Archive for the ‘small ad agencies’ Category

I’ve been in the advertising business for a long time. Heck, long enough to remember the Mad Men era. I was just a kid in the creative department but the suits were the focus of the agency. They wore the expensive clothes, had the three hour martini lunches and provided extra special services to their clients on demand. The creative department was squeezed into tiny closets. Each had suffered from the constant turnover of people. It seemed when someone brought something into their office they never had any interest in taking it with them when they left.

Flash forward. Today the creative department is the engine of the agency. Creatives can be treated like gods. The paradigm has shifted. The other thing that has shifted is the fun side of the business. Suits now spend time on their computers reviewing stats instead of drinking manhattans. Creatives seem to have more interest in facebook and twitter than drawing and thinking.

It all makes me wonder how Ted Bates would feel about this transition.


Ad agencies can use a simple method to make sure that everyone in the enterprise understands how they can contribute to the agency’s growth. I know, you’ll think it is just too good to be true, but once I introduced my “everyone can do it” attitude at an agency in Houston I had the president send the following memo:

“It’s great to have everyone here at XXX agency a part of our new business effort. It starts with a simple question: do you know or have any friends or relatives who might need an ad agency? If you do, let’s have lunch on me and we can talk about it”

The first response he had was from the receptionist who over lunch told him she wasn’t sure but her uncle worked for the local CocaCola bottler.

He suggested she call her uncle and see if he was interested. Three days later, the agency had picked up over $100,000 in annual billings as the Houston Area CocaCola Bottlers agency of record.

One memo. Amazing how you can look at advertising agency growth from so many directions. What’s your perspective?

I’ve spent a lifetime in the ad business and still I am confused when confronted with the problems of a small agency. By small I mean less than 10 employees.

Most agencies like these have been started by an entrepreneur who has had some involvement with the marketing industry. In most cases it seems that the owner has a death grip on the agency. In one case, the owner of a small agency in Tulsa called me in to consult on new business.

After day one, I could see the problem. The owner was the creative director (although he couldn’t create), he was the senior copywriter (although he could not write) and of course he was the master art director (although he could not draw). All of his decisions were unquestioned and the creative department shuffled around with their heads down.

Small agencies need leaders. Not emperors. Let your creative people flex their muscles. Don’t give them ideas…get ideas from them. If you want to grow, the fastest way is to do the best work in town. Only your creative department can do that for you.