At the time, I was acutely aware I was not joining a traditional advertising agency. I had worked at one of the "big" creative agencies during my time in college and this was not it. There was no ball pit. There were no dogs walking around. That didn't mean fun was not happening here. It was a determined and focused fun.
A fun that comes when you realize your clients rely on you not to just make some pretty ads that make everyone feel good and may win an award, but rely on you as a strategic partner to guide their organization and be in the trenches with them as they face heated competition.
What I didn't realize then, but it became evident shortly after, is that I did not join an advertising agency at all. Sure, we were performing "advertising" tasks for many of our clients, but for others we were having different conversations and we weren't just pitching ad campaigns to new prospects. We had one of the largest in-house video production teams in the Southwest; an experienced and highly skilled digital team focused on building unique owned experiences that captured peoples' time; and a dynamic creative team that was extremely strategic in pairing audience needs with business needs to develop long-term influence.
Since 1999, Ackerman McQueen had been thinking differently about how brands needed to communicate. They spearheaded the concept of branded news or as many of you know it, brand journalism. In my early days at the firm, we spoke about this concept while in certain rooms and at other times reverted back to advertising agency concepts. As our team continued to discuss the industry, the consumer, what our clients really needed, the technology trends and adoption, we realized we needed to finally embrace who we were.
The media landscape had changed and the factual evidence was clear: people really don't like interruptive advertising. They were watching less live television than ever before, they developed blindness to the corners of their screens, they were willing to pay money for content in lieu of watching ads, and they were downloading ad blocking software to make sure they wouldn't have to spend any time with ads. Now this is not to say advertising doesn't work or shouldn't be used, but should you bank your whole communications strategy on interrupting people from what they want to watch? Or should you become what they want to watch?
What value are you bringing to the audiences that matter most to your brand? Are you simply interrupting or are you creating a relationship where you inform them and entertain them, and in return, they give you their most valuable and fleeting asset, time.
Six years before YouTube, Ackerman McQueen became pioneers in streaming video, launching the first news program to stream online on behalf of a single brand. Utilizing our proprietary technology platform, we bypassed the traditional media and connected our client with the audiences they were focused on influencing. Nearly 20 years later, we have become the leading experts on transforming brands into media companies. Today, we embrace the core belief that all brands must become media companies.
No two "brands as media company" structures look the same, create the same content or look to influence the same audience. It's through strategic and creative development that we understand where our clients are looking to go, the narrative they must own in the marketplace, the content they must develop to influence, and the structure that will work best within or outside their organization. We also figure out how we can turn these new media companies from cost centers to profit centers.
Whether we are transforming an entire brand into a media company or building out Brand Studios, Brand Intelligence Centers, Brand Newsrooms, or Brand Publishing arms, we are focused on executing communication strategies that modernize and providing lasting influence for our clients.
I may still miss my ocean view at times, but I certainly don’t regret taking the leap into this fascinating and always evolving industry. At this “advertising agency,” I never know where my day will go, who we will be thinking and creating for, and how we will help them win.