Industry Persons of the Year: Calcium’s Steven Michaelson and Judy Capano
Effective leadership through teamwork is a feature of most successful enterprises, and marketing and advertising are no exception. Advertising agencies, in particular, are structured according to a strict division of labor (e.g., strategy, creative, digital), and it’s only in the cooperative melding together of these different disciplines – that is, teamwork – that agencies are able to function effectively and deliver value to their clients.
For many years now, Steven Michaelson and Judy Capano have been an example of agency leadership and teamwork at its best and most successful. They come from different backgrounds – Michaelson from creative and Capano from client services. And both, to some degree, exemplify the right brain/left brain, intuitive-versus-rational difference in thinking style. Yet, when the two of them work together, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Their different thinking approaches, and different sensibilities, actually synergize with each other, so that the resulting idea or recommendation is far richer and stronger than if it had been “authored” by one person alone.
The productive partnership of Steven Michaelson and Judy Capano contributed mightily to the success of their first agency, Wishbone. Not surprisingly, Wishbone was known as a creative and strategic powerhouse, owing in no small measure to the skills Michaelson and Capano brought to the table. But Wishbone was also known for its caring and supportive culture, which Michaelson and Capano did much to foster. The growth and success of Wishbone eventually led to the agency’s sale (first to Rosetta and then to Publicis). In many ways, this was a good thing, but for Michaelson and Capano, it also signaled a time to start thinking, and eventually acting, like the true entrepreneurs they are.
The latest creation from Michaelson and Capano is the independent agency Calcium. Like Wishbone before it, Calcium is highly regarded for its creative and strategic prowess. To this, Calcium adds a leading-edge digital capability that is woven into every aspect of the agency’s offerings. With offices in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, Calcium has been expanding rapidly as it continues to attract larger, AOR clients who are in search of “big agency” firepower without the “big agency” bureaucracy.
In 2018, after losing one of its cornerstone clients, under the leadership of Michaelson and Capano the Calcium team responded forcefully and grew the business organically as well as with new business wins from blue-chip companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and Nektar. As a result, Calcium ended the year where it started, growing the business 35 percent during 2018 after the client loss, an achievement that is a testament to the strength of their leadership, the Calcium team, the work, and the trust clients put in the agency.
It’s no surprise that in 2018 Steven Michaelson was recognized with the Entrepreneur of the Year award by MM&M – the same year Calcium was awarded Agency of the Year both by Med Ad News and PM360. But it is this past year that truly embodies the saying “tough times never last, but tough people do.” Michaelson and Capano have always made it about the Calcium people and its clients. They are their greatest prize. The agency’s spirit proves that a relentless drive to do great work and do whatever it takes to surpass clients’ needs always wins in the end.
In keeping with Calcium’s dedication to providing “brand nourishment,” Calcium is honored to continue to provide support for the Great American Milk Drive, an organization dedicated to providing critical nutritional support for Americans in need.
As if that was not enough, Michaelson was just named chairman of the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. He also serves on the board of Haven Kids Rock (a music program that was created for at-risk kids in the New York City child welfare and foster care systems), as well as on the advisory board of Med Ad News.
Capano is also very active in various educational and philanthropic initiatives, serving on the boards of Siena College, the Promise Project (providing support to children with learning disabilities), and the Epiphany Community Nursery School (ECNS).
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Michaelson/Capano professional partnership is the co-existence of a different sort of partnership as well: a marriage. Not only have Michaelson and Capano been busy creating and running successful agencies, they also managed to create a wonderful family too, consisting of themselves, three amazing children, and one charming dog.
Steven Michaelson and Judy Capano. Truly a partnership for good.