David Saunders – President and Chief Idea Officer of Madison+Main

[quote style=”boxed”]This sounds silly coming from a new media guy, but I constantly recommend that young professionals read a newspaper. [/quote]

Dave Saunders is President and Chief Idea Officer of Madison+Main, an integrated communications agency that provides creative marketing solutions for emerging companies. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Dave is a nationally recognized expert in branding & interactive marketing. He frequently speaks to businesses and organizations about the power of the World Wide Web and he is often quoted in print publications and on radio and television news programs.

Dave is a former Advertising & Marketing Director with Media General, coming back to Virginia after 11 years working in Los Angeles. He is the founder of Great American Concepts, an Venice Beach-based advertising and design firm, as well as former Director of the Los Angeles office of Hal Riney & Associates. Before this, Dave previously served as Manager of Times Direct for Tribune Media, parent company of the Los Angeles Times and its internet properties: CareerBuilder, Cars.com and LAtimes.com.

Dave has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he taught the nation’s first undergraduate level course on social media marketing in 2008. Additionally, he leads marketing and social media workshops for VCU’s Center for Corporate Education. In 2009, Dave was honored as a finalist for Business Person of The Year by the US Small Business Administration and was appointed by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to Virginia’s Small Business Commission in 2012.

Dave has been featured and quoted in over 100 print publications (such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Village Voice, The Guardian, Wired Magazine, Richmond-Times Dispatch and many others). He is also a frequent broadcast media source on dozens of radio and television programs, including his regular contributions to CNBC’s Media Money segments. He has also been a guest lecturer at American Press Institute, VCU School of Mass Communications, VCU School of Business, Johns Hopkins University (Bloomberg School of Public Health), University of Richmond, Stanford University, UCLA and Pepperdine University.

What are you working on right now?

Cleaning out my inbox! Just kidding.

Actually we’re working on a new mobile app for a major regional transportation authority that does some really cool things, including telling mobile users exactly when the next bus or train is arriving in real time.

Where did the idea for Madison+Main come from?

I had wanted to get back in to the agency side of the business, but knew that the old agency model just didn’t work anymore. So in 2005 I came up with the idea of bringing Madison Avenue ideas to Main Street clients. In other words, I combined marketing consultancy with a design shop and a full-service agency.

What does your typical day look like?

I’m responsible for two different areas of the company. About half of my time is spent working with my creative team and the other half of the day is spent on business and operational issues. I bounce back and forth between creative sessions and business meetings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our idea process is fairly fluid, but the operational side of our business is very systematized. It’s one thing to have an idea, it is a completely different proposition to implement an idea.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Augmented reality. I think the natural progression from web to mobile can even be classified as augmented reality. In other words, people using augmented reality in real life situations is one trend that I see exploding in the next few years.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked at a Swenson’s ice cream parlor for about three weeks when I was 16 years old. I learned three things:

1. I learned that you need to wear gloves when scooping ice cream because your knuckle hair will get stuck in someone else’s cone.
2. I learned that hot dog chili has no meat in it.
3. I realized I never wanted to work for minimum wage again which was $3.35 an hour when I worked there.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would learn how to play the piano.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

This sounds silly coming from a new media guy, but I constantly recommend that young professionals read a newspaper. I read newspapers religiously, several of them. Yes the information is online, but the layout of a newspaper allows me to get the information I want quickly and efficiently. And I have learned that they do not put all the information on the online version…yet.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Acquiring startup capital was the biggest challenge I had when getting started. How did I overcome it? I worked, I saved and I borrowed $50,000 from myself by taking out a home equity line of credit.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Buy Facebook. During the IPO it came out at $44.00 a share and now it is $22.00 or 50 cents on the dollar. I had a friend tell me to buy Google at $70.00 and I didn’t listen, hopefully you will listen to me.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would perfect the hydrogen fuel cell. How would I do it? I would get the brightest minds together, put them in a building and tell them that they would profit immensely if they came up with a solution.

Tell us a secret.

I’m in marketing, there are no secrets.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Google. Everything from Google translate to Google trends. It’s my number one resource.

Twitter, I am still a very big fan of Twitter, both for the social and informational aspect.

And Mashable, I get the majority of my tech, social, and marketing news all in one place.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

That’s a tough question, but I think everyone has to read The Tipping Point, By Malcolm Gladwell.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@Shaq because he is “very quotatious” and very entertaining.
@Jolieodell. She is a friend and fellow Virginian who now lives in San Francisco as an independent tech journalist. She is gorgeous and she rocks.
@FilthyRichmond. This is an anonymous friend of mine who has tweeted over 8,000 one-liners as a trailer park dwelling mother of two from somewhere in Central Virginia.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

It was earlier today when I joked with an intern that I was old enough to be her father and she said, “Aw thanks Uncle Dave.” Yeah, I guess you had to be there.

Who is your hero?

My Dad. He worked for the fire department and the police department. I was a big fan of first responders before it was cool.

Where will Madison+Main be in 2020?

I think we’ll have between five and seven satellite offices throughout the South East and we will have more than 50 clients. We will fundamentally change the way that emerging companies market themselves in the markets we serve.

Why do you think you have so many followers on Twitter?

I think several reasons. One, I provide information that people think is relevant and more importantly, I have no filter. Everything comes out unscripted, unedited and sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s interesting.


Dave Saunders’ Email: [email protected]
Dave Saunders on Twitter: Twitter.com/madmain
Madison+Main  on Twitter: Twitter.com/madisonmain
Dave Saunders’ Phone: 1-877-MAD-MAIN