October 27, 2014 smz-blog

A few minutes with SMZ’s departing Chief Creative Officer Gary Wolfson


For over five and one-half years Gary Wolfson called SMZ home. He started here at a time when Detroit and the country were facing some of their most challenging times in recent history.

The advertising business fared even worse. But thanks to his hard work and dedication to our clients, we persevered. We kept our most treasured accounts and added more. We did work that got the attention of our clients’ customers and our peers.

Gary leaves us happy in our new home full of exciting possibilities. But I had questions and stole a few minutes of his time to squeeze out a little more wisdom on his last day in the office.

So Gary, why have you decided to move on from SMZ now?

Well Ann, I’ve devoted over 35 years to the business that I love. I tell people I’m not retiring, just retooling. I just turned sixty. At this point you realize that time becomes your most valuable currency. I’m fortunate to be able to pursue more personal creative outlets, spend time with my wife. We share a lot of the same passions in life. I would still love to stay involved in the business through teaching and freelancing.

What’s been your favorite part about the ad biz?

For me it’s always been about ideas. Building brands through creative solutions. It’s particularly satisfying when it’s for a brand or product that makes peoples lives a little better.

What would you change about the ad business if you could?

These days everyone is so busy. There’re lots of emails and texting, the need for instant answers. There is seemingly a lack of time to sit regularly and discuss a client’s business. The best marketing is collaboration between agency and client. Clients need to be willing to make the time to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty. They have to be willing to share results with their agency on a regular basis and hold them accountable. Tell us what is working and not. And this should be done on a face-to-face basis, not by email or texts. A five-minute meeting can save weeks of time, work and frustration on both sides. You wouldn’t call your doctor over the phone, tell him you’re not feeling well and then say, “What’s wrong with me? I don’t have time to come and see you. Can you get back to me in a week.”

What makes a good account executive?

A person who understands their clients and their customers. Someone who listens and asks questions.  SMZ’s credo isn’t “Listen. Think. Do.” for nothin’!

What advice would you give someone just starting out in this business?

Technology is changing how we work on a daily basis; this is still a business of ideas and always will be. So be a person of the world because ideas come from everywhere. And learn how to sell them with passion.

Gary always brought a sense of humor and levity to every challenge and that was much appreciated.

He leaves us in a good place. Looking back on his accomplishments’ and to the future of SMZ, Gary said to the SMZ staff upon his departure, “May my ceiling be your floor.”

Ann McGee, senior vice president, general manager

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