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Drew Neisser, Renegade Marketing

Drew Neisser
Neisser: "Nothing pumps me up for challenging days like a little blaring Boston!"


One book: Joy of Cooking. Irma Rombauer's recipes never fail and while I'd surely miss some of my favorite historical novels like The Winds of War and Lonesome Dove, at least I'd be well fed for a good long time.

One newspaper: I hate this question. I'd want the first two sections of The Wall St. Journal and the Sports section of the New York Times, the two combined providing both dinner and dessert. Forced to choose, I'd probably opt for the Times desperately missing the Journal's eclectic front page stories and entire Marketplace coverage.

One Web site: Google. It's the beginning of endless adventures, the first page of all the books I plan to write and the how in "how the heck are we going to pull that idea off?"

One gadget: Again tough choice since I love all my gadgets. Focusing on two, I use my Treo more but I'd miss my iPod more. Nothing pumps me up for challenging days like a little blaring Boston!

One plane ticket: Harry Truman reminded most who would listen to never forget who they were and where they came from. I guess that makes me a marketing guy from Newport Beach, California and that's where I'd no doubt fly with just one plane ticket, visiting family & friends, playing tennis year-round and watching sunsets at the pier. Sounds pretty good to this long-time New Yorker.


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(CNN) -- Global Office talks to Renegade Marketing president Drew Neisser.

Global Office: What are you reading?

Drew Neisser: I'm going back and forth between Robert Caro's "Path to Power" (LBJ's early years) and Harold Evans' "They Made America".

Having read the second and third books in Caro's series, it's amazing to see how LBJ's problematic childhood shaped his political future. LBJ remains endlessly fascinating to me, flawed but formidable, a man relentlessly driven to succeed by the failures of his forefathers including the ominous fact that "Johnson men die young".

"They Made America" is too big for my bedside table, crammed full of interesting insights on 70 innovative Americans, many of whom were unknown to me. As broad as Caro's work is deep, "They Made America" provides bite-sized nuggets of inspiration, like tasty treats between a full course meal. Their both yummy!

GO: Who's been your biggest influence?

DN: My father without question. He remains both confidant and mentor, encouraging me without pressure, a trick I haven't figured out how to do with my own kids. Some of it has to do with my place in the family. As the youngest of three boys, by the time I came around his emphasis was on balance, good grades and good sports to be followed later by working hard and playing hard.

While he pressured my brothers academically, he challenged me more on the sports fields, not just to win but to do so gracefully and graciously, making as a many friends as possible along the way. To this day, many of my best friends are those I beat or lost to on a ball field or tennis court.

He also passed along his love for history, not just as a warehouse of good stories but as a source for guidance on current and future events. I only wish a recent president had passed along this wisdom to his son.

GO: What's your biggest mistake?

DN: If one does indeed learn from their mistakes, then I should be the smartest man alive. I think I've made just about every mistake imaginable from the typos on my first resume to confusing interest with talent when I made a fortuitously short run at acting. At Renegade, my list of missteps includes everything from hiring too quickly to firing too slowly, from avoiding confrontation to confronting the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong fashion.

It is in this last area that perhaps I made my biggest mistake, dashing off a poorly worded e-mail that resulted in a client leaving us. Now that client was probably out the door anyway but I will never again send an e-mail as a surrogate for a face-to-face meeting. We may live in a virtual world but client relationships are too important to leave to the possible misinterpretation of a few words on a computer screen.

GO: Is management an art or a science?

DN: The more I read about the science of management, the more I believe it is an art. This isn't to say that one can't learn a lot about management from the practices of others. Setting SMART (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, tangible ) goals for your employees is a no brainer. Striving for Six Sigma can be the difference between failure and success for a global manufacturer.

Renegade's leadership team spent a lot of time examining Jim Collins' "Good to Great", making sure we had the "right people on the bus", identifying our "hedgehog concept" and using technology to help get our "flywheel" spinning along. But none of that will help Renegade grow into a great company unless I can become what Collins' calls a level five leader, a leader who is more artist than scientist, a leader who inspires, cajoles and ultimately dares to enter uncharted waters with the unflagging support of cast and crew.

GO: What do you reach for on your desk when the fire alarm goes off?

DN: My backpack. It isn't actually on my desk but it stands nearby at the ready in case of emergency. Already housing my wallet, iPod, Treo, and mini-flashlight (on the savvy advice of the Red Cross) all I need to grab is my laptop and I'm ready to help the rest of Renegade get the heck out of Dodge. If I learned anything from 911, it is that leaders must be prepared to drop everything in an emergency and focus on employee safety which may well mean getting everyone out of the building as fast as possible.

Curriculum Vitae

  • Co-founded New York-based Renegade in 1993 as a breeding ground for unconventional thinking and alternative marketing
  • Clients include Nike, Panasonic, IBM, Citibank and Olympus.
  • Successful campaigns include the "HSBC Bankcab," a New York cabbie that takes HSBC customers anywhere in Manhattan for free, which earned the bank BrandWeek's Guerilla Marketer of the Year award.
  • Voted "Most Likely to Develop a Superpower" in high school.
  • His favorite food is guacamole.
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