Happy Glue Year from a Top 20 Ad Agency

 
Glue has just been recognized as one of the top 20 best advertising agencies in New York. That’s 20 out of a starting field of 1,949 contenders! Yes, there are a lot of agencies for clients to choose from, especially here in the big city.
 
The #1 reason we were selected is a “history of delighted customers and outstanding service”. Ironically, we had our noses to the grindstone so much to meet client needs that we almost missed it. Friends in our network shared the good news with us.
 
In less than 3 years, Glue has met many, but not all of the goals we set from the start. Indeed, getting to where we are today has not come without a few scrapes and bruises. Despite our deep, shared experience as leaders at some of the industry’s largest shops, there were a few gaps in our expertise. For example:
 
  • We needed to become digital and social media experts at lightning speed. At the big shops we were never asked to work in areas outside of our sweet spots. Silos be damned: our clients needed us to be experts in every channel. We had to grow unused parts of our brains quickly to truly become a full-service agency offering research, strategy, branding, messaging, media, and creative across all print, broadcast, and digital channels.
  • Not everyone who is successful in a large agency can adjust to a model where projects are owned from end to end. We’ve had some ups and downs as we learned that lesson. Over time, we’ve had to refine our hiring and training practices.
  • Operations! We have new appreciation for the work that HR, finance, and office services departments perform at the big shops. As we are committed to keeping Glue lean, these are perhaps our greatest areas of growth! Glue leadership and staff have had an opportunity to stretch and grow by taking on a myriad of these responsibilities.
Glue has always been a different kind of agency; we really do believe that different is better. With leadership that comes from the big conglomerate agency and Fortune 100 corporate worlds, we’ve created a streamlined model that keeps what works and eliminates what doesn’t. To that end, we’ve left behind some big-agency tropes such as bloated teams, rounds of rework, strategic disconnects, and cost over-runs. 
 
Hallmarks of Glue are an entrepreneurial spirit, 24/7 responsiveness, and a passion for greatness, both strategically and creatively. We like that the #1 criteria for this honor is delighted customers, because just ‘happy clients’ is not enough for us. We want those who partner with us to believe that no other agency experience could compare to working with Glue.
 
Our secret sauce is talent that’s hand-picked by hands-on founding partners who make sure our people are not only the best in the industry, but continue to grow with us. And that at least one of us contributes to every strategic recommendation and tactical deliverable–before it goes out the door. 
 
We started our journey with our existing life sciences network, serving the needs of professional and managed markets clients. But given our deep consumer roots (both of us got our start in the consumer world) we have spread our wings into the CPG space, as well as some areas we never dreamed of working in.
 
We are truly excited by this recognition. It confirms that we are doing many of the right things, and that we should build on this momentum. For those whom we service, there is no other option. Glue is Glue because those who work here love what they do. And because we love advertising, building brands, and giving clients our all every day. That is who we are. Thank you for this recognition that Glue standards are not the norm. 
 
But wait. There’s more! If you haven’t seen it, please take a moment to click through to our first animation of the year. It’s our way of inviting you to join us in 2017. (If you haven’t already.)
 
CLICK ON THE PHOTO ABOVE!

Online Lead Generation

k11528571Generating consumer awareness, demand and trial are fundamental to the viability of any business model, and the growth of any brand. In the old days – which was not so long ago at all – marketers achieved these objectives by choosing between mass or direct response advertising, or in some cases, integrating a combination of the two. With the analytics now available, lead generation using on-line tools is another option worthy of consideration. At Glue, we’re seeing a lot of early success with this approach because, in our opinion, it offers real advantages over what might be called “the tried and true.”

  1. Cost effectiveness: Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars to find and educate consumers about your product or service via TV and print, you can accomplish the same objectives via online lead generation for $5-10K a month. Besides being far more cost-effective than mass advertising, it’s also easier to measure ROI, since changes in behavior can be directly linked to the stimuli that produced them.
  2. Readiness to buy: Perhaps the most salient reason to consider online lead generation is that it delivers highly qualified leads more consistently than any other channel. Through sophisticated “listening techniques”, marketers can identify consumers who express an immediate need for their products or services. And online segmentation analytics can be used to reveal consumers predisposed to using a brand through behavior, specifically their use of “like products,”; brands that appeal to audiences with the same attitudinal or behavioral characteristics.
  3. Competitive advantage: Finally, when consumers publicly express dissatisfaction with a competitive product, marketers can present their product as a solution that resolves those complaints, customized according to how the specific need raised.

As awareness of these types of interventions grows, along with their highly attractive cost-benefit ratios, you have to wonder what marketer can afford to sit on the sidelines when it comes to making online lead generation part of the marketing mix.

Surviving (and Even Thriving) without a Paycheck

harvard_club_logo

September 22, 2015

nhf_leadershipWhen talking about business success, people often say that “it’s all about who you know.” I would change that to — “it’s all about the friendships you make.” For me, this slightly revised version of an old expression, which sounds inherently personal, is personal. But it applies to business too.

