like that, at least for the podcast, where someone will say," Hey, Adam mentioned that movie and we went to go see it." Adam, some closing thoughts. It could be for people getting into this field, it could just be your longevity in the industry, it could just be life advice. We'd love to just hear some closing thoughts from you as we start to wind down the podcast.

Adam Bleibtreu: Well, first of all, thank you, and to your team. You're incredibly kind to, and generous to offer someone like me an opportunity to have such a fun conversation. You're, at any point in your life, you're a sum of your parts, and you can't do it alone, so the sooner you learn that and you allow yourself to ask for help, to discover things, to take chances simply because you think it's scary. And I don't mean jumping off of a cliff, although I've done that, it's leaving the safety of your safe zone. Those are all of the things that are going to allow your mind and your emotional self to grow and change. And I think that's really important. The second thing, and it's something I grew up with, it's something my kids grew up with, and that's the analogy of being the duck. Okay? I've said earlier, you have to be the hardest worker in the room, but it's more than that. If you look at a duck, it's raining and he's floating across the lake, water's just pouring off of him and he looks effortless gliding across there, beautiful duck. But under the water, he is paddling like hell, right? If you're going to be the hardest worker in the room, don't let people know it, don't promote how hard you're working, how tired you are. Nobody cares. Be the person that delivers, be the person that's early for meetings, be the person that shows respect, but most importantly, be the duck, have what you do look effortless as you deliver above what's required of you. And then the last thing is really, and it took me a long time to figure this out, but it's okay not to know the answer. However, it's critically important, as you said earlier, it's critically important that you have the capacity to find the answer and then deliver it. You have to close the loop.

Vincent: I love that. I love that analogy to the duck. You never kind of think about that. It's really breaking it down in a way that everyone could understand. Adam, this has been extremely fun. This, I feel like I could talk to you for hours. Thank you for taking some time with us. That is Adam Bleibtreu, ladies and gentlemen, the CMO of ASGN, CMO of Creative Circle, born and bred New Yorker, like me, but now he's in California. I get it. I love it. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir, I'm Vincent Pietrafesa, the VP of B2B products, Ajay Gupta, our CEO, is on a flight. We wish him well. We want him back. He is my partner in crime. This has been amazing. Thank you so much, Adam. Thank you so much, listeners. We'll talk to you soon.

Speaker 4: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, email us at themarketingstir @ stirista. com, and thanks for listening.


Vincent talks with Adam Bleibtreu, the CMO at ASGN Incorporated. They talk about Adam taking on the CMO role at both ASGN and Creative Circle simultaneously and his past experiences leading him to where he is today. Ajay is traveling, and Vincent takes on this episode solo.

Today's Host

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Vincent Pietrafesa

|Vice President, B2B Products, Stirista
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Ajay Gupta

|Founder & CEO, Stirista

Today's Guests

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Adam Bleibtreu

|Chief Marketing Officer at ASGN
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