The Agency Interview: 26 Questions for Daniel Hoexter

August 22, 2017

Daniel Hoexter is the President-CEO of HDMZ, an agency focused on the life sciences and healthcare vertical. In this interview, he describes his strategy for a bold acquisition in 2013 and his equally bold proclamation that Bambi's Father is his favorite Disney character. We asked Hoexter 26 questions. Here are his 26 answers.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Same as yesterday and pretty much every weekday (when I’m home) before that: one glass of Green Juice (my wife makes it before we go to bed), one White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CLIF BAR, one Strawberry Yogurt, and two cups of Coffee (Donut House from Marianos).           

What’s the last great thing you binge watched and why?

“Great” is the key word in this question, and with that in mind, the answer is Second Season of House of Cards—they built-in such amazing cliffhanger type endings for each episode, we had to keep going.

What websites do you visit first thing in the morning? Last thing at night?

My business accounts at I saw an episode of Oprah once where she talked about the importance of keeping an eye on the money. It doesn’t get talked about enough in the agency business, but you can’t run a successful agency without cash in the bank.

What’s the industry buzzword that annoys you the most these days?

Programmatic. It’s an adjective that became a noun. Maybe it’s not a buzzword any longer, but it’s still an adjective.

What did you learn as a drum major for the Marching Illini band at University of Illinois?

I learned the importance and power of preparation and how to stay calm under pressure.

What song do you have on repeat?

Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat and Tears. It’s on repeat in my head, by the way. “What goes up must come down.”

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

My wife and I are big fans of the Caribbean Islands. St John, US Virgin Islands is our favorite. 60% of the island is a National Park. We love renting a Zodiac boat and cruising around the island, stopping at beaches only accessible by boat.

Vieques is a close second—in addition to having the most incredible beaches, it’s home to Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.

What’s the biggest change in the agency business since you started?

My first agency job was in 1984 so, for me, there’s only one answer to this question, “The  Internet.” Like most every other business, the Internet changed everything—How we think, How we collaborate, How we create, How we value our services, How we recruit, How we develop and nurture relationships, and so on. It’s funny to think about it now, but I remember having conversations about whether or not advertising agencies should be “in the Internet business.”

How have you (and your agency) adapted?

Over the past ten years, we completely transformed our business from a B2B generalist to now being highly focused on life sciences and healthcare. Becoming a specialist in a “hard to learn” vertical market has been the smartest thing we’ve done to assure our long-term success. I’ve come to believe that smaller agencies have far greater potential for success when they specialize, either vertically or horizontally. In our case, our vertical focus has allowed us to become an industry leader that’s highly regarded within the life sciences community.

You led an acquisition of Zoomedia in 2013: What scared you about that move?

It was incredibly important that we retain the acquired company’s employees and clients and find ways to leverage our combined capabilities for growth. We worked very hard to build a new agency brand that united the two legacy agencies through an already shared brand purpose; a new brand promise that spoke to our combined capabilities and skillsets; and a vision for growth and leadership within our community. 

What did you learn in making that deal?

I used to focus almost exclusively on clients and the work we did for them. In bringing two agencies together as one, I learned the importance of operational excellence as a key component for building a successful agency. What makes us a great agency is not only “what we do” but also “how we do it.”

What attracted you to B2B marketing?

B2C wanted nothing to do with me.

What’s the most important way the rise of social media, from YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, has changed the way companies reach their audiences?

We no longer control the conversation. We are now just part of it. We no longer get to decide what we want customers to know or not know. Everything is now out in the open. We no longer partner with an exclusive group of publishers. Everyone is now a publisher.

How do you use LinkedIn — for networking? For content marketing? Searching for talent? For sales prospecting? For staying abreast of news?

There’s no doubt, LinkedIn is the number one way in which I and my colleagues stay connected to our professional network. With LinkedIn, we have been able to stay connected with many of our client contacts who have moved on to other companies and, as a result, we are now working with them again. Additionally, LinkedIn is our best source of intelligence for seeking out new talent and new clients. Plus, I am always coming across great content that active members of my network are regularly posting.

How do you use LinkedIn advertising for your clients, and what’s working well for them?

We use Sponsored Content as our primary advertising outlet for HDMZ clients. Our primary targeting refinements are by geography, job title, skills and seniority level. Recently, we have also begun a campaign with the newest “Company Match” targeting option, where we are specifically targeting individuals who work for a specific, custom list of companies. We typically install an Insight Tag for all campaigns where possible. 

We have found the greatest factors for success to be a compelling, specific ad copy + banner, running multiple ads concurrently and rotating in new creatives/copy regularly. We have had more successful engagement with US vs. EU audiences. Many of our ads perform well in that they bring a high number (70-90%) of new audiences to our landing pages, but some ads seem to systematically bring in visitors who have already been to our clients’ domain (up to 50-60% returning visitors). Surprisingly, we have also run some successful campaigns with audience targeting on the extreme low end of what LinkedIn predicts will be successful). Consistently, our niche targeting regularly nets us a highly relevant engagement (CTRs of 0.6-1.2%).

Who should play you in the movie version of your life?

I wish I could say Paul Newman with a straight face. I’d be thrilled if Tom Hanks would consider reading the script.

If you weren't at HDMZ, what would you be doing?

Interviewing for a job at HDMZ.

What is your favorite Disney character and why?

Bambi’s Father. I love it when he just shows up out of nowhere during the forest fire and yells at Bambi to “Get up. Get up. Get up Bambi. You must get up!!!” Even Bambi could use some tough love every once in a while.

What do you have an irrational hatred for?

Bicyclists when I’m driving a car. Cars when I’m riding a bike. Pedestrians at all times.

Best movies ever. Go:

Apocalypse Now

It’s A Wonderful Life

Dr. Strangelove

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Rear Window

Royal Tennenbaums (and Grand Budapest Hotel)

Butch Cassisdy and the Sundance Kid

Nothing in Common (it made me want to be a Creative Director)

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A grown up (not sure I ever accomplished my goal). I also wanted to be a right winger in the NHL.

What's your most annoying habit?

My wife will you tell you it’s my snoring, but I’ve never heard it.

What jobs did you have in high school and what lessons did you learn from them that you still put into practice today?

I worked as a caddy for several summers and would listen to the conversations that were taking place among the guys playing golf. It was always fascinating. I learned the power of listening when you’re not actually part of the conversation. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you’re not allowed to talk.

What’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

My tax returns and any connection I have with Russians.

What’s the best dinner you’ve had in the last week?

Steak and vegetable medley cooked on the grill on our deck, oh and a bottle of Cabernet and one (maybe two) oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert.

What are you most looking forward to in 2018?


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