Tina Manikas has focused on understanding the shopper for more than 30 years. Consistently making her mark on the retail and activation industry through her work at Lee Hill, Marketing Corporation of America and Draft Worldwide (now FCB), she launched one of the first official shopper marketing practices in 2000. In early 2014, she was named president of FCB/RED. She is a thought leader and believes that one can never assume that what it took to get to where you are today, even what you’re doing as an agency, is what you need to do going forward tomorrow. Manikas is one of three Women of Excellence honorees in the “Leadership” category.

You’ve placed great importance on the shopper as your key audience throughout your career. Why?

Manikas: Focusing on the shopper has been critical and a key filter for us in terms of building what we do today and what we know. We look at the consumer when consuming and the consumer as a shopper as two very strategic strongholds – one is not subservient to the other. Having that filter makes us relentless and takes a lot of the subjectivity out of what we’re trying to sell and what we think a particular brand needs. It starts from “shopper in” versus “brand out” – that’s the trick to success.

What are your current responsibilities?

Manikas: I run the shopper marketing division where we do a lot of activation work as well. I also acquired Chute Gerdeman at the end of August because it has an interesting range of not just creating really cool, flagship environments, but also the wherewithal to create very smart solutions. Chute Gerdeman’s range is pretty diverse, and we saw it adding depth to our business.

How so?

Manikas: A consumer can become a shopper at any moment, and if you’re a shopper marketing expert or agency, you need to have the capability as well as the craftsmanship to master that. There’s a lot of reinvention going on, and it’s merging the digital with the physical. That’s where I think FCB/RED with Chute Gerdeman can make a difference.

Are you a natural born leader?

Manikas: A leader is only a leader if she has followers. You have to earn that trust, respect and buy-in to your beliefs. I work at it and I do get a thrill to lead something fantastic, but mostly because I get to work with pretty amazing people.

How has FCB/RED’s work driven the industry forward, and how will you continue to do that?

Manikas: I believe it’s very important to have a distinct point of view as an agency. We’re a shopper-first brand agency because we don’t just want to be a top shopper agency; we want to be a partner with all the branding capability inside to be able to reach and do great work at every touchpoint.

What’s coming next?

Manikas: We’re investing heavily in areas like AI, and all the different types of commerce. We want to be able to help brands with e-commerce, conversational and social as well as physical commerce. If new technology will help shoppers at the end of the day, they’re going to be willing to give it a try. But if you’re doing something just for marketing’s sake or the brand’s sake and it’s difficult, forget it. I’ve been a part of a few key programs in recent years that changed the status quo of what a shopper marketing program would be or could do. Those are the ones that make a difference.