Was it luck? Not hardly.
As small business owners we often dream of landing that big International account, but rarely are we successful. Why? Most often because we assume it is out of our grasp and don’t even try; continuing to plod along without the big kahuna.
Not so the teams of Walton-Isaacson, Push Creative and Unity Media. Not unlike a seemingly impossible task granted by Donald Trump to his celebrity apprentices, the teams came together to create and present a winning campaign to market to the African-American Lexus audience scooping it out from under the prior big-named agency.
However, unlike Apprentice, egos were pushed aside to forge a cohesive unit that worked tirelessly over five weeks to develop a multi-tiered marketing plan. Walton Isaacson is a branding firm based in Beverly Hills and both Unity Media and Push Creative are located in New York. Lexus selected this unique partnership based on the reputations of the three companies which together have an innovative approach in developing lifestyle initiatives and integrating technology into their campaigns.
I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall observing a conversation between Anita Campbell and Rudy Gaskins, Creative Director of Push Creative as they talked about this exciting adventure. Listen to some of the questions and answers:
- Anita: How did all 3 firms get together?
Rudy: The idea for the partnership was initiated by Aaron Walton of Walton-Isaacson. Like the visionary agency leader he is, Aaron sought out the talent he believed would complement his agency and constitute the perfect team for Lexus’ needs. Naturally, once we all came together, Bob Tassie, Aaron and myself, it was a joint decision to commit the time and resources of our agencies to a rigorous process with no guaranteed outcome. Each company brought something different to the table.
- Anita: What did each bring to the table?
Rudy: Each of us offers a unique competency.
Push Creative — brand strategy and creative execution.
Bob Tassie’s Unity Media — extraordinary expertise in media buying for numerous marquee brands.
Walton Isaacson — leadership and extensive experience in event marketing on a global scale.
Once we were clear on how we fit together as a team we committed ourselves to working together and seeing the process through.
- Anita: How long did it take to work on the bid, and what was involved?
Rudy: The bid process was about 5 weeks. It involved immersing ourselves in the Lexus brand culture through studying and analyzing various levels of research, the competitive landscape and advertising trends. From there we established a definitive point of view about how to achieve the deep list of marketing objectives given us by Lexus. With the combined talents of the three agencies we developed print ads, billboards, radio spots and a consumer web site. We developed a vast series of community-based lifestyle events that allow the entrÃ©e of the Lexus brand into the desired market and finally, we closed the circle with a detailed media strategy.
- Anita: With partners on two coasts, how did you collaborate?
Rudy: We had team conference calls almost daily and, of course, many one-to-one calls between individual members managing various details. We also used Web technologies that allowed us to work from a common document and share large image files for review and editing. But we made a point on several occasions of coming together in person as a team so that we could build an authentic camaraderie. Our work process clicked right from the start and we could all see that we were a great team. There was never a point where something didn’t work that wasn’t part of the normal trial and error of any successful process.
- Anita: What size firms were you competing against? What were the deciding factors?
Rudy: We were competing against large traditional ad agencies that have all the bells and whistles, dozens of staff members, and huge monetary resources to throw at the pitch process. In the end, the deciding factors were that we developed a smart, hip and thoughtful approach to winning the hearts and minds of the target audience. We developed a multidimensional campaign with depth of thought and layered opportunities for the success of the brand. More importantly, we were able to articulate our point of view such that its value was recognized by Lexus.
- Anita: Do you see other small firms being able to do similar feats, and why or why not?
Rudy: Boutique agencies do it all the time to different degrees. However, ego and lack of maturity between agency heads can quickly derail the process and leave the client in a lurch. The combined experience of our agency leaders made the difference in that we were clear about the importance of establishing and fully supporting the lead agency as the guiding light — eliminating any confusion for us or the client. In order for boutique agencies to succeed in working together this way, they have to start with level headed leaders who see the big picture. They must be secure in their careers, committed to the collaborative process and committed to the success of the venture.
I was fascinated by this exchange because the story is so inspiring.
Now I’ve got a question for you: In your industry, what would be the equivalent to snagging up Lexus as your next best customer? Have you heard of any other David and Goliath stories that can inspire us to reach for the brass ring? Has there been an opportunity for you to bid on a large company but you shied away because you didn’t feel you could offer the same value as your larger competitors?