There are industries that defy convention. Places where heart sometimes trumps logic and madness regularly intermingles with genius. Advertising used to be one of those industries. But folks started getting MBAs, analytics replaced intuition, belts were tightened and, suddenly, the advertising business began to behave a lot like the insurance business. In an effort to prosper in this not-so-brave new world, we all fed the beast. We created new titles, added new offices and touted the power of our network over the potential of our ideas. The dreamers got really good at being responsible and the rebels, well, they became the establishment.
Just under two years ago, I set out to forge a new model. One that mimicked a business consultancy, talent agency or even a personal trainer far more than a traditional ad agency. Some thought it could work. Some thought it couldn’t. Some thought it was a joke. But having been part of teams that handled everything from luxury automobiles to government contracts, I observed that no matter how different the categories, success always came down to the same things. It was always about high-level thinking, the right creative and the right kind of attention to a small group of really good marketing people. I felt all that all these things were achievable without slavishly following the tiny-to-small-to-medium-to-large agency model. In the time since Positivity’s launch and Oberto Beef Jerky’s re-launch, I would argue that a combination of personalized service, creative output and business results has made ours one of the strongest client-agency relationships in the industry.
But the truth is, the model has never been validated outside of Kent, Washington. Not until a couple weeks ago, anyway. At the risk of sounding smarmy, let me tell you why I’m about to start tooting my own horn for the first time in my career over an award—and not even really an award, but a mere finalist certificate.
You see, when Oberto Beef Jerky was recently named one of the four finalists in the Effies “Snacks” category, not only did it put my client in the company of packaged goods giants Mars, Nestle and category leader, Jack Link’s, but it confirmed the effectiveness of the Positivity business model. Because there we were, right alongside very established and very good agencies like DDB, Carmichael Lynch and Dailey. Sure, our respective staffing plans, architectural plans and growth plans couldn’t be more different. But the results were the same; results that place Positivity in the top 1% of what all ad agencies delivered for their clients last year.
Which is starting to sound a lot like boasting or a thinly-veiled attempt to generate new business. And yet, it’s neither. It’s simply an effort to inspire some of the multitude of friends and colleagues I’ve heard complain about the state of the advertising industry to do something about it. If you’re an agency chairman who doesn’t think your business approach is special and unique anymore, create one that is. If you’re a creative director or planner who believes you could do a better job with a half the layers and a third of the employees, go do it. Most of all, if you’re a CMO who is still trying to rationalize a previous decision to hire the ad agency that made you feel safe over the one that made you feel inspired, stop. There are wonderful campaigns to be created and astounding results to be delivered. And as has always been the case throughout history, they likely won’t come from the expected sources.