New Beginnings: Gotta Get That Trophy

The other day, the founder of a local advertising and design agency and I met for a gentlemen’s lunch. To the uninitiated, that’s when you knock back a few martinis with your host and wait until he’s in the bathroom, before you quietly go through his Rolodex and copy down the names and phone numbers of his clients.

No, that’s not true. I had that happen to me twice, and didn’t like it one bit when a couple of clients dropped us because of the “client wrassler.” I have too much integrity to pull a stunt like that. It’s nothing more than stealing. As they say, mama didn’t raise me that way.

The meeting in question was to exchange ideas on how to keep our respective shops in good standing with the local chamber of commerce and business community. It was a satisfying get together because, he is an old hand in the profession, and told me a few things I didn’t know. I came away appreciating his generosity and can’t wait to do the same for someone else.

One of the things I noticed was that he had a dozen awards or so in his lobby. Most were given because of professional excellence – some probably were incidentals. You know, runner-up in some obscure category. I asked him about whether the awards helped his business grow. The answer was compelling. He said some awards helped prospects to hire his agency because of curiosity.

But, he said trophies in and of themselves meant absolutely nothing if his work product was shoddy and unimaginative. He viewed awards as evidence of his agency’s effort to demonstrate how good it is.

“Do you know what your brand is?” he asked. “It’s giving a damn and making sure your client gets the best you have. Don’t look at the size of the account. Look at the trust that’s been placed in you.” That reminded me of something someone told me about knowing that the agency I own, stands for something excellent.

I was being told to approach my work “old school,” instead of frat guy digital. Don’t accumulate awards for the sake of acquiring them because when you really look at it, there are hundreds of categories you can enter and get an award for – since you are nominating yourself — the prize is hollow. After a while it looks like the agency’s only purpose is to acquire hardware. We’ve been nominated by third parties for stuff a few times, but we have actual no accumulation of hardware.

I have a nice glass craving received for “creative excellence.” The trophy was a result of peer recognition. To me, that is cool because it is the most valid stamp of approval.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

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