DX marks the spot: Rubinstein has marketing agency growing

From our print edition

By Meg Fry
Edgewater | Dec 8, 2017 at 9:45 am

Sandy Rubinstein has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing.

She still prefers to let her company’s work speak for itself.

“Our clients are mostly referrals,” Rubinstein said. “That is how our business has grown.”

It may have had just a little something to do with Rubinstein.

Since becoming CEO of DXagency in 2014, the Edgewater-based, $15 million strategic marketing agency has achieved triple-digit growth and a coveted spot each year on the Inc. 5000.

And its clients, ranging from Welch’s Fruit Snacks to Mastercard to HBO, have enjoyed increased sales and audiences, often by more than 50 percent.

“We really believe that, when you hire us, we are an extension of your team,” Rubinstein said.

The company — originally called Decent Exposure — was founded in 2004 as a music-marketing agency, working for clients such as MTV and Universal Music Group.

“Clients would ask, since the company already was distributing (marketing) on the street, if they could get them college representation, or create a website,” Rubinstein said. “Little by little, they started to hire designers, developers, strategists and so on, until the company evolved.”

Rubinstein came on board in 2009 after 20 years’ experience in various senior marketing, management and advertising roles at television networks and consumer brands such as General Motors R Works, Nickelodeon and Lifetime Television.

“I was a client, first, actually,” she said. “But, the more I played around with the internet and all the different marketing tactics, I realized just how efficient the return on investment was. … The vertical was so powerful in reaching the consumer, building that one-on-one relationship and continuing that dialogue.

“So, I would assign a larger percentage of my budgets to digital marketing than most — 30 percent, almost, when my competitors in television were only assigning 10 percent.”

Rubinstein had outgrown her career in television in more ways than one.

“I constantly was commuting to Los Angeles,” she said. “I had little kids, at the time, and I wanted to be home more.”

That’s when Rubinstein began consulting part-time for DXagency.

“One day a week turned into two, two turned into three, three into four,” she said. “I was then asked to be the chief marketing officer to take the organization from a mom-and-pop shop started by two friends and build it into a viable business entity.”

Rubinstein said she did so by taking a more formal approach to the services DXagency offered, including media planning and buying and search engine optimization, in addition to design and development, upon joining the company full-time.

“Then, in 2014, I had the opportunity to become the controlling interest and CEO of the organization,” she said.

Today, DXagency is a full-service strategic marketing agency with more than 45 employees, offering services in social media content and website design, photography and video production, media buying and planning, customer relationship management, audience analysis and segmentation, and more.

In the past couple of years, for example, DXagency has increased monthly sales of The Adam Levine Collection at K-Mart by more than 60 percent; developed and managed Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube campaigns for DIRECTV that resulted in five times the return on investment; and increased year-over-year reach for MSG Networks and its teams — including the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Red Bulls — by creating the brand’s most viral multimedia content to date.

Much of the company’s success, Rubinstein stressed, is due to her team.

But it was Rubinstein who first realized the importance of creating such a diverse staff, with nearly a dozen represented ethnicities and ages ranging from 21 to 63 years old.

“What I as a middle-aged Hispanic woman may perceive may be very different than what a 20-something African-American male may,” she said. “Sharing dialogue and ideas based on everyone’s interpretation allows us to provide our clients with thoughtful, 360-degree ideas that will be inclusive of anyone within their target audience.”

Rubinstein also said she does not simply rely on emerging technology to figure out who those target audiences are.

“Email was such a big communications tool that eventually fell by the wayside as younger generations began joining social media networks,” she said. “But I think e-mail has come back in a big way because of the oversaturation of social media and content that people put out all day long.

“The data we’re able to extract from those opening and reading their emails is pretty significant — we can then target the people who would be most interested in receiving certain types of information.”

It is an invigorating daily challenge, Rubinstein said, to keep up with changing times.

“Every day I wake up and wonder, what is it going to be today?” she said. “It’s always something in marketing, whether it be in traditional or digital.”

Rubinstein said that, come what may, the goal is to double or triple in size over the next five years.

“We have a real opportunity to go from a midsize firm to a large one, and I think that there is a real need given the terrible customer service one receives from big conglomerates with rinse and reuse plans.

“We are coming up with new ideas for every campaign — that is going to become mission critical to brands moving forward, and my hope is that we can parlay that.”

Latin America

Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of DXagency in Edgewater, said she opened an additional office with three employees in Miami, Florida, in 2015 to focus on Latin American markets.

“The ability for us to begin working with and serving clients in the U.S. with Latin American needs was important to me,” Rubinstein said. “Many of our clients have outposts in Miami or in South America, and we wanted to be there for them.”

As a Hispanic-American, Rubinstein added that Latino business also is becoming more of a priority.

“Given the Hispanic population expectations in the U.S., marketers really need to think about how they are engaging that audience,” she said.

Companies also need to recognize how bias can affect their client and employee relationships.

“I once was excited about a project with Latin themes, so I started speaking and moving my hands, because that is what you do when you grow up in a Latino household,” Rubinstein said. “I was told to put my hands down because I was getting too excited because I am Latino.

“So, for the rest of the meeting, all I did was wave my hands. … When I feel that I am not being treated in an appropriate fashion, I need to be my own advocate.”

Giving back

The puzzle at DXagency would not be complete without the added, shared responsibility of giving back, Sandy Rubinstein, the CEO, said.

“We can take a lot of things for granted in this life that for some people would be game-changers,” she said.

Rubinstein alone mentors six of her former employees, two high school students every season, and two University of Miami business students every year.

At DXagency, she and her staff most recently worked with the Center for Hope and Safety in Bergen County to provide Thanksgiving meals for nearly 200 families. They also closed their office to work with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, filling backpacks for Supplies for Success. And, as the digital marketing arm for Kids that Do Good, a volunteer youth resource, DXagency donates all its time building the website, managing the organization’s social media and handling its creative projects.

“It always is a wonderful experience for us,” Rubinstein said.

Conversation Starter

Reach Sandy Rubinstein at: info@dxagency.com or 201-313-1100.

Meg Fry | mfry@roi-nj.com | megfry3