I guess I’ve always seen the good in advertising. When I was young, my grandfather would show me the latest ads he helped create at his agency, Spire Advertising. He taught me at an early age to appreciate the craft, to understand the importance of the written word, how to connect with people, and to sell products that make people happy. And, at nine years old, I proclaimed that I would be an advertising executive someday. Even then, I had dreams of being at the helm of my own advertising agency.
I was 24 years into my career when a recruiter called me about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a small, Twin Cities-based agency, taking over as successor to the agency CEO upon his retirement. I wasn’t given the agency’s name, so for the following three weeks, I set out to research all possibilities based on her clues. I put together a list and ordered it by preference, and where I believed there was the greatest opportunity for fit and success. Preston Kelly was at the very top.
As an outsider, I had always admired Preston Kelly. The agency’s work was memorable and drew me in with how fun, vibrant and inviting it was. The other really rather peculiar thing was that I had never heard anything negative about Preston Kelly. In an industry that can be cynical and downright cutting at times, everything I had heard was about how well they treated people, how healthy the culture was, and most amazingly of all, that it was actually devