Name: Shenan Reed
Company: Morpheus Media, a CREATETHE GROUP Company
Why she’s fierce: Starting a digital media agency in 2001 was the equivalent of running into a burning building. However, Reed’s and her husband Alex Golimbu’s risk of starting Morpheus Media in the middle of the internet bubble bursting paid off. Getting in while others were running out of the digital ad industry helped Reed build their company up to more than 100 employees and land lucrative clients, such as The New York Times, LVMH, The History Channel, and Marc Jacobs. In 2011, Morpheus was sold to CREATETHE GROUP, an e-commerce, interactive, marketing, and technology solutions provider for luxury brands, where Reed remains chief media officer.
In her own words:
Daria Meoli: Did you have any doubts about starting Morpheus Media?
Shenan Reed: I think the real question is, “Did I have any illusions that it was actually going to work?” Doubt is a really strong word. I don’t think we had time for doubts. When we structured this company it was in a moment of necessity and desperation versus inspiration, for sure. It wasn’t like we were sitting around at cushy jobs thinking, “What if we started an agency?” We were out of jobs and looking for paychecks. I don’t think we had the luxury of doubts. And in that moment, I don’t think we thought about the long-term future of the business.
We started up with clients we knew. In hindsight, it was the perfect opportunity. We didn’t think about it this way back then, but looking back on it, the fact that we had our parents living close by and the fact that we didn’t have children yet meant our responsibilities were much easier than they are today. The fact that we were all young helped, too. I was in my mid-20s when we started Morpheus. We were all super employable, so if we needed to go find a job, we could. Those are all the things I can tell you now, but I’m positive we didn’t think about them then.
DM: Your agency handles a lot of luxury brands. Did you have a background in luxury?
SR: God, no. My mother likes to remind me that I was born on a farm, which is true. The path to luxury was an interesting one. One of our first clients, our longest running client, and one of our largest clients is The New York Times. There’s something about The New York Times’s consumer that is also a truism of the luxury consumer. The New York Times is certainly considered a newspaper of luxury. It’s an expensive paper to buy, for good reason—the content is fantastic. That consumer is educated and has the disposable income to spend on something that they consider important and relevant to their world. In many ways, that mirrors the customer of Neiman Marcus.
DM: You sold the company in 2011. Why was that the right time?
SR: There were a couple driving factors. Morpheus didn’t take any outside funding; it was all on our backs throughout the process, which was great because it meant that we were beholden to no one but ourselves. After about 10 years of running the business, we sat around and asked ourselves, “Where do we really want this business to go?” And there were a few different ideas around that.
One idea was to build a creative department, and that had really big potential for us and for our clients. We had never built a creative team in-house, because the few times that we talked about it we realized that by building our own internal creative department we’d have to build it from the ground up with no real experience. The other idea was for us to go international. Our clients are global, and the consumer, especially the luxury consumer, travels a great deal. We needed to be able to service our brands in other markets. That’s a hefty investment to make, especially without ever having done it before, and without having built infrastructure to do it. Those were two things that were really attractive about combining forces with the CREATETHE GROUP. Not only did we share seven or eight of the same clients, but they had an in-house creative department, an office in London, and had built a respected international presence. It was an opportunity for us to speed both of those processes along—it’d be better for our clients.
DM: You’ve been in the industry since its infancy. What does interactive marketing mean today?
SR: I think that’s why the name Morpheus has always been such a good fit for us. We chose the name Morpheus because it was the Greek god of dreams, and we were just starting our own company as a bit of a pipe dream. It seemed like a logical fit. It’s turned into a very serendipitous name to have, because the world of digital media and marketing is constantly shifting in any given direction.
When I first started advertising with Google, Google was a third-tier search engine. We started with banners and search. And mobile didn’t exist as an advertising medium, at least not in any real fashion. My, how the world has changed.
I think that the biggest changes to our industry have been technology finally catching up with the ideas that we have, and consumers accepting that technology. The consumers’ shifting behavior has helped us to be successful. And now that mobile web search is highly prevalent, if not more prevalent, than desktop web search, it means that we have to continue to stay up to speed on how things are shifting, and how things are changing every day.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com