Mark Penn’s career spans 40 years in market-research, advertising, public relations, polling and consulting, and he has advised top world leaders, led companies, and written a bestselling book. Currently, Penn is the President and Managing Partner of The Stagwell Group, a private equity fund that invests in marketing services companies and reinvents the traditional holding company model.

Before founding The Stagwell Group, he served in senior executive positions at Microsoft, where as Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, he was responsible for working on core strategic issues across the company, blending data-analytics with creativity to help set the company on a new course.

Penn’s experience in growing, building, and managing agencies is well documented. As the co-founder and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, a market research firm that he built and sold to communications behemoth WPP, he demonstrated value-creation in a crowded industry, serving clients with innovative techniques from being first with overnight polling to unique ad testing methods used by presidents and major corporations. At WPP, he also became CEO of Burson Marsteller, and managed the two companies to record profit growth during that period.

A globally recognized strategist, Mark has advised corporate and political leaders, both in the United States and internationally. For six years, he served as White House Pollster to President Bill Clinton and was a key adviser in his 1996 re-election, identifying “Soccer Moms” as the key swing vote needed for victory. The Washington Post remarked that no other pollster had ever become “So thoroughly integrated into the policymaking operation” of a presidential administration.

Penn later served as chief strategist to Hillary Clinton in her Senate campaigns and 2008 Presidential campaign, devising her successful NY “upstate strategy” and creating the “3 AM” ad in the 2008 primaries. Internationally, he helped elect more than 25 leaders in the Asia, Latin America, and Europe, including Tony Blair and Menachem Begin.

Penn is also an internationally known thought leader. He authored the 2007 bestselling book “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes,” and was a columnist for the Wall Street Journal,, POLITICO, and the Huffington Post. In a cover story, Time Magazine called him “Master of the Message.”

Penn earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and attended Columbia Law School. He is a visiting lecturer at Harvard College and a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University, where he teaches courses on Public Opinion.


Former Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn has departed Microsoft to form a new marketing investment group that has already raised – $250m in capital.

  • 1967


    Penn conducted his first poll at age 13, as a middle school student at Horace Mann School, which determined the Horace Mann faculty was more liberal than the country at large on the issue of civil rights.

  • 1975


    Penn founded Penn and Schoen, now a global market research firm, with his Harvard roommate, Doug Schoen, at the offices of the Harvard Crimson.

  • 1976


    In the fall of 1976, while Penn was a first-year law student at Columbia University, he and Schoen became the pollsters for Congressman Ed Koch’s second (and first successful) run for Mayor of New York City.

  • 1977


    With Koch’s campaign against Mario Cuomo for the Democratic nomination in full swing, Penn sought a way to conduct polls more quickly than the mainframe and punch card system he and Schoen were using. He purchased a “microcomputer” kit and created a program that could tabulate polls in a fraction of the time. This allowed Penn to conduct polls to determine messages and evaluate tactics on a daily basis, a tactical advantage that contributed to Koch’s eventual victory over Cuomo.

  • 1979


    Beginning in 1979, Penn took the lessons learned from American politics to Latin America, where he helped elect more than a half dozen heads of state beginning with: Venezuela’s Luis Herrera Campins, Columbia’s Virgilio Barco and Belisario Betancur, and Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic.

  • 1980’S and 1990’s


    In the late 1980s, Penn was the force behind his firm’s drive to win corporate consulting clients including Texaco, which was experiencing image problems due to bankruptcy. Penn also pioneered competitive techniques, entering the war between long distance carriers by helping AT&T quickly defeat MCI.
    During his time as a corporate consultant, Penn also served as a key strategic advisor to Bill Gates and Microsoft during the mid-1990s. Other clients included Ford Motor Company, Merck, Verizon, BP and McDonald’s.

  • 1994-2000


    In late 1994, Penn and Schoen were asked to help President Bill Clinton recover from the Democratic Party’s dramatic losses suffered in midterm elections. The pollsters urged Clinton to move to the center, emphasizing stepped-up law enforcement, balancing the budget and other issues.

    Penn served as pollster to President Clinton for 6 years. During that time, he became one of the President’s most prominent and influential advisers. In 2000, The Washington Post concluded that no pollster had ever become “so thoroughly integrated into the policy making operation” of a presidential administration as had Penn.

  • 1995


    Beginning in August 1995, at Clinton’s request, Penn conducted numerous polls to understand what the political ramifications would be if the federal government were to shut down over a disagreement over federal spending.

  • 1996


    During President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Penn used the mall tests he had developed for AT&T to test presidential campaign ads. He also created the “NeuroPersonality Poll”, a survey that blended standard political and demographic questions with lifestyle, attitudinal, and psychographic questions, some adapted from Myers-Briggs. Penn’s 1996 Neuro Poll helped him identify a new swing voter: the “soccer mom”. At the time, Clinton was the first Democrat reelected since FDR.

  • 1998


    When allegations of President Clinton’s extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky first surfaced in January 1998, Penn conducted polls to help the administration craft its response. Penn subsequently led the research effort monitoring Clinton’s level of public support throughout the impeachment process, until Clinton was acquitted on February 13, 1999.

  • 2000


    In 2000, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton asked Penn to advise her on her run for the U.S. Senate from New York. Clinton followed Penn’s “Upstate Strategy” advice and won the election. Penn served again as Clinton’s pollster in her successful 2006 Senate re-election campaign.

  • 2001


    After having grown it from a mom and pop political polling firm, Penn and his partners sold PSB to WPP on November 15, 2001. The firm would ultimately grow to over 80 million dollars in revenue under his leadership.

  • 2005


    Penn advised British Prime Minister Tony Blair and conducted polling during his successful campaign for an unprecedented third term in 2005. President Clinton recommended Penn’s services to Blair when they met at Ronald Reagan’s funeral in 2004. Penn formulated the concept behind Blair’s campaign slogan, “Forward Not Back”, and refined it by conducting phone interviews with British swing voters.

  • 2006


    In 2006, Penn was named Worldwide CEO of Burson Marsteller, a global public relations and public affairs firm with a presence in nearly 80 markets around the world. Under his leadership, Penn tripled profits in a short period of time while also winning the coveted Holmes Report North American Agency of the Year award in 2011. Both PSB and Burson combined accounted for nearly 100M in EBITDA under his management.

  • 2007


    His book, Microtrends, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller examined how small groups of people can trigger big changes in society. Specifically, Penn showed how a mere one percent of the American public, or 3 million people, can create a “microtrend” capable of launching a major business or even a new cultural movement, changing commercial, political and social landscapes.

  • 2008


    In 2008, he served as Chief Strategist to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President. Throughout the campaign, Penn believed voters cared about substance over style. He argued Hillary would be a strong, tough leader that could get things done for the American people. He was credited with developing the famed “3AM” television ad that ran during the primary campaign.

  • 2012-2015


    In July 2012, after serving as a consultant to the company for over a decade, Penn was named Corporate Vice President for Strategic and Special Projects at Microsoft Corporation. Shortly after he came on board, he began a public relations campaign against Google on behalf of Bing. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, he created a commercial in which Microsoft criticized Google for biasing its shopping search results with paid advertisements. “Don’t get Scroogled”, the commercial warned. In August 2013, Penn was named Executive Vice President for Advertising and Strategy. In that role, he pioneered Microsoft’s “Honestly” campaign and the award-winning Super Bowl 2014 ad “Empowering Us All”. In March 2014, he was named Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer by CEO Satya Nadella. On June 17, 2015 it was announced he would be leaving Microsoft.

  • 2015 - Present


    In June 2015, Penn announced the formation of The Stagwell Group LLC, a registered investment advisory company, which will invest in advertising, research, data analytics, public relations, and digital marketing services. The Stagwell Group has closed on $250 million in investment capital and may use leverage to make up to $750 million in acquisitions.