With a remarkable client roster supported by passionate associates, The Integer Group is an agency with a unique culture and business approach. CEO Mike Sweeney is proud to be a part of that culture and leads the agency with an endless commitment to producing outstanding work that delivers results for both clients and the agency. These attributes have helped Mike gain success throughout his career at Tracy-Locke, in Dallas and Los Angeles, DDB in Dallas, and now at Integer.
I can see you’re a sports guy (framed jerseys on the wall duly noted). Tell me about your Play-to-Win philosophy.
I want to surround myself with people who show up every day ready to figure out what it will take to win with clients, against competitors, in our category, and in our
How’s Integer Playing to Win right now?
We’re focused on three things: our work, our thinking, and our people. Those are what we feel matter the most.
You’ve definitely got founding-father status in the halls at Integer. What does it feel like when you get back to Denver—where it all started?
It feels special, it’s full of such great people. Which you could say about any Integer office, really. Walk into an Integer office around the world and it’s a little bit like coming home—we have such a strong and evident culture, you can just feel it.
So many offices. So many years. So beyond Integer’s culture, what else are you proud of?
Our success and longevity with very big clients—and I think that’s due to our relentless attention to client satisfaction. We’ve taken this small agency in Denver, Colorado, and built upon its legacy to create one of the premier global players in our space.
What’s the future of shopper marketing?
Mobile, right? There’s that, but it will always be about understanding shopper behaviors and insights. Nowadays, shoppers have the luxury of researching, comparing, locating, and buying from anywhere. And that has increased competition as well. I see a lot of agencies entering the shopper marketing fold, claiming to be experts. Fortunately, one of Integer’s earliest and greatest advantages still is our robust Insight & Strategy group. It truly is one of our superior offerings and sets us apart from all the newcomers.
So, Marc, describe your role at Integer to a third grader.
If you think of American history, I’m a rider on Integer’s Global Pony Express. I come riding into town bringing the smart thinking, great work, and new approaches to share from across our global network. Then I fly off with all the new things from that stop to share at my next one. I also work hard to ensure that our 300+ international associates—with all their many ethnicities, religions, and languages—feel like they belong to one global Integer culture.
Do you ever feel like you are off work?
Honestly, no. It’s always the workday somewhere in the world. But, then again, that also means it’s always the end of the day somewhere in the world, which means it’s also time for a beer.
Cheers to that.
But really, the secret for me is just finding the off button on the phone or tablet…it will all still be there when I turn it back on. I’m gone 120+ nights a year, so when I’m home in Denver with my family, I turn things off to ensure the very best quality time.
EVP, Network Chief Financial Officer
What’s the one thing you don’t start the day without?
Other than coffee? I’d say hugs. I need one from everyone in the house before I head out.
Then it’s off to balance the Integer checkbook.
Some people have puppies on their checks. What would Integer have on its checks?
Great photos of all the cities that house our 20-plus offices around the world. Like the New York skyline. Rocky Mountains. Eiffel Tower. That kind of stuff. But puppies aren’t bad. I love dogs, especially puppies.
That was a really creative answer for a finance person.
Thank you. You know, years ago, when I first started, I used to sit in the middle of the Creative Department. That was some crazy fun. They were always teasing me about shuffling stacks of paper. And I’d say “Are you over there doodling again?” I miss those days. Even finance folks need to kick their heels up.
President, Integer Dallas and The Collective Agency Los Angeles
What would you say to your 20-year-old self about to enter the ad industry?
“What are you thinking?!?!” And “It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.”
So, good choice for you?
(Shoulders raise. Hands lift to gesture to an office propped with artifacts from a successful career. Confident smile.)
Got it. What’s Integer doing right?
Leading the conversation. Before all those buzzwords hit the stands, Integer had already adapted and integrated the concepts behind them.
Like omnichannel. Integer has been adapting to the merging of mobile, online, and brick-and-mortar for years. Now omnichannel is making headlines because someone coined a phrase, but we’ve been saying the “store is always open” for a long time.
Describe the ideal client.
Passionate. Appreciates good work. And challenges us to bring it every day. Status quo is not in my dictionary. I love clients who bring out the best qualities in us.
Why the good vibes today?
I had breakfast with my kids. They were so cute in their camp T-shirts with handwritten names. It was a freeze-this-moment moment. That’s why today is going so well.
So far. Anything could happen.
Stuff always happens. But we have to create our own happiness. There are so few things we can control. Happiness is one thing we can. One day, I just decided I was going to be happy, every hour of every day. So that at the end of the day, there is always more happiness than anything else.
That’s a great outlook for our roller-coaster industry. What would you say the agency of the future looks like?
One that’s proactive versus reactive and rewards risk takers and pioneers. But at the pace technology is driving change, no one really knows what an agency will look like even one year from now. Agencies have to be out there to understand what’s coming.
