Drew Blumenthal isn’t being cocky or conceited when he brazenly says, “I’m very impressed with myself and what I’ve been able to do at such a young age.” Instead, what this laser-focused digital advertising specialist is doing is sticking to a couple of core values that have helped him go so far professionally in such a short period of time, and that’s being unabashedly honest with himself and others while also staying true to what he wants out of life. You want a peek into the 27-year-old Blumenthal’s confidence that seemingly oozes out his every pore? How about having the belief in oneself to leave a couple of the top advertising agencies in New York City after just 15 months on the job to start his own agency? How about him affirming that belief by doubling his previous salary within two years and later being in charge of six-figure success story before the tender age of 27?
Yeah, Blumenthal certainly has plenty of reasons already to be impressed with himself. But listen to him talk passionately about his life goals, his desire to master his craft, and his beliefs that the Manhattan based Digital Drew SEM — the company he started from scratch less than four years ago — can continue its impressive growth and you realize that Blumenthal is just getting started on this journey of success. In time, his initial success is likely to look like a blip when compared to where he’s headed in the not-so distant future.
“A lot of my drive comes from reflecting on the success that I’ve already had and wanting to continue to grow and help people,’’ said Blumenthal, a Princeton, N.J., native who now makes his home in New York City. “It feels so good to me when I help clients. The thing that makes me good at that is that I am very honest with people and I genuinely do this for more than the money. The money is obviously great, but at the end of the day it’s about making as great of a positive impact as possible.”
Blumenthal’s rise: More pluck than luck
Blumenthal’s meteoric rise in the fields of digital marketing and digital advertising has come about more because of his pluck than any sort of luck. Combining plenty of hustle with his mighty academic muscle, Blumenthal’s success story already resembles that of investor, serial entrepreneur, and New York Times bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk, who unwittingly has served as a role model for the young ad executive for years.
Like Vaynerchuk’s impressive climb through the entrepreneurial ranks starting at a young age, Blumenthal had lemonade stands and babysitting businesses not long after hitting puberty, and in his upper teens he was already selling what he called “preppy clothes” to fellow students through his online company. Another early telling point that spoke to his unusually focused determination came when he was snubbed by West Chester University college counselors after he told them about his dreams of soon becoming a big-time ad exec in Manhattan. Blumenthal took matters into his own hands, made dozens of meaningful connections over LinkedIn and had the gig he initially considered to be a dream job within a month of graduating with honors and a marketing degree. “We’ve all seen that painting where all the fish are swimming one direction and then there’s that one fish swimming the opposite way. That one fish was me,” said Blumenthal while admitting that blazing his own path wasn’t always easy for him. “I was always the person who didn’t listen to authority or didn’t listen when they told me that I couldn’t do something. For most people, they would say, ‘OK’ and that would be the end of it. But for me, I’d be so thick-headed and, at the same time, level-headed about what I wanted, that I wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and I’d keep pushing forward.”
Blumenthal’s unique blend of will and skill eventually allowed him to push his way into Manhattan where he started his promising career in the advertising/marketing industry. However, even while working with high-profile agencies such as Performics and IPG Media Brands and being a part of campaigns with billion-dollar clients such as Samsung and Johnson and Johnson, Blumenthal’s individualistic and independent thinking nature tugged fiercely at his soul. So, he did what any young and rising exec working in Manhattan would do at the age of 24: He gave it all up to go out on his own. Staying where he was, he says now, would have certainly created the path of least resistance, but it also would have involved lying to himself about what he really wanted. And for someone who has the ultimate belief in his own thinking processes and abilities, it wasn’t as risky a move as one might have thought, he said (although it did give his father the occasional heart palpitation). “I hated working for an agency because working for someone else wasn’t really for me because I like being independent and I like being my own thinker,’’ he said candidly. “I was a little anxious when I went out on my own … but I’m one of those people who’d rather be poor and work for myself than having to be told what to do all day long. It wasn’t what I wanted for myself and it wasn’t where I fit in.
“I can take direction and, obviously, when you work with clients, you need to listen to them and validate them,’’ he continued, “but I don’t want to be told how to do every little thing and be micromanaged. I don’t micromanage my team now. Some people need to have someone to tell them what to do every hour of the day, but that’s just not me.”
“Young people, my age, get a bad rap”
Who Blumenthal is, at heart, is a natural-born leader who possesses the kind of discipline and direction often missing in 20-somethings still looking to carve their own path. These days, as CEO of Digital Drew SEM, Blumenthal is up at 4 AM each morning — and he sets just one alarm to do so — and he’s on Zoom calls with co-workers in Pakistan and India by 7 a.m. He said, often, young professionals such as himself are doubted and occasionally looked down upon because of their seeming inexperience. However, Blumenthal said he and his brethren are far more driven than they are given credit for and they certainly have boundless amounts of enthusiasm, creativity, and energy. “Young people my age get a bad rap. I’ve worked with people my age who own their own businesses and they’re really, really driven — even more than people from older generations,” Blumenthal said. “I think people my age get put into a box and it’s not always accurate. I’ve been part of networking groups where the average age is older, and they will put me into a box where I’m not considered a credible source simply because of my age. I think that’s just a horrible way to look at things, but people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s can be so quick to write off people my age. It really should be a case-by-case basis based on your merit.”
Blumenthal, or “Digital Drew,” as he’s often referred to in professional circles, has built up plenty of merit with the success that he’s had for clients while helping them expand their brand awareness and grow their businesses. He’s done that through his mastery of optimization, search-engine marketing, lead-generation marketing, and search-engine optimization with ads strategically placed on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Though his company is small in comparison to the giant agencies that he left three-plus years ago to go at it alone, Blumenthal’s work has clearly caught the attention of many in the industry. After doubling his previous salary in less than two years as CEO of Digital Drew SEM, his company made $284,000 in profits last year despite the numerous challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he’s on pace to surpass $400,000 in profits because of his runaway success in 2021’s first quarter.
Those gaudy numbers have helped Digital Drew SEM rank in expertise.com’s “30 Best Pay-Per-Click Agencies in New York City” and the manifest.com’s “Top 100 PPC Management Companies in New York City.”
“Drew is a Digital Marketing and Advertising guru without a doubt,” said Guy Tomlinson, a New York City stylist and personal shopper who worked previously with Digital Drew SEM. “I’ve never encountered anyone in his field with his knowledge and experience, but what separates him from his competition is his ability to relate to his clients. Drew has a way of conveying his expertise so that it is easy to understand. There are no questions irrelevant or trivial. Drew is friendly and patient and I would not hesitate to recommend him.” Those kinds of customer reviews serve as fuel for the engine that drives Blumenthal, who has already started to think of where his future could take him in the years ahead as he continues to have success. A person with his type of confidence and belief always needs a carrot to chase. And, of course, he wants to continue to be “very impressed with myself” with many more major accomplishments before he reaches the ripe, old age of 30.
“Maybe in five years or 10 years I won’t own a marketing agency anymore. The skills that I’m learning and developing now can pretty much translate into any business, so being able to run a company are the skills that I’m gaining,” he said ambitiously. “I have plenty of milestone goals. I think eventually, where I’d move to is if I made enough money by selling the agency, I’d like to be a venture capitalist to be able to invest in businesses and grow them.
“Not that I don’t love running an agency, but I feel like I’ll have the skills to expand to other things,’’ he added confidently. “Money is a tool and I want to keep expanding my company so that I can ultimately have an even bigger impact on businesses and people’s lives.”