The 2012 ACA Gold Medal was presented to Alan Middleton, assistant professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, during the Marketing Awards on June 8. Several of Alan’s peers wished the industry icon their best in a video shown at the medal’s presentation during the Marketing Awards.
Many in the industry know Middleton well, but for those who do not, Marketing offers this snapshot.
• Alan Middleton has a limitless supply of good advice. It flows freely and eloquently, without condescencion or pedantry. Here’s one: “Never think you are better than the audience. If they don’t get what you are talking about, or get turned on by what you’re saying, it’s not their problem. It is your problem.”
• One of Middleton’s first bosses at JWT was Chris Thomas. Middleton looked up to Thomas for his wicked sense of humour and his, ummm… way with the ladies. But Thomas was also a brilliant mind who’d be in the office most mornings by 7 a.m. “I used to suck up to him like crazy,” says Middleton. “I’d arrive at seven in the morning to bring him coffee and I did it just to talk to him.”
• He is a big believer in mentoring. “Throughout my career, I always prided myself on being a trainer of the people who worked with me,” he says. The job of today’s leaders is to hire people who are better than them and train them to be better still. “The West is in deep trouble if we don’t because the Chinese and the Indians believe it in spades.”
• Middleton got fired once. He was running JWT Japan and opened a promotional division to take on the all-powerful Dentsu. His boss back in the U.S. told him to shut it down, something about “recommitting to just advertising.” Middleton ignored the order and was fired. Does he regret it? Not really. “At the time, I was pissed,” he says. But not for long. At the age of 46, Middleton went back to school and earned his PHD.
• If he was starting his career now, where would he want to work? “The modern public relations agency.” Using social media to build actual relationships with people rather than trying to “overtly sell them” stuff, that’s what’s most exciting about the industry today, he says.
Elements of this story appeared in the June 4 issue of Marketing. Subscribe today.