Chris Copeland  |  August 4, 2015   |  Comments

Fundamental principles and practices that are conducive to industry success can be illustrated via basic life lessons learned while participating in youth baseball.

One of my greatest personal pleasures is coaching my son's baseball team. Since he was four years old, I have spent each summer teaching boys how to play the game. Now that he's in second grade, the speed of the game and the skill of the players are starting to pick up. At the same time, the personalities of the kids and the impression they leave on me as their coach has grown. It would be cliché to say they have taught me as much as I've taught them, but there are interesting lessons to learn, some of which resonate with me beyond the diamond and throughout my everyday work in the industry.

1. Embracing Challenge

Last season, we moved leagues to increase the level of competition: a rude awakening for some players. And yet, this challenge was met with enthusiasm. Players embraced it and worked harder because they were pushed to either get better or struggle to compete. This mentality is crucial when faced with business challenges. In most situations, only a few are ready, but the opportunity doesn't wait until everyone is ready. Embracing challenges, even prematurely, pays off in the long run.

2. Real Recognizes Real

Even as second graders, certain players stand out more than others. There are kids that are more physically developed or possess skills that separate them from the rest. You tend to notice these kids by the sounds of the crowd, including their own teammates. When judging talent in the business world, it's sometimes as simple as figuring out who stands out to their own peer set. If the people working right (Read more...) the stars can see it, perhaps that's the best indicator for recognizing future leaders.

3. Apple is Still the Future

Early in the season, I showed up to practice wearing my Apple Watch. Since then, the only people who ask me more about it than the kids on the baseball team are college-aged cashiers at CVS. The kids tell me how cool it is and how they are asking for one for their birthdays. I cannot say whether this brand affinity will last until their buying power extends beyond their parents' wallets, but for now, it's clear that the future of the generation remains closely associated with all things Apple.

4. Thinking Long Term

Baseball is a funny game. Success for a hitter is getting the desired outcome three out of every 10 times. For second graders, measures of success have to extend beyond wins and losses. Learning the game and building a long-term foundation is more important than the short-term wins. It's not dissimilar from an industry in its early stages, where short-term ROI is in constant conflict with the long term. That's not to say that winning today isn't sweet, but it's just not the only measure of true success. It's important to remember that no matter how important the now feels for most, it's a process toward a longer outcome. A single game, like a single conversion or engagement, is just that: a one-time occurrence.

I coach because it's a chance to spend time with my son and share my love of the game. I also do it because my father did it for me, and that's the kind of lasting foundation I hope to provide to the players I coach. At worst, I hope kids walk away with an appreciation for the game. At best, I hope they build on their skills, strengthen their commitment to both the team and a common cause, grow into better players, and ultimately become better people. It's the same thing we try to do every day in the business world: small blocks built upon every practice (or every meeting) to deliver a long-term impact.

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Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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