MBPT Spotlight: Charlie Rutman Returns to the Ad Game and Its “Intellectual Connection”

Why did Charlie Rutman, who joined Horizon Media last week as a managing partner, return to the action after five years of running his own consulting company? Rutman has a pretty direct answer: Boredom. He simply wanted back into the daily action of the media agency world.

“It’s not a condemnation of the world of consulting. It just didn’t fit my personality and was not something I wanted to continue doing on a long-term basis,” Rutman says. “Candidly, I grew bored. I like to roll up my sleeves and get a little dirt under my fingernails. I wasn’t feeling the intellectual connection to the ad business on a regular basis.”

It wasn’t that Rutman wasn’t running a successful marketing and media consulting business. At End Zone Communications, which he started in 2009, he helped the Advertising Council with its media campaigns and worked with out-of-home network IndoorDirect’s launch. But the former president of Carat USA and CEO of MPG (now Havas Media) says he was growing restless.

“I missed the action,” he says. “I’m just too energetic and interested in rolling up my sleeves and getting into things on a regular basis.”

Rutman says he contacted three of his closet colleagues, including Horizon Media founder and CEO Bill Koenigsberg, to get some advice and discuss getting back into the media agency business.

“Bill decided to find a way to get me to join and contribute to Horizon,” Rutman says. “I’ve known Bill for many years. At one time we were very fierce competitors. But at the same time, we have a great respect for one another.”

In his new role at Horizon, Rutman will be given several clients to work with. Those are still being discussed. But Rutman is just glad to be there.

“I feel so pumped up to be back,” he says. “I may drive people around here nuts with my enthusiasm.”

Rutman says he will have an “evolving role” at Horizon and hopes that as he works his way in, that role can grow. “I’ll start off running some existing pieces of client business and will also help to bring in some new business. I know a lot of the people at Horizon who used to work with me and for me. I also know a lot of people in the industry so transitioning back will be smooth.”

Working as a consultant, Rutman says, gave him a more well-rounded perspective of the ad industry because he was able to develop a better understanding of the “outside” perspective rather than the “inner circle” perspective. “It was enormously different than looking at things from the inside of an agency and sitting at the top.”

Not that Rutman was ever one of those agency executives who sat behind his desk and doled out instructions to his management team.

“Despite all my fancy titles at the two agencies, I always tried to stay close to the clients and also to my people inside the agency,” he says. “I couldn’t care less about titles then or now. Yes, before I had a management team working for me and now I’m part of one working for Bill and others at Horizon. But the media agency business is about taking care of the clients. My role at Horizon will follow that philosophy. And I’m happy about that.”

Rutman has been out of the day-to-day media agency business for about five years but he is on top of the changes that have taken place since he left MPG. “In 2009, digital media was growing in importance but it is way more important now,” he says. “All forms of video, social media, media measurement across platforms and content everywhere are more important keys to client success today.”

But Rutman also remembers the agency ad buying business three decades ago when he broke in. “Back then, the big decision agencies had to make for their clients was would it be a half-page ad, a full-page ad or a spread in magazines. Or we just had to buy some 30-second spots on TV. You just had newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Now you have the Internet and mobile. And now it’s become imperative to reach the consumer anywhere at any time.”

So what will Rutman bring with him to Horizon? Most of all, he says, a dedication to the clients he works with. “When I was at Carat and then at MPG, I spent more time in our clients’ offices than I did in my own office,” he says. “My mentor in this business was Carl Spielvogel. That’s what he taught me.”