Then & Now: Clark’s career has international flavor
Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Feb. 27 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
In the years since he was honored as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 2005 Forty Under 40 class, Michael Clark’s career path has collected several international touchpoints.
It’s also kept him firmly planted in Northwest Arkansas.
Clark, 57, is part of the executive leadership team at 4media group, a global integrated communications agency specializing in market research, digital, broadcast and public relations. The company maintains dual headquarters in London and Bentonville — most company leaders live in Northwest Arkansas — with additional offices in New York; Chicago; Los Angeles; Atlanta; Bethesda, Md.; and Orlando.
Ed Cyster, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, founded the business in 2008 in the United Kingdom. After capturing much of the market share, Cyster set his sights on the U.S. in 2016. He chose Bentonville for the firm’s global headquarters because he had friends here who made him keenly aware of the area’s entrepreneurial spirit and family-friendly lifestyle.
Collegial connections in Northwest Arkansas — where Clark moved from Little Rock in 1995 — introduced Cyster and Clark, who spent 11 impactful years (2005-2016) helping grow the former Mitchell Communications Group in Fayetteville.
Clark joined the powerhouse PR firm after his Forty Under 40 recognition. He was the agency’s first full-time employee hired by founder and CEO Elise Mitchell, who launched the company in 1995. From 2002-2005, Clark worked for Little Rock-based Sells/Clark Inc. The advertising, marketing and public relations agency opened a Fayetteville office in January 2002 and hired Clark later that year to oversee the office and its growing business efforts in Northwest Arkansas.
Clark moved to the region for a job with Cooper Communities in Bella Vista and later was operations manager for Hugg & Hall Equipment Co. from 1996 to 2002.
While working for Sells/Clark, Clark said he and Mitchell became fast friends while collaborating on various projects. They were also part of a group that helped organize Northwest Arkansas’ Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter.
“[Working for Mitchell] was a great opportunity to find a spot where I felt like I could be a co-owner in a situation, which was developing between Elise and me,” Clark explained.
Clark ultimately became Mitchell’s COO and minority shareholder when the agency was acquired in 2013 by New York-based marketing agency Dentsu Network, which had 82 offices in nearly 30 countries. Its parent company, Tokyo-based Dentsu Inc., is Japan’s top advertising company.
“[Mitchell] grew exponentially every year,” Clark said. “One year, we had something like 1,500% growth. We just kept building momentum. It was a great environment. It was a great opportunity for us to be an agency for [other] agencies but also an agency for clients. That’s what we are doing today and what we are putting together here [at 4media].”
Earlier this year, 4media announced a new global executive leadership team and appointed Clark chief communications officer. He is also a co-owner.
The announcement came on the heels of the company’s highest-performing year, including an inaugural placement on the Inc. 5000 list. After just seven years in the U.S. marketplace, 4media group has grown 10 times bigger and has seen more than 104% growth in revenue over the last three years. The company saw a 26% personnel growth in the U.S. last year alone.
Clark said the company would soon hire its 110th employee. Approximately 30 are based in Northwest Arkansas, where the company’s clients include Walton-affiliated Runway Group and Blue Crane.
The growth strategy is strategic.
“We want to be known [for] cycling, hospitality and health and wellness,” Clark said. “Our agency is working toward developing expertise in those areas and focusing on those, but still focus on the general economy that works here.”
In Clark’s post-Mitchell transition, he earned an executive master’s degree in global strategic communications from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 2017. The course requirements included a series of residencies in various markets, including London and Singapore.
Clark and his wife of nearly 30 years have three adult children (29, 24, and 21) living in Arizona, Colorado and Washington.
Clark is a longtime The Nature Conservancy-Arkansas board member.