Yesterday was a big day at Element 79. The morning started with a chemistry meeting with a very-intriguing potential client, where we spent three and a half hours getting to know the people and some sense of their vast, complicated business.
In the afternoon, we had our annual Summer Meeting, which has become rather anachronous as each year, the date falls later and later.
As part of this meeting, it is my responsibility to discuss the agency focus and direction. I have to confess that this year, I stole my inspiration from a church sermon.
Fr. Pat McGrath is one of those charming, eloquent Jesuit priests with a gift for public speaking. He is also the President of my daughter’s high school. A few weeks back, Maureen and I attended a parent’s mass where Fr. Pat spoke to the teens, addressing their anxieties as they decide the course of their futures. His main point was that asking “What do you want to do?” was the wrong question; the real issue to answer is “Who do you want to be?”
I don’t know if that point inspired any teens, but it hit me like a lightning bolt. During these hard days of recession, where fortunes, technology and expectations seem to change hourly, I have obsessed over what to do to help our agency. But any answer to that question would inevitably have to change again and again. And again. The simple truth is no matter what you want to do, in a world of constant change, you’ll soon have to do something different to keep adapting.
On the other hand, no matter how agency actions may change, the notion of what an agency should be can remain constant. And the answer to that question is simple: as an agency, I want Element 79 to be NOTEWORTHY and VALUED.
Importantly, I don’t want to just be “noticed”–that’s the province of the fashion-whipsawed, a goal for the Lindsay Lohans. No, I want us to aspire to the lasting notion of ‘Noteworthy,’ where your actions and efforts must have intrinsic value and demonstrate worth. To be Noteworthy is to be differentiated, which is critical. Best of all, in a smaller, more entrepreneurial enterprise like ours, the actions of even one person can lead to Noteworthy results.
Similarly, earning the stature of “Valued” also differentiates an agency. It even offers some measure of security as the concept of AOR grows increasingly meaningless. New CMO’s arrive and play the role of change agents by making the easily noticed, obvious action of switching agencies. Or a Unilever buys an Alberto Culver, and suddenly through no fault of their own, Mullen and Arnold’s win of that smaller client’s business mere months ago becomes uncertain.
The only measure of protection any agency has today is the regard of their clients. If an agency is Valued, it is at least marginally insulated from the dictates of whim. If an agency finds a way to promote their own wares with even half the intensity they bring to promoting their client’s, they can create a protective sense of value that links their work with financial gain.
Noteworthy and Valued: those are the two things I wish for Element 79 going forward. Gonna get on that right away…
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79