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The Best Creative Agency in each State: 2018

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It’s that time of year for the Midterm creative agency evaluations. Below are the winners, by state. The single criterion is current creative work; not legacy reputations. The best work right now. In some cases, certain states are omitted. Either no agency met the standard, or I simply didn’t know enough about the creative landscape in that particular state (Alaska, for instance).

The Palma Honor Roll:

  • Alabama               BIG, Birmingham                              http://bigcom.com
  • Arizona                 Santy, Scottsdale                               http://santy.com
  • Arkansas              Eric Rob & Isaac, Little Rock          https://ericrobisaac.com
  • California (So.)    Anomaly, LA                                      http://anomaly.com
  • California (No.)   BSSP, Sausalito                                  https://bssp.com/#!/welcome
  • Colorado               Made, Boulder                                  https://www.heymade.com
  • Connecticut         Cronin, Glastonbury                       https://www.cronin-co.com
  • D.C.                       Admirable Devil                              http://admirabledevil.com
  • Delaware            Aloysius Butler & Clark, Wilm.      https://abccreative.com
  • Florida (So.)         David, Miami                                   http://www.davidtheagency.com
  • Florida (No.)         Bright Red\TBWA                            https://www.brightredtbwa.com
  • Georgia                 Fitzco, Atlanta                                  https://fitzco.com
  • Illinois                   C-K, Chicago                                     https://c-k.com
  • Indiana                  Young & Laramore, Indy             https://yandl.com
  • Iowa                       Flynn/Wright, Des Moines          http://www.flynnwright.com/work/
  • Kentucky               Scoppechio, Louisville                  http://scoppechio.com
  • Louisiana              Trumpet, New Orleans                 https://trumpetadvertising.com
  • Maine                    Via, Portland                                   http://theviaagency.com
  • Maryland              RP3, Bethesda                                 https://rp3agency.com
  • Massachusetts     The Fantastical, Boston                 https://thefantastical.com
  • Michigan              Doner, Southfield                           http://www.doner.com
  • Minnesota            Fallon, Minneapolis                       https://www.fallon.com
  • Mississippi           MWB, Jackson                                  https://mwb.com
  • Missouri               Barkley, KC                                       https://www.barkleyus.com
  • Nebraska              Bailey Lauerman, Omaha            https://www.baileylauerman.com
  • Nevada                  R&R, Las Vegas                               https://www.rrpartners.com
  • New Mexico         McKeeWallwork, Albuq.               https://www.mckeewallwork.com
  • New York               360i, NYC                                          https://360i.com
  • North Carolina     Baldwin&, Raleigh                         http://www.baldwinand.com
  • Ohio                       Brokaw, Cleveland                         https://www.brokaw.com
  • Oregon                 Wieden & Kennedy, Portland        https://www.wk.com
  • Pennsylvania (E)    Pavone, Harrisburg                     http://www.pavone.net
  • Pennsylvania (W)  Brunner, Pittsburgh                     https://brunnerworks.com
  • Rhode Island          NAIL                                                 http://www.nail.cc
  • South Carolina       EP, & Co. Greenville                      https://www.epandcompany.com
  • Tennessee                Tombras, Knoxville                     https://tombras.com
  • Texas                         McGarrah Jessee, Austin            https://www.mc-j.com
  • Virginia                     Martin Agency, Richmond         https://www.martinagency.com
  • Washington              copacino+fujikado, Seattle         https://www.copacino.com
  • Wisconsin                 C-K, Milwaukee                             https://c-k.com

The 5 key questions to ask on a job interview

Candidates can control their fate by asking these 5 questions

Ok, I’m fortunate to have learned a few things after setting up 5,000 interviews in my 28 Unknownyears as an agency headhunter.

For one, many employers don’t know how to interview talented candidates. For another, HR sticks too closely to specs and job descriptions. And most importantly, candidates are so eager to talk about themselves that they often fail to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions?

  1. What do you expect me to accomplish in this role?
  2. What current obstacles are there in the way to accomplishing these things?
  3. What are next steps in the hiring process?
  4. Is there anything else you or I need to know?
  5. When can I start? (assuming you want the job, ask for it)

Ask the first two questions early in the interview. Ask question 3 about midway through the interview. Save the last two for your “close.”

Make sure you take notes and write down the answers you get. You are now ready to respond intelligently to the employers’ questions framed in their own language & expectations. Control the interview, don’t let it control you.

Win One Good Account in 2018

GROW AGENCY GROW: The Launch

The hour is upon us. Grow Agency Grow is officially launched. Our website is live and the betting windows are open for business. Free pizzas to the first 100 members.

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2018: The Year of Grow Agency Grow

Welcome to New Business MasterClass

It’s a new year and everyone is back to square one in the ad agency world. New forecastscropped-GrowAgencyGrow_Gradient-1 to meet. New business to get. Do you have a plan for growth? Are you committed to growth? How are you preparing for growth in 2018? Or is this year just a wash, rinse and repeat of 2017?

I’m excited to announce a better way for your agency to approach new business in 2018 and beyond. Next week, Ed Klein and I are launching Grow Agency Grow, an ad agency gag-1new business training & coaching company.

Grow Agency Grow will provide on-demand new business training content through online video lessons. It is the ad agency equivalent of MasterClass.  The videos will be released next week to subscribers. We believe it is a more efficient, effective and modern way to gain winning new business knowledge than attending conferences, seminars, summits and other code names for boondoggle.

cropped-GrowAgencyGrow_Gradient-1Grow Agency Grow launches next week on LinkedIn, so keep a lookout …it will change your agency’s life.

 

What Agencies Can Learn from Warren Buffett about Pricing their Services

“You can determine the strength of a business over time by the amount of agony they go through in raising prices.”– Warren Buffett

UnknownI’ve been hearing a lot from my clients and friends in the agency business about the erosion of their margins for years now. What Mr. Buffett alludes to as it relates to agency services is that if you’re not creating real value for your clients, and figuring out how to charge for that value, you’re never going to grow your margins. Many are wondering how we got into this mess in the first place, and how we’re ever going to get out of it.

My friend and colleague Ed Klein, who’s sat on all three sides of the table as an Advertising Director and VP Marketing at Coca-Cola; Principal at Hauser Group and 22squared; and as a search consultant has some insight to help us continue the migration away from the hours based fee structure.

Ed: “Thanks Mike. There’s an evolution in our industry that’s taking place right now. It can become a revolution if everyone gets on board and starts changing the conversation 36918c8with the client community. The good news, clients are open to and wanting the change! They didn’t get into Marketing to manage an agency’s profitability. The only reason they ask to see proposals in the form of FTE’s, blended rates, overhead and profit is that we trained them to do it that way. Think about it, what other business opens the kimono so wide that their customers can calculate not only the costs behind your operation, but right down to the salary of many employees.”

 Palma: “How do we get out of this?”

 Ed: “The big headline is pricing deliverables based on the value created. I love the
Warren Buffett quote because the best agencies in the world right now are more profitable than at any time since the days of massive commissions on media. It’s because they understand that the value they’re creating isn’t related to their time, it’s directly correlated to the value they’re creating for their clients, and no one has trouble paying for that.”

 Palma: “How should agencies go about determining the value they’re creating, and how do they price from there?”

 Ed: “The best news in the movement to what economists refer to as value based pricing is that from the outset of any engagement, you’ll be discussing your client’s goals and objectives, not your overhead and profit margin. Agency’s need to understand the value they’re creating to set a price. That conversation will lead to a deepening of their understanding of their client’s business, and their client’s belief that goals and objectives will be aligned. From there, agencies will calculate their costs, (not for client consumption), to build Pricing proposals, (not fee proposals), that protect and grow their margins. There is an element of art as well as science in pricing, as we can all understand when we think a little harder about what we pay for clothes, food, and other professional services. The strongest proposals will always come with options, so that all negotiations will be based on the pricing structure you’ve presented, not the slashing of your FTE’s, overhead, blended rate and all the other drivers of your profit margins.”

images-1As Jack Torrance said to the bartender in The Shining, “Words of wisdom, Lloyd…words of wisdom.” By the way, Ed and I will be launching a major initiative next year, disrupting the new business model and revolutionizing the agency search process, so stay tuned to mikepalma.com.

 

What’s Wrong with Ad Agency New Business Conferences: 4 Things

Obsolete Boondoggles in the Modern Age of Training

 It’s late in the fourth quarter and the time when  agencies invite me to visit and take a look at their new business efforts from this past year. I run a diagnostic test that examines what works and what doesn’t at small-to-midsize independent agencies. This requires some painful Q&A.

The first question I ask the agency principal is “What did you do to win new business this year?”

The first answer I usually get is, “Well, we went to NY in the Spring for a new business conference.”

Me: “How was it?”

Them: “Well, we won’t be going back.”

I’ve heard this so many times over the past 6 or 7 years that I’ve lost count. Of course, I ask why; and the reasons are invariably the same.

  1. It’s expensive.  When you add airfare, hotels, NYC restaurants to a conference imagesregistration fee you’re making a minimum investment of $5k per key employee. It might be worth it if you know it worked. But…
  2. Disseminating the content is challenging. Assuming someone took great notes, it’s still difficult to capture all the elements necessary from a live setting. The learning resides with one or two agency people. Cascading the information accurately throughout the agency is a common complaint I hear.
  3. The content is dated and similar every year. For those few agencies that do go back a second time, they pretty much get the same old playbook with a new wrinkle Unknownhere or there. Chaucer said “There is nothing new under the sun.” Boy was he right
    about New Business Conferences.
  4. The content is not effective in the modern economy. The “big takeaway” at these conferences is that your agency needs to be a category specialist. It’s a round peg/round hole approach.  It was somewhat relevant in the awful and fear-driven economy of 2008-2011. But, it’s a weak application today in the booming, modern economy. You’re paying a ton of money for content that was born in a world prior to uber, AirBnB, Amazon and Facebook.

Please make it stop. There has to be a more cost-effective, internally efficient and fresher way to impact your agency’s business development program. There has to a better method led by proven coaches that actually won new business at an ad agency like yours. There will be…and just in time for 2018. Stay tuned to mikepalma.com

 

 

10 Regional Agencies That Sell Things

Remember selling? It’s gotten a bad reputation in the creative community

UnknownExcuse me, but I thought the purpose of advertising was to sell things. There’s a rumor out there that “people don’t want to be sold.” Don’t believe it. People want to buy. They want to be sold. Just ask any good salesperson.

That’s why people spend so much time online researching stuff: hotels, airfares, automobiles, clothing, food, beer, booze. And that’s just the essentials, I haven’t even mentioned the special interests: sports equipment, musical instruments, cigars, Bibles…people want to buy what they need and what they want. That’s why advertising exists.

In the rush to create content that “doesn’t sell,” we’ve lost our reason for being. When I 663id_146_044_w1600look at agencies for my reviews, the first question I ask is, “What do they sell?” When I look at creative people to recruit for a job, I ask the same question. And I’ve learned not to entirely trust the case studies and the portfolios.

As children, when asked what we wanted to be when we grew up — we likely answered “astronaut,” “baseball player,” “teacher,” “nurse.” As we grew up, the answers often changed to, “lawyer” or “doctor,” etc.. NOBODY said “I want to be a salesman!” But, almost everyone winds up being one; even if you are a lawyer or a doctor.

You don’t need me to tell you BBDO or Ogilvy sell things. But, if you’re an underdog/challenger brand requiring priority attention and service — please allow me to identify 10 regional agencies that actually sell things. These are the sleepers, the needles in the haystack:

SANTY  Scottsdale, AZ  Arizona was once the place where ad people went to die. Not so anymore. These guys are change-driven and help you manage change but they never lose sight of the prize — they sell.  What they sell: Snacks, Pizza, Ice Cream

BLUE SKY AGENCY  Atlanta, GA  This 25 year-old shop prides itself on being the go-to agency for growing Southern brands. But, they are all about the sale. What they sell: Hams, Braves tickets, Hotel rooms, Natural Gas

TOMBRAS GROUP  Knoxville, TN  No longer a “sleeper,” but I could not omit them. True, they connect data and creativity for business results, but if they didn’t sell things very well, that would just be another hollow agency tagline. What they sell: Beer, Baked Beans, Health club memberships, Cake, Insurance (Did I tell you I have the utmost respect for insurance salesmen?)

&DONOVAN  Greenville, SC  This agency takes hard-core sales to an art form (and a science experiment). They combine sales content with technology to form a method they call Contology. Sounds good, but “Can you sell me this pen?” as the Wolf of Wall Street said. The answer is yes. What they sell: Tacos, Beer, Cars (Did I tell you I also respect car salesmen?)

BRIGHT RED/TBWA  Tallahassee, FL  Speaking of “sell me this pen,” these folks actually do sell pens. Hey, if you can build a 160-person agency in Tallahassee and sell it to Omnicom, you can sell anything.  What they sell: Pens, Hotel rooms, Vacations, Burgers, Socks

FIZZ  Atlanta, GA  A real wildcard, they do Word-of-Mouth marketing. This is not to be confused with idle chatter. Their conversations sell. One-of-a-kind solution. When your advertising is not working, try this and count the money. Triple-digit ROI. What they sell: Beer, Milk, Energy drinks

quench  Harrisburg, PA  Nestled (or maybe Hersheyed) in the heart of America’s “snack belt,” these guys move food and beverages by the SKU off the shelf. You want to sell packaged goods? Check out this joint. What they sell: Tunafish, Beer, Iced Tea, Vegetables

SCOUT  Atlanta, GA  Recently acquired themselves, these guys put the “human” in humanizing your brand. And they get real humans to spend with brevity. No dog whistles here. What they sell: Bread, Carpet, Shrimp, Frozen seafood

ADMIRABLE DEVIL   Washington, DC  Some startups are more compelling than others. This one really grabbed my attention. What’s in a name? Everything. What does their name mean? That’s for you to figure out; but when you do it could change your life. What they sell: Apparel, Fishing tackle, Accessories

CUSTOM NYC  The only NYC agency to make the list. Why? They are different from any other agency I know. Why? They focus on complicated technology platform offerings and simplify the messages so businesses understand the value and benefit. The result? Companies buy.  What they sell:  Technology platforms

So, sell me this pen…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftFAbPnNYrg