Steve Davis turned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska into an illustrious career in the marketing industry, and Saturday he will speak to the Ole Miss journalism graduates at the Meek School of Journalism’s graduation ceremony. Davis worked for some of the industry’s biggest agencies and started a few of his own along the way.
His own goals were placed on hold after graduation during the Vietnam War, and he served as an Officer in the United States Air Force. When his service ended, he quickly rediscovered his desire to enter the marketing business. He accepted a job at Benton & Bowles advertising agency in New York City and climbed the later to become the senior vice president before ultimately deciding to journey out on his own. During his time with B&B, Davis worked alongside some of the biggest names in consumer products including Dawn, Tropicana, Gillette, Crest and more.
He then left to join the agency Altschiller Reitzfeld Davis at the ground level and helped turn it into an agency which caught the attention of Omnicom, who at the time was the largest of the based global communications holding companies. A stint in Chicago had Davis overseeing the expansion of J. Walter Thompson, which doubled in size, and Davis was named Adweek’s Adperson of the year in 1995.
Davis returned to New York City to be CEO of the New York office of Young and Rubicam, the largest agency in the city at that time. After that, he moved out West to revive the agency WellBDDP, which he did and sold to Omnicore once again. His western expansion wasn’t t done quite yet as Davis became president of Premier Retail Network, which served retailers like Walmart, Sears and Best Buy. After selling the company, he switched gears and started Giraffe Inc. which provides early stage equity.
With decades of experience navigating the marketing landscape, Davis is eager to provide some insight and advice to the next generation of graduates.
“It’s a discipline, but you have to understand where you want to go and to set goals; those are incredibly important for success,” Davis said. “There are people who let others define their goals for them, and they forfeit their opportunity to define goals for themselves. If you believe that the universe conspires to answer what it is that you want, you have to have a pretty good idea of what you want in the first place.”
Davis recognizes the difficulties in starting a career and forging one’s own path. He encourages those graduating who may not have their dream job lined up to remain patient in the pursuit of their goals. Daivs noted that sending a resume is only part of the equation and to make as many connections as possible in an effort to open doors along the way.
“The reality is that perseverance is just so important,” Davis said. “Don’t despair. Everybody has had a first job somewhere or spent some time doing things that they didn’t think was enormously gratifying, but if you keep at it, understand what your goals and objectives are. I have faith that time, experience and circumstance point toward getting you where you want to go.”
Whether students are graduating with a journalism or IMC degree, Davis knows one skill can set these students apart as they enter the real world and leave Ole Miss.
“The paradox is that in a specialized world, there is one transcendent skill and that will serve everyone well, that skill is writing,” Davis said. “If you have examples that celebrate your ability to think, creatively persuade and create insuring narratives, you are steps ahead in landing somewhere because we are all storytellers and story listeners at heart.”
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.