On February 24, Adweek crowned this year’s top Global, U.S. and Breakthrough media agencies with the headline, “What Does It Take To Be One Of Adweek’s Media Agencies of the Year?” According to the subhead, “fearlessness was key” to winning. But as I thought about it, that struck me as a bit hollow. While it’s certainly advantageous to be brave in the media business, that alone couldn’t begin to explain the success of this year’s winners, or the hundreds of firms that were in consideration.
Fearlessness is vital to being a leader and remaining agile in a media environment that seems to change daily. But to build and maintain a media firm, an ad agency, a digital shop, or a brand with sustained excellence? That takes an honest, transparent understanding of who you are, an authentic willingness to change what’s not working, and complete fidelity to building a culture of safety, vulnerability, and purpose.
Not surprisingly, as I read the Adweek articles about Global Media Agency of the Year winner OMD, U.S. Media Agency of the Year winner Initiative, and Breakthrough Agency of the Year winner Essence, it was clear those three pillars form the foundation of each one of those firms. In large part, those three things are why these firms are excelling above thousands of others worldwide. But they also represent ways we can make seismic shifts in our own companies.
Initiative – U.S. Media Agency of the Year
According to the Adweek article, Initiative was circling the drain in 2016. Even CEO Matt Baxter admitted that, at the time, the firm had a dysfunctional culture, no real business proposition, and a brand that lacked any real definition. In 2017, revenue was down 3.6 percent and to survive Initiative needed to drastically change just about everything. And that’s what they did. They changed how they worked with clients. They improved how they dealt with their media partners. And, internally, they overhauled their entire client leadership team.