No matter your love of film or television—whether you’re watching CGI dinosaurs or monkeys on a big screen or binging Netflix’s new series on your Apple TV—odds are Rick Eiserman and Trailer Park have had their hands on the project at one time or another before it found its way to public consumption.
Trailer Park, one of the biggest players in the Hollywood ecosystem despite flying under the radar, is the entertainment marketing and production arm of Engine Group, a conglomerate of agencies each with their own specialty and focus, owned by private equity firm Lake Capital.
Rick Eiserman grew up in Detroit where his first job involved the Detroit Free Press and a bicycle before he moved to San Diego at age 15, trading in blistery winters for sunshine year round. During his formative years in San Diego, he drew inspiration from what he grew up around – his father was a businessman and his mother a teacher – and found advertising, saying, “at a very young age I knew I wanted to be in advertising before I even knew what it was.” Rick Eiserman would go to art school after high school. “I took a mix of art and business classes while working at the local ad club in San Diego and multiple marketing agencies. “I took every internship and job in the business I could get; I wanted to get exposure to as much of the industry as possible.”
After graduation, Rick Eiserman met with recruiters from agencies of all shapes and sizes, ultimately deciding he wanted to work for the biggest and the best and joining the Young & Rubicam executive training program. “Very quickly I found myself working in new business development and with the top global executives from the company.” His timing was good as Y&R New York HQ drove over $1B in new business that year and earned Adweek’s Global New Business Agency of the Year award.
Rick Eiserman’s foray into advertising—print, radio, and television—at Y&R came with success on accounts like 7-Up, Sony Electronics, and Campbell’s. Building on that momentum, he and his boss at the time pitched the concept of a new, non-traditional marketing agency—BrandBuzz—to the Global Chairman of Y&R Group. They were met receptively and given the green light and 12 months of funding.
They launched BrandBuzz in 2000 which he reflectively calls “one of the greatest gifts I could have ever gotten.” Rick Eiserman would run BrandBuzz for six years before leaving New York in 2005 to run Y & R Group’s Southern California operation – nearly 250 employees – out of Irvine, California.
It was a significant transition from the speed of New York City to the easygoing vibe of SoCal. “After my first week of watching the agency empty out at 5:30pm every day, I bought a neon ‘OPEN’ sign and hung it in the window of my office. We had great people, we just needed to create a culture where people were passionate about the work and motivated to grow,” he says. The culture shifted and the excitement peaked, and Rick Eiserman would go on a two-and-a-half year run in Orange County, building out a client roster to include Hilton Hotels, Mattel, and Land Rover.
While planning a return back to New York City (so much so that he was house shopping), Rick Eiserman took a call from a private equity firm, Lake Capital, about a job in Hollywood at a place called Trailer Park. A much smaller shop at the time, Rick Eiserman didn’t think that a Trailer Park sounded like the best career move. He would entertain the offer nonetheless over a cup of coffee in Beverly Hills with Terry Graunke, Lake Capital’s principal and founder, and as he proclaims, “By the end of the cup of coffee I knew I wasn’t moving anywhere and this is what I was going to do.”
“Their aspiration was to build businesses that would transform industries… that was a muscle I had not had the opportunity to flex. It was both terrifying and invigorating.”
Was the coffee that good, I ask him. The coffee was good but the offer was better. “One thing I loved was that I would have the opportunity to truly run a business and a company … I loved that Lake Capital’s
approach was different, they were less worried about financials from month to month,” he says. “Their aspiration was to build businesses that would transform industries… that was a muscle I had not had the opportunity to flex. It was both terrifying and invigorating.”
Eiserman’s excitement grew as he got to know his new digs. In the early days, he remembers walking through the offices and seeing “people creating content, designing things with an incredible passion for the business … it was a maker culture.”
Today, a little over nine years after coming on board, Trailer Park is the world’s leading player in the Entertainment and Content Marketing space thanks in part to Rick Eiserman doubling down on Trailer Park’s size. “As the agency grew and we added additional specialty marketing divisions, our scale enabled us to respond quickly, ramp instantly, attract top talent, and increasingly take on global, integrated marketing campaigns,” he says.
Though an industry leader now, there were trying times. Eiserman points to the Great Recession as a big test for him and his team (clients would often ask to see Trailer Park’s financials to ensure they would be in business many months down the road when they delivered a project) in addition to industry-focused hurdles such as the television writer’s strike.
When asked how the most recent paradigm shifts have affected his company’s outlook, Eiserman notes that Trailer Park seeks to help clients navigate this new world that is being disrupted in real time. “Early on we scaled a strategic planning department, launched an OTT division, built out media capabilities, and acquired businesses so we can be in the forefront of emerging technology … that is what makes us a valuable partner in the space, not just another vendor.”
Though landscape changes across the industry have presented challenges, Eiserman identifies a silver lining. “The work continues to get more interesting and our roster of clients has continued to expand … we are working with several of the new players that came onto the scene in just the last few years.”
What has set Trailer Park apart since Eiserman’s arrival? Their approach. “Beyond all of the creative and production capabilities, we work with clients to address the strategic and business challenges as well… we have a specific approach to helping to build audiences and properties.”
While moving full speed ahead in the entertainment space, Eiserman and his team used their experience and talent in the advertising industry as well. “We want to continue to be at the forefront of marketing content in the entertainment business … but we also want to be part of the overall change in the advertising business,” Eiserman says, explaining that brands have begun to behave more like entertainment companies—they have created their own studios and are creating their own content.
Eiserman was recently promoted to CEO, Engine North America. With one foot squarely in Trailer Park, he is now responsible for seven additional companies in the group and a combined staff of more than 1,100 employees.
As our time together comes to a close, Eiserman—a proud but humble man—takes a moment to discuss what he is proud of. “I’d like to think I’ve been able to break new ground … I’m not [sure] I can take credit for that … but throughout my career, wherever I’ve been … I’ve tried to push the organization to make the company better and the industry better.”
Opening and sidebar photos: Zach Lipp