Pioneer’s a good word for these times. Buckskin explorer meets tech renegade.
Ha. I always say, “The difference between a dreamer and a pioneer is discipline and process.” Dreamers rarely make things happen. Pioneers have dreams, but they have a plan to make them happen.
Global Chief Strategy Officer
Let’s start things off with a quote. Got a good one?
“None are as smart as all of us.” We each have an important role to play, but, together, there’s magic.
True. So how would you describe your role, say, to a kid?
I’m a big-time dot connector.
I’ve heard a big criterion of yours for getting hired is to “be interesting.” Elaborate.
We’re drawn to people who explore. Learn. Try new stuff. We’re looking for someone who dives into cooking, mechanics, rock climbing, or farming and then applies discoveries from those adventures to our clients’ businesses.
So what makes you interesting?
Fatherhood. Things get really interesting now and then.
Oh I’m sure. Speaking of interesting, what would happen if creative briefs went away?
Peter Gabriel said it best. “The worst brief for an artist is to be told they can do anything. Artists are more creative if you tell them what they can’t do. It’s much more fun getting around the rules.”
EVP, Executive Creative Director
What do we do for a living?
Tell stories that show people what their lives would be like if they had the products we’re selling.
That’s fresh. You practiced. ’Cause that was “right there.”
I’m a writer. (grin)
What’s the best part of your day?
That first sip of hot coffee.
Fitting, seeing as you are the head creative on a major coffee account. Do you have any morning rituals that give you juju?
No rituals. But I do wear black every day.
Reeeeeally? I hadn’t noticed. (interviewer grin)
Funny. Black makes me feel invincible. Plus I don’t have to think.
It’s not uncommon for truly creative peeps to have a uniform?
Well, there ya go. I just like knowing “this” always goes with “that” and “BOOM” all I have to focus on is getting the girls out the door.
Executive Creative Director
You spend a lot of time traveling between Dallas and Los Angeles. Where are you today?
(Gestures) 36 inches to your right.
Okay, so that’s how this is going to go.
I hear you’re a big fan of Uber. Any interesting rides lately?
I did have, in my past, a stretch where I had multiple drivers who were not wearing pants. And I’m happy to say that I’ve not had that recur lately. I am focused on getting my rating up from a 4.72. I should be a 5, clearly. I mean, if they aren’t wearing pants, I’m accepting of that.
If they’re not wearing pants, do you still give them a 5?
And a tip!
What’s the biggest impression the creative department has made on you?
The resilience. The ability to continue to bring great ideas, no matter what. Even when we face obstacles and challenges from budgets and timelines. I think, again and again, I’m amazed at how resourceful and resilient the creative department is.
Where do you see new creative opportunities?
We strive to create the “new retail,” one that has a greater value than just what you can get by ordering on your phone on your couch. The channels, media and platforms available to us are ever-expanding: new technology available to us in the AT&T stores, working with great partners, such as Walmart. We’re not in a box — literally, the four walls of a building anymore. There are so many things we can do. It’s exciting.
What do people not know about Integer that you’d like them to know?
Everybody talks about “Integer nice.” While that’s true, everybody is really nice, what I think is unstated is “Integer smart.” It’s really inspiring how many super-smart people we have here...way smarter than me! (Laughs) I’m just happy to be here with them.
Speaking of smart, what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from my grandfather. Which was, very simply, “It’s never a mistake to be kind.”
And the best advice you’ve ever given?
What I say to more and more creatives who are young, in school and looking to get into this business is, “Forget about conforming to what we’re looking for. Forget about creating traditional ad books. Go create content.” Make great content and the ad world will beat a path to your door.
Is there something you’d like people to know about you, that they may not know?
That I love helping. A great idea, inside or outside of the department. I love hearing rough nuggets, kernels of ideas — helping turn them into something. It doesn’t have to be fully thought out or a big presentation. I just love someone coming to me with a “what if?”
EVP, Growth & Marketing
What’s Integer’s secret weapon?
We’re not afraid to have fun while being the very best at what we do.
Boom. There you have it. Interview over.
Ha! I’ve known of Integer for many years through the industry, and I’ve always held the agency in high regard. Integer’s philosophy about business and culture is truly unique to our industry. Add in a high level of expertise, and I’ve got something to talk about!
Okay, what’s your secret weapon?
I’m ultra focused on building relationships. Actually, it may not really be a secret weapon, but it’s meaningful and it’s what our industry is about. Relationships.
So when you pitch Integer, what do you say we do?
We turn shoppers into buyers. And we’re leading the evolution of shopper marketing.
What does it take to be successful in your role?
Coffee is a good start. Actually, my job is a lot easier given the name Integer has made for itself as a forward-thinking agency. But for me personally, I always make time for people and conversations. I take the calls, the meetings, the coffees, the glass of wine…You never know which conversation could lead to something amazing.