What I learned… as a jazz drummer, with Gez McGuire

The marketing industry never ceases to amaze with its omnivorous attraction to talent from every discipline imaginable. Our What I Learned … series explores the sometimes surprising stories of leaders in our industry.

Today we caught up with Gez McGuire, founder of MCG Digital Media and former drummer for Edwin Starr.

Hi Gez! Tell us a bit about who you are and what you’re up to now.

Hello, I’m the founder of MCG Digital Media, a Birmingham-based AI specialist research and marketing agency working with a range of brands, from big names to SMEs.

I recently launched Lead Accelerator, which enables agencies and internal teams to develop AI-enabled landing pages and ad campaigns.

One of the things I love most about marketing is the ability to keep learning and growing. AI and machine learning have been at the heart of my preoccupations for the past couple of years and now we are at the point where it can have a fundamental impact on marketing campaigns.

But before I became a marketer, did I hear that you played the drums?

I had a career as a studio musician in my twenties, working with a wide variety of artists, including touring with ex-Motown icon Edwin Starr and local Brummies legend Ruby Turner. I have played on a few jazz albums and played constantly all over the UK and sometimes Europe and the US.

Nobody ever stops being a musician, do they? How did this period mark you in your marketing career?

I think the lessons we learn at the start always stay with us, and sometimes when I feel like I’m on shaky ground I remember I have a knowledge base that is its own asset, so just keep going and it will be fine. Good.

Becoming a session musician is not only knowing how to play, but also understanding how your instrument works (in my case the drums) and how to integrate perfectly into a piece or an arrangement. It is also essential to be technically proficient because the technique makes it much easier for a musician to navigate very difficult tracks, and I have taken the same approach with digital advertising. I still need to know why and how things work, as well as having the technical knowledge of the platforms, which ultimately led me to study AI in much more detail, with a particular focus on conversion. .

Tell me about this transition from drums to marketing and AI, then.

As I was entering my thirties I decided I wanted a career in marketing and worked briefly with an experiential marketing company where I found second nature to showcase big brands and meet and greet. board of directors.

From there, I pivoted into the world of digital marketing quite easily, as it appealed to my creative instincts, and very quickly got involved with PPC and Google Adwords (as it was called back then). .

Was it a delicate transition?

I learned it all on my own using the online learning tools provided by Google (this was around 2004) and within a few months I became a professional in Google advertising. At that time there were only a few dozen qualified professionals in the UK and this was in its infancy compared to what it is today.

I imagine your background music is helpful in other ways as well. Was performing on a stage with captions a good practice to present to the big players in the marketing industry?

The transferable items for me would be the confidence I had at the start in terms of conversing with big brands such as Microsoft, Honda, Subaru, Suzuki and Royal Bank of Scotland to secure meetings and presentations. It was this confidence that enabled me to successfully complete the entire sales cycle, from opening the doors to securing big projects, each of which was worth over half a million pounds to l ‘agency.

I would also say that being ready to adapt and continually grow is something that I have embraced throughout my career – like being one of Google’s early converts and developing AI specializations more recently.

If you had finished your time, would you resume the drums on your 20th birthday?

Definitely wouldn’t recommend doing gigs around the country as a great way to make a living, but when it comes to hopping your feet first, building confidence and learning new skills, absolutely yes. .

Ada J. Kenney