Talk to anyone who worked at a WPP-owned company over the last three decades, and it’s likely they’ll have a kind word to say or warm story to share about Stacey Singer.
Yet among the agency trailblazers of her era, Singer’s industry profile was strangely muted. She wasn’t a regular on the awards circuit; she didn’t stuff her calendar with speaking engagements. As it turns out, that was entirely by choice.
“We’re living at a time and in an industry where fame itself has been the goal of so many people,” says Neuro-Insight global CEO John Zweig, who hired Singer at WPP. “Stacey’s not that. At all.”
While Singer received an undergrad degree in finance from George Washington University and an MBA in marketing and health administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, her first job was in the realm of hospital consulting. As fate would have it, one of the hospitals with which her company worked made the decision to hire a medical marketing agency.
Once she entered the agency world – at the well-remembered Thomas Ferguson Associates, which was acquired by and merged into WPP in 1990 – Singer never left. What distinguishes her career from those of so many agency lifers, however, is its breadth.
Singer didn’t latch onto a single expertise or internal group. Rather, she moved deftly from one specialty and WPP unit to the next.
She grew Adient, originally a small CommonHealth offshoot, into a successful organization in its own right. She co-founded and led MBS/Vox, a company focused on doctor/patient communication. Even without significant med-ed experience, she ran HLS, CommonHealth’s medical education unit. She even filled in as CommonHealth CFO for a stretch.
“Stacey was a fixer. Anytime something wasn’t working, you brought Stacey in,” says Mary Anderson, group president, medical education at Haymarket Media.
After WPP triumphed in the multi-network derby for Johnson & Johnson’s $150 million consolidated pharma account, the agency/client relationship got off to a slow start, Zweig recalls. And so it was that Singer spent more than half a decade spearheading what came to be known as Team Chemistry.
Fittingly, Singer spent the final years of her WPP tenure working to refine the art of the client relationship. A program that she developed, designed to more effectively measure client satisfaction, quickly became a company mainstay.
Singer stands apart just as much for the way she challenged the norms of woman leadership in the agency world. In breaking with the conventions of the era – and departing twice to have children – Singer became a role model for current and future colleagues.
“Because Stacey had her priorities straight, we could have our priorities straight,” Anderson says.
Singer’s commitment to her work and the industry extends to this day. Three years ago, she opened her own business, Stacey Singer Consulting. The consultancy specializes in helping agencies keep, nurture and grow their client relationships. Think of it as a user experience shop, but with clients as users.
The idea for the consultancy was sparked, not surprisingly, by Singer’s WPP experience. A client complaint she saw time and again was that the end result was good – but that getting to it was an ordeal.
Singer’s steadying hand proved invaluable for agency clients as they navigated the disorienting first few months of the pandemic. They called on her to help them maintain both internal and external relationships – to effectively engage their people and their clients, to train them in from-afar relationship management and more.
She has no plans to step back anytime soon.