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Take a look at what 40 years of agency life has looked like for President and Managing Partner, Mark Penn
Mark Penn story
Former Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn has departed Microsoft to form a new marketing investment group that has already raised – $250m in capital.
Penn conducted his first poll at age 13, as a middle school student at Horace Mann School, which determined the Horace Mann faculty was more liberal than the country at large on the issue of civil rights.
PENN AND SCHOEN FOUNDED
Penn founded Penn and Schoen, now a global market research firm, with his Harvard roommate, Doug Schoen, at the offices of the Harvard Crimson.
ED KOCH CAMPAIGN
In the fall of 1976, while Penn was a first-year law student at Columbia University, he and Schoen became the pollsters for Congressman Ed Koch’s second (and first successful) run for Mayor of New York City.
FIRST OVERNIGHT POLL
With Koch’s campaign against Mario Cuomo for the Democratic nomination in full swing, Penn sought a way to conduct polls more quickly than the mainframe and punch card system he and Schoen were using. He purchased a “microcomputer” kit and created a program that could tabulate polls in a fraction of the time. This allowed Penn to conduct polls to determine messages and evaluate tactics on a daily basis, a tactical advantage that contributed to Koch’s eventual victory over Cuomo.
LATIN AMERICAN POLITICS
Beginning in 1979, Penn took the lessons learned from American politics to Latin America, where he helped elect more than a half dozen heads of state beginning with: Venezuela’s Luis Herrera Campins, Columbia’s Virgilio Barco and Belisario Betancur, and Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic.
1980’S and 1990’s
CORPORATE WORKIn the late 1980s, Penn was the force behind his firm’s drive to win corporate consulting clients including Texaco, which was experiencing image problems due to bankruptcy. Penn also pioneered competitive techniques, entering the war between long distance carriers by helping AT&T quickly defeat MCI.
During his time as a corporate consultant, Penn also served as a key strategic advisor to Bill Gates and Microsoft during the mid-1990s. Other clients included Ford Motor Company, Merck, Verizon, BP and McDonald’s.
In late 1994, Penn and Schoen were asked to help President Bill Clinton recover from the Democratic Party’s dramatic losses suffered in midterm elections. The pollsters urged Clinton to move to the center, emphasizing stepped-up law enforcement, balancing the budget and other issues.
Penn served as pollster to President Clinton for 6 years. During that time, he became one of the President’s most prominent and influential advisers. In 2000, The Washington Post concluded that no pollster had ever become “so thoroughly integrated into the policy making operation” of a presidential administration as had Penn.
Beginning in August 1995, at Clinton’s request, Penn conducted numerous polls to understand what the political ramifications would be if the federal government were to shut down over a disagreement over federal spending.
CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN
During President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Penn used the mall tests he had developed for AT&T to test presidential campaign ads. He also created the “NeuroPersonality Poll”, a survey that blended standard political and demographic questions with lifestyle, attitudinal, and psychographic questions, some adapted from Myers-Briggs. Penn’s 1996 Neuro Poll helped him identify a new swing voter: the “soccer mom”. At the time, Clinton was the first Democrat reelected since FDR.
CLINTON IMPEACHMENT ACQUITTAL
When allegations of President Clinton’s extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky first surfaced in January 1998, Penn conducted polls to help the administration craft its response. Penn subsequently led the research effort monitoring Clinton’s level of public support throughout the impeachment process, until Clinton was acquitted on February 13, 1999.
In 2000, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton asked Penn to advise her on her run for the U.S. Senate from New York. Clinton followed Penn’s “Upstate Strategy” advice and won the election. Penn served again as Clinton’s pollster in her successful 2006 Senate re-election campaign.
PENN & SCHOEN ACQUIRED BY WPP
After having grown it from a mom and pop political polling firm, Penn and his partners sold PSB to WPP on November 15, 2001. The firm would ultimately grow to over 80 million dollars in revenue under his leadership.
TONY BLAIR CAMPAIGN
Penn advised British Prime Minister Tony Blair and conducted polling during his successful campaign for an unprecedented third term in 2005. President Clinton recommended Penn’s services to Blair when they met at Ronald Reagan’s funeral in 2004. Penn formulated the concept behind Blair’s campaign slogan, “Forward Not Back”, and refined it by conducting phone interviews with British swing voters.
In 2006, Penn was named Worldwide CEO of Burson Marsteller, a global public relations and public affairs firm with a presence in nearly 80 markets around the world. Under his leadership, Penn tripled profits in a short period of time while also winning the coveted Holmes Report North American Agency of the Year award in 2011. Both PSB and Burson combined accounted for nearly 100M in EBITDA under his management.
His book, Microtrends, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller examined how small groups of people can trigger big changes in society. Specifically, Penn showed how a mere one percent of the American public, or 3 million people, can create a “microtrend” capable of launching a major business or even a new cultural movement, changing commercial, political and social landscapes.
HILLARY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
In 2008, he served as Chief Strategist to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President. Throughout the campaign, Penn believed voters cared about substance over style. He argued Hillary would be a strong, tough leader that could get things done for the American people. He was credited with developing the famed “3AM” television ad that ran during the primary campaign.
In July 2012, after serving as a consultant to the company for over a decade, Penn was named Corporate Vice President for Strategic and Special Projects at Microsoft Corporation. Shortly after he came on board, he began a public relations campaign against Google on behalf of Bing. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, he created a commercial in which Microsoft criticized Google for biasing its shopping search results with paid advertisements. “Don’t get Scroogled”, the commercial warned. In August 2013, Penn was named Executive Vice President for Advertising and Strategy. In that role, he pioneered Microsoft’s “Honestly” campaign and the award-winning Super Bowl 2014 ad “Empowering Us All”. In March 2014, he was named Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer by CEO Satya Nadella. On June 17, 2015 it was announced he would be leaving Microsoft.
In June 2015, Penn announced the formation of The Stagwell Group LLC, a registered investment advisory company, which will invest in advertising, research, data analytics, public relations, and digital marketing services. The Stagwell Group has closed on $250 million in investment capital and may use leverage to make up to $750 million in acquisitions.