PETERMAYER’s New CFO Brings a Startup Mentality to a Changing Industry

min read
October 13, 2022
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When CFO Keith Crawford joined the agency back in June, his experience in the New Orleans entrepreneurial sector jumped off the page—but he’d never worked in advertising. A couple months in, Marketing and Business Development Manager Eli Haddow checks in with him to learn about his past in start-ups, what makes the ad industry different, and his love of wine.

(Eli) You’ve spent a lot of time in the startup space—at an incubator and a successful late-stage fashion start-up. How would you describe the entrepreneurial culture of New Orleans?

(Keith) I would describe it as nascent still, even though the first signs of a true entrepreneurial culture, such as the Idea Village, were formed in the early 2000s. This community has always had small start-ups that were only a few notches above a family business or sole proprietorship. But once you begin to see companies that start here, grow here, and ultimately have large exit events like we’ve recently seen with home-grown companies like Lucid and Levelset—that’s a great barometer of what’s ahead for us.

We’re starting to see evidence that New Orleans is developing an entrepreneurial landscape where companies can scale and make a real impact in our community. You now layer in the Web3 opportunities being incubated locally, supported by organizations like the Nieux Society, and I am very excited about where the entrepreneurial culture here is going.

(Eli) What makes a start-up successful, in your opinion?

(Keith) I do love start-ups, and the most successful ones I have been connected with blend a combination of 3 things:

  1. Strategy – A specific vision for what they want to accomplish, meaning they see a market opportunity and they understand how to bring a product or service or other intervention to the status quo that someone will pay for.
  2. Plan – Tactical understanding for what you will do to drive that vision, meaning what needs to be done daily/weekly/monthly, and by whom, that gives you the highest probability of successfully driving the vision. BTW, recognize that you will change these tactics +/- one million times until you get it right.
  3. Because I’m a finance guy…yes, a successful start-up needs a clear understanding of financial metrics. These are the tools by which we measure success. These help you validate your strategy; they help you understand if your plan is working, and if not, where and how to modify it. If you’re not measuring financial metrics, you’re running a non-profit or an expensive hobby.

(Eli) You’ve joined the agency as we’re going through our own moment of reinvention—in some ways we’re like a 55-year-old startup. How do you see your experience working with young companies informing the way you approach your role at PETERMAYER?**

(Keith) It feels similar in some important ways. Obviously, startups by definition are creating their models and systems and teams for the first time, while PETERMAYER has been doing that for 55 years. But this team’s joint commitment to growth feels very similar. Michelle has attracted some amazing talent to the team recently, and all are aligned around growing the agency in a big way, through their wide-ranging experience, creative talents, and deep client networks. When you combine that kind of capability with a great strategic plan, the sky’s the limit on how far we can go.

(Eli) Advertising is a new space for you—what has been the biggest surprise or learning curve? Any stereotypes that have been confirmed or debunked?

(Keith) I still am just now learning the advertising business. I leave almost every meeting still needing to google some of the terms and lingo that are second nature to everyone else. What has surprised me the most is how transient the client seems to be in this industry. While this makes retention more dependent on providing great service and great creative execution, it also means there should be very few clients we can’t credibly pitch to.

As I do learn more about the industry, I am now also seeing tremendous market opportunities for agencies like PETERMAYER, and new sectors which need and should want the kind of expertise we bring to the table. It’s cliché to say that we’re in a time of transition (when are we not?), but the slow movement away from messaging through legacy media means that legacy clients must have an agency like ours to help guide them into social media and other nontraditional means of communicating with their customers and to otherwise get their story out.

(Eli) New Orleans is a well-known cocktail town, but you’re a wine guy. How did you get into that category?

(Keith) This topic could be its own article! No one loves a Sazerac more than me, but there’s something about wine that just speaks to me.
Part of it is the complexity…you can study wine your whole life and still guess wrong more often than not when blind tasting. Wine is 97% water and ethanol. The last 3% are the tens of thousands of phenolic compounds and molecules that almost no one understands, but that make each bottle of wine slightly different from every other one.

Part of it is the connection to such stunning natural beauty. My wife, Elizabeth, and I go to Napa every year and each time, I’m floored by the mountains, the sky, and the vineyards. France, Italy, Spain…these are some of the most important wine regions in the world and also some of the most beautiful places on earth. Nobody produces great wine off the New Jersey turnpike or in Cleveland.

Probably the thing that I love most about wine is that it’s a completely social thing for me. We only crack open a bottle to share with people that we’re having a meal with, or people that we want to sit and spend time with. Nothing makes me happier than uncorking a bottle for friends who might have less exposure to wine, but who love and appreciate how great that bottle is. Yes, that’s an open invitation to anyone at PETERMAYER…I would love to share a bottle with any person at the agency who wants to!

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