Leaning Into Leadership: A Q&A with Mat Zucker
Mat is a marketing strategist who knows how to strike the fine balance between brand and demand for many of Prophet’s biggest clients. To me, he’s someone I can reach out to, bounce any marketing idea off (big or small) and get a genius, creative response. He’s always available to help and is a wonderful colleague I have a ton of respect for. Thank you Mat, for your time!
Amanda Nizzere: What do you do at Prophet and in what circumstances would I come to you for something?
Mat Zucker: Technically, I’m the co-lead of the global Marketing & Sales practice, co-executive sponsor of one of our creative teams and a client lead on several interesting accounts. That’s all true, but I find most people come to me for a customer-facing marketing strategy (how to win in the market with an audience), an entrepreneurial solution, creative thinking on a business problem, or anything to do with advertising, content or my beloved hobby—podcasting.
AN: What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on?
MZ: Right now, I’m working on media planning, buying and orchestration. Media, unpaid and paid, is so integral to marketing and a large part of the budget, yet too many of us in strategy are too far removed from it. I’ve always been around media both as a creative director and as a digital marketing strategist. While earlier in my career I became quite savvy around creative use of media, now I’m trying to upskill my conversation around how to think of investment, integrating brand and demand efforts, and non-traditional channels such as influencer marketing, search and even the metaverse.
Image: Mat Zucker, Senior Partner, New York Office
AN: What was your first job?
MZ: I started as a creative assistant in the creative department at FCB/Leber Katz Partners in New York. I worked for six creative directors and organized travel, filed expenses, pasted TV storyboards, fixed the photocopier and told their spouses, “It’s going to be a late one again.” My bosses knew I wanted to be a copywriter, and several gave me writing assignments, which was perfect training that led to me seeing my first real ads in radio, print and even early web and e-commerce.
AN: What’s one thing that surprised you about working at Prophet?
MZ: At first, I was surprised by the volume of calls and nonstop conversation. As a previous creative director, the goal was to get off the call so one could do the work and then share back. What I learned in consulting and an interdisciplinary environment like Prophet, was that the conversation is part of the work. The debate, the discussion, looking at things in multiple ways before settling on an answer… Yes, you should do some research and thinking off-screen but so much work happens in the conversation rather than solely in between it.
“What I learned in consulting and an interdisciplinary environment like Prophet, was that the conversation is part of the work.”
AN: If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?
MZ: Search: SEO and SEM. Seriously, the world is still driven by those search algorithms and if I had the patience to sit through the classes, I’d be a millionaire.
AN: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
MZ: Most people still think I’m really career-driven, trying to move up. What’s hard to explain is that I’ve had top jobs, I’ve been “Chief.” I love my work and have lots of things I want to do, but while I respect people still seeking titles and elevation (you should scratch that itch if you have it), I’m good. I’m more focused on the type of work I do, what I can create that shows up in market or influences what others do and helping develop the careers of others. That said, if you want me on your Board or to run your company and it’s a tough, fun challenge, I might look at it.
“…while I respect people still seeking titles and elevation…I’m good.”
AN: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?
MZ: Someone in medicine. Healthcare was something I avoided in advertising early in my career, but now in strategy and as a 50-something with various weird conditions, I’m fascinated by it. My sister is a social worker. My niece is a med student. My husband, a wellness coach. I’d like to work with patients that are not myself.
About the Series
Throughout my career, I have been fascinated with the building blocks of leadership, from motivation, coaching and communication to mentorship, empathy, inspiration and more. Unraveling and understanding what makes a strong and impactful leader tick can help each of us implement new strategies to grow as individuals and leaders ourselves.
Over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended conferences and listened to TED Talks about various leadership topics, but some of the most impactful lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned have been from those around me—my mentors, colleagues and industry peers. This has led me to create this interview series, “Leaning Into Leadership.” I invite you to join me as I interview various leaders in my network to share new tools and wise advice from them that you may just want to add to your own leadership toolbox. See previous interviews here.
Mat is co-lead of Prophet’s global Marketing & Sales platform, a frequent writer and an avid podcaster, including as host of Cidiot and Rising, a marketing careers podcast. Have a question you’d like to ask him directly? Reach out here.