During these past two years of entrepreneurship, there are many times I have needed help, advice or simply to bounce an idea off of someone whose opinion I value. When I was given the opportunity to speak at the Harvard Club on the topic of entrepreneurship, I decided that even better than hearing from me would be for the audience to hear from some of my trusted advisors.

Putting this panel together is based on my belief that the way you survive (and even thrive) without a paycheck is by having a network of people willing to take the time to invest in your success, just because they care about whether you succeed.

So on October 26, I’m giving an audience the opportunity to ask questions of three people who have given me so many thoughtful answers over so many years.

Cindy Machles

Cindy Machles is CEO and co-founder of Glue, a boutique advertising agency in the Chelsea section of New York City. Leveraging her 25 years of experience running and starting companies for WPP, she, along with her business partner Alan Rothenberg, streamlined the agency model, incorporating what works from the big conglomerate world and eliminating what doesn’t. As a result, Glue clients get a hands-on, resource-rich experience that is strong on strategy, innovation and creativity, without the churn and waste that increase costs.

Cindy began her career on the client side in packaged goods at Clorox and continued it at Johnson & Johnson, giving her the solid foundation in marketing fundamentals that benefits Glue clients today. She also launched and supported products in Europe, Asia, Canada and Latin America, which enables her to bring a very important global perspective to the table.

Cindy has always had P&L responsibility. When she became an entrepreneur, she quickly learned that managing cash flow was the even bigger challenge.

Cindy has an MBA in marketing and finance from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a B.S. summa cum laude in journalism and economics from Boston University’s School of Public Communications. She is also an active member of the NHF Business Council.

Gerald Mosely

Gerald Mosely, PhD, is the Principal and Founder of CP&P Development, a leadership development and strategy firm that assists corporate leaders and teams in achieving their business objectives. Gerald and CP&P focus on the people-oriented aspects of commercial success, with a particular emphasis on organizational health. Before founding CP&P, Gerald rose through the ranks of Corporate America. His career at SmithKlineBeecham, which became GlaxoSmithKline, took him from the lab to sales to US and Global Marketing positions to Country Manager of Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei. When he returned to the US, he assumed the role of one of two National Sales Vice Presidents, which gave him responsibility for delivering against sales goals in the Western half of the country. Gerald then followed one of his mentors to become General Manager of Global Anesthesia for Baxter. By the time he opted for entrepreneurship, he had led organizations of more than 2,000 people. Gerald’s people skills, charisma and inherent ability to develop others were the basis for a chapter in executive coach Karol Wasylyshyn’s book, ‘Destined to Lead’. Relevant to the panel is that – using a pseudonym – Karol writes about the courage behind Gerald’s decision to strike out on his own.

Gerald has a B.S. in Biology from Loma Linda University and a PhD in pathology and tumor immunology from the University of Washington.

Tracy Schefler

Tracy Schefler and her staff serve as carve-out accountants to companies and as business managers for high net worth individuals. Tracy’s business model gives her clients access to premiere bookkeeping, CFO services and everything in between, as often as and exactly when they need them.

Tracy often calls herself “the accidental entrepreneur”. After a career that took her from Big 4 Public Accounting to the controllership of New Line Cinema, she decided to leave the corporate world so that she could dedicate herself to her family. When she re-entered the workforce as a company founder, she sourced her first client from Craigslist. Since that time, through networking and referrals, she has built an enviable and eclectic roster that includes advertising agencies, law firms, an organic farm, fashion designers and some of New York’s wealthiest families.

Tracy continually confronts the high-class entrepreneurial problem of how to grow in response to demand without sacrificing quality.

Tracy is a QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor and a CPA, who earned her accounting degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mark Sladkus

Mark Sladkus is the Founder and President of Red Lighthouse Investment Management, a fee-only registered investment advisory firm in New York City. Red Lighthouse focuses on asset allocation and provides structured portfolio management to its clients.

Prior to Red Lighthouse, Mark served as the head of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI). In this capacity, Mark created the world’s first invest-able emerging market index and led the effort to create the first global style indices, which partitioned the world’s developed and emerging markets into “value” and “growth” indices. At MSCI, he acted as the chair of the index committee, the group responsible for selecting which securities enter and exit the MSCI family of indices (including the well-known EAFE, EM, and ACWI Indices.)

Mark’s unique expertise in creating and maintaining indices provided the inspiration for his firm and continue to be the principles upon which it is based.

Mark is a recognized speaker at investment conferences around the world and was the 2008 recipient of the William F. Sharpe Lifetime Indexing Achievement Award. Mark has an MBA in finance from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a B.S. in economics from Cornell University.

An Innovative Approach to the Agency Model

business-model-innovationI just returned from a trip to my alma mater, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where I participated in a day-long management conference. One of the sessions I attended focused on how to create and implement innovation within, and outside of companies. It was led by a panel who kicked off the discussion with some back and forth about how to recognize innovation. The consensus was that innovation occurs when additions or subtractions are made to products or processes that bring meaningful value to employee interactions or customer experiences.

At Glue, we’ve always believed that our agency was different. But at that moment, by this definition, it became clear that Glue is also an innovation.

Alan and I have purposely taken the traditional agency model and changed it. We’ve eliminated what we know doesn’t work for clients and added back the essential ingredients that were missing. I suppose it should be no great surprise that innovation comes not from the desire to innovate, but in response to an unmet need.

Here’s are just some of the ways that Glue is innovative:

  • We have a hands-on culture. There are no excess layers.  We have no employees in senior roles––or any roles for that matter––who don’t work directly on client business. Anyone who hires us gets the benefit of our years of experience day in and day out. We don’t ask clients to pay for high-priced management they never see. Instead, we get deeply engaged in their critical strategic and creative issues from the start. We build brands alongside those we work with––and for.
  • The talent we can deploy is virtually unlimited. Because of our partnership with the lab and our network of experts, we have highly experienced teams at the ready. This is an on-demand, not a freelance model. The lab––our studio production partner––has animators, retouchers, videographers, digital strategists and developers who work full-time as an extension of the Glue team.  When we have a need, particularly in the digital development area, which many agencies outsource, we can turn to our right or left and find those people sitting right beside us. Similarly, our network gives us a whole host of entrepreneurially-minded sister agencies in areas such as access, PR, medical education, market research and digital and broadcast media.  Most of their leaders, like us, left big conglomerates because as they rose through the ranks, they became bogged down with operational responsibility and further and further removed from what they loved to do.
  • We are strong on strategy, creativity and execution. The reason is we don’t have mid-level employees. Our lead account and creative people are all senior, with a minimum of 10 years of experience. They are supported by agency producers––not junior-level account people––whose job is to flawlessly implement the work. With this structure, we have the right skills in the right places and an easy, effective communication flow both within our organization and back out to our clients. Our expertise at the top eliminates strategic and creative disconnects along with rounds of changes that often occur when too many of those involved are learning the ropes.  And our backbone is a group whose priority is to ensure that creative briefs, projects briefs, timelines, estimates, financial reconciliations, client changes and editorial oversight all get the attention that they deserve.

Does this sound innovative to you? To me, it just sounds sensible. But perhaps what I learned this past week is that Alan and I have been selling what we’ve created a bit too short.

Global Branding

product_image_114_0_28_17_44_38-80x80While global branding is commonplace in pharmaceutical marketing today, that wasn’t the case when I started BrandEdge in 2003. At that time, the industry had embraced the notion that a global trademark and logo were desirable, but not much more. We’ve come a long way, but I would argue, not far enough.

At most companies, global branding now also includes a universal positioning; branding elements with a common look and feel, and an advertising campaign that is fundamentally the same in key markets around the world. Often the lead agency, usually out of New York or London, also develops a few core pieces. This package is handed off to local affiliates and their agencies, along with a brand book. At that point, adaptation and translation begin – and I would argue, at some point very soon thereafter, the whole process is at risk of going off the rails.

The reason is – local marketers want to have more control over local marketing than global branding affords them and local agencies need to do more than true adaptation and translation in order to stay in business.

While I know this is going to be controversial (or maybe sensible for those who have lived through the global branding process), I am proposing a whole new model. This one is borrowed from the consumer marketing world where, in my opinion, many of the best models originate.

I am proposing that:

  1. Global branding is truly developed by a global team – from the start. There would still be a lead agency – likely New York or London – but the decision-makers would be a core group that is multi-cultural and multi-lingual. This would ensure that very little adaptation is needed and that translation issues are averted upfront. Importantly, legal/regulatory differences by country that are unique to the pharma world would be considered at this point and factored in.
  2. Universal insights are sought, using market research that goes beyond the U.S. and 4-5 European markets. The good news is that social intelligence gathering that mines the digital landscape can deliver robust insights into as many countries as desired for a fraction of what is spent on qualitative research today. It is even affordable as an add-on, so that the large countries can still have the benefit of hearing from potential customer first-hand and digital can fill in the rest.
  3. Adaptation and translation are done in a central place rather than in the local offices of a large conglomerate. This requires a production studio overseen by a few senior multi-lingual agency people and a corporate commitment to spend enough money upfront to make sure that the core ideas developed are right, so that what is needed on the back-end is minimal and turnkey.

I truly believe this process puts the emphasis where it should be – on strategic rigor, universal insights and the development of creative and global resonance.  Admittedly, it will require spending more upfront for global team meetings and research that has more breadth. But more importantly, it will minimize costly and extensive re-work on the back end under the guise of adaptation and translation, which will quickly dilute the integrity of what originally was intended to be a global brand.