"Follow The Reader" is our series featuring unconventional leaders and trailblazers.
This month: the creative duo behind Métier Creative.
Erin Kleinberg and Stacie Brockman go way back, and it shows. The duo, co-founders of the successful branding and advertising agency Métier Creative, first became close at COVETEUR, a fashion and beauty website known for its behind-the-scenes access. Erin, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur”, was the co-founder of that venture as well, and Stacie the managing editor. There they developed a bond that allows them to run Métier Creative like a well-oiled machine.
The thing that’s particularly interesting about their agency is its (current) all-female staff. In a conversation where they practically finished each other’s sentences, I asked why that model has worked so well to date, which books millennials shouldn’t dare live without, and what’s on the horizon for these best friends who continue to reinvent themselves together.
Why the decision to build an agency run exclusively by women? What are the pros and cons from your experience?
EK: We definitely didn’t set out for it to be an all-female agency, but it just sort of happened. We feel really lucky, but we’re totally open to males coming in – we actually have our first male intern starting soon – but the power of women is undeniable. My being a mom has made me realize that women are so, so, so efficient in life. There’s a lot of estrogen, but I think it really manifests in super-positive ways: there is emotion and there is human interaction and we’re all very passionate. We function as a family here...it takes a village to get things done.
SB: We just wanted to put a new look on everything that had been developed in the Mad Men world of advertising. This is an industry that needed to be disrupted. There’s such a high turnover; people are jumping ship day in and day out, so we asked ourselves, ‘How do we cultivate something that gives you the experience and the feeling that everybody wants, which is a community that’s there for you and that supports you. I think, for women, it’s in our nature to be very warm and caring for one another. We come together.
Do you worry that you’re missing the male perspective?
SB: Women have such an emotional way of looking at things and that’s critical. Guys don’t always think that way, but thankfully we have a lot of really good resources for bouncing ideas around. Erin’s husband is probably our number-one go-to guy for all things.
EK: We’ve also been very specific about the things we take on. For example, we were approached by a large men’s grooming brand, but we actually don’t specialize in that. We know when to say yes and when to say no.
SB: ‘No’ is way more powerful than ‘yes’.
How do your personalities complement each other at work?
SB: We’ve morphed into each other [laughs]. I think Erin and I are probably long-lost sisters in our past lives. We’re totally yin and yang. When we agree, we really agree. And when we disagree, we really disagree.
How do you resolve those disagreements?
SB: I think what’s interesting about us is where we are in life. Erin is a mom and a wife, and I’m a single girl, so we both have really interesting experiences that affect our decision making. Sometimes I’m gutsier and Erin’s more rational. Sometimes I’ll be critical of something and Erin will be open minded, but we really know how to balance each other out. There’s nothing better than having a sounding board.
EK: It also works because we know the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. Wherever I suck, Stacie picks up the slack, and wherever Stacie sucks, I pick up the slack. So it’s sort of like this harmonious marriage.
Your clients target millennial audiences. What books should that generation be reading?
SB: I think our generation is obsessed with being self starters. We’re entrepreneurial, so if it doesn’t exist, we’ll build it. If I don’t like the way you work, I’ll start something on my own. There are a lot of books around that and I’m a pretty prolific reader. I think a lot of people love what Sheryl Sandberg did for women in creating Lean In. I’m also obsessed with everything Adam Grant. I’ve probably read his books Give and Take and Originals two times each.
EK: It just goes to show you how we’re at such different stages in our lives. Stacie can read books at night. I just started reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and I fall asleep by the second page. Literally. Cannot. Keep. My. Eyes. Open.
What books have shaped the way you think about business?
SB: Erin, I know what your books are.
EK: Tell me!
EK: [Laughs] I didn’t finish the whole thing, but I did love what I read! There was also this book a long time ago that just rings true for me, The Fashion Designer Survival Guide by Mary Gehlhar. It was a play-by-play of how to be a fashion designer. I still have my notes from that highlighted. That was my first business and obviously that led me on my serial-entrepreneur journey.
SB: I remember reading this piece in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell called The Cool Hunt and thinking, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” I want to be someone who helps dictate what’s cool in culture and who understands why are people so obsessed with things. It was pre The Tipping Point, pre Outliers, and it just felt like, “Holy shit. Someone gets me.”
What trends do you foresee in advertising? What will continue to make content “thumb stopping”?
EK: I think being real. Brands have to come off of their pedestals. No more billboards or glossy ads, just everyday people. Use real life as a platform. I think it’s really about getting people together, having human interactions and almost reverting to brick and mortar. Having these in-person, experiential moments is so crucial to being real.
Do you think what you wear to work matters? (This question comes from a debate I’m constantly having with colleagues and friends…)
SB: Want to know what I’m wearing today? Sweatpants and a sweatshirt. And a beanie. A cashmere beanie. (My dream.)
EK: We’re so casual in our office, it’s crazy. If we’re just sitting around and no one’s coming in, it’s like, fuck it. If we’re going to a meeting, though, we’re going to look nice. I think some people might feel better in heels and a blazer, but in our case, absolutely not.
SB: Think about the most successful people in business, like Steve Jobs and Michael Kors...their whole thing was, “My outfit should be the last thing on my mind in a day.” However you feel comfortable enough to do your best work, cool. Then when you’re in front of a client and you have to turn it up, do you.
EK: Even when we’re turning it up in front of a client, we’re very casual. Sneakers are the future! I just saw an article in The Wall Street Journal that was like a eulogy to stilettos. It was so funny.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t yet?
EK: I would love to have a go at being a florist. I’ve never tried putting together crazy floral arrangements. It’s so intriguing to me; so relaxing and colourful, the esthetic is beautiful...there’s just something about it.
SB: I would love to try my hand at being a restaurateur because Erin and I are legit foodies...except we both have insane dietary fears, restrictions and things that we absolutely detest. So I’d like to create a restaurant for picky people like us. It would be amazing to create the most hype restaurant and eventually an empire that has staying power. We also talk about starting our own product line. We see Métier as being this overarching branding machine that can really do anything. Extrapolations from the actual agency will hopefully be our next venture, so stay tuned!
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