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Member Spotlight: Bill McGowan, Interpublic Group

By Christopher Tolve | 7.10.19

DMCNY board member Bill McGowan says he didn’t choose marketing; it chose him. Given his distinguished career, it was a wise choice.


McGowan, who is currently senior client managing director at Interpublic Group, has a clear affinity for helping clients market more effectively to improve their customer experience and increase sales. He launched his marketing career in 1994 as senior list manager for List Services Corporation, after which he applied his expertise at such data-centric organizations as R L Polk. (now IHS), Equifax, Epsilon/Alliance Data, and Acxiom.


McGowan rejoined the board DMCNY in January 2019; he previously served in 2007, during which he led the launch of an educational breakfast series on online marketing taught by NYC-area e-commerce leaders. He recently devised and pulled together the Club’s September 12 event, “The Emerging Role of Ethical Data Governance.” 


In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, McGowan shares his backstory, as well as some forward-thinking advice. 

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Why marketing?

It chose me. My degree is in architecture. After college, many of the roles available lasted two to three months; the projects were terminated once completed, and then I had to start looking for the next job — so, I was constantly looking for a new role. I came across a marketing firm looking for somebody to handle the subscriber databases for two of its clients: Architectural Digest and Family Handyman magazines. That’s where it all started.

What’s been your biggest career accomplishment so far?

The job that I have now is managing specific key accounts. My biggest accomplishment was when an entire group of individuals left one account and went to another, and they asked me to come in and build them an enterprise solution that was worth close to $13 million.

Tell us a favorite customer story.

I was a part of an amazing project where we designed the in-store marketing experience for a client. We were able to leverage geofencing, mobile devices, and in-store Wi-Fi to recognize customers. The design enabled us to capture the customer’s point of entry within the store, which departments they shopped in, which days they shopped, what times they shopped, and if any of those events led to a purchase. All that data helped us improve the marketing experience.


What was the best learning experience you’ve had in your career?

I’m going to pick the worst. The person who had the least experience was hired to manage me and others, and she realized it. She had a team of individuals more qualified to complete her job, as well as their own, so she looked for reasons to terminate us all. Out of the team of seven, she succeeded in terminating four qualified candidates who were bringing in revenue and had great relationships with their customers. The rest of us got together and approached leadership. By assembling as a team, knowing our qualifications, and questioning authority, we were able to have her terminated and some of the other people reinstated.


If you could do the marketing for any company other than your current clients, what would it be?

It would be Tesla, because they have a horrible customer experience. I purchased a Model X, and it was one of the worst experiences ever. From collaboration to execution to engagement, everything about how they treated their customer experience could be vastly improved.


What advice would you give to your younger self as you entered marketing?

I did a lot of things right with job-hopping in my twenties, so I would definitely recommend that. It paid off very well; I was able to get different roles, experience, and salary bumps. The other piece of advice I would give is to explore positions in companies outside your comfort zone and away from home. So, if it’s in another country or part of the country, consider it.


Give one prediction on the future of marketing.

I think more companies will learn how to effectively use the data that they have to perfect the customer experience and engage the customer digitally and remotely. For example, they will leverage things like where your vehicle is and if it’s moving to determine whether to email or text you at that time.


What do you enjoy the most about being a member of DMCNY, and why?

Maintaining relationships not only with customers, but also with prior colleagues, even though you may not work with them in your current role. 


Another thing is being able to learn from people with a long history in the industry who are retired and still show up, as well as people coming right out of college. So, I am able to see perspectives from both sides.

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About the Author

Chris Tolve is an editorial intern for DMCNY, as well as for The Drum. He attends Ithaca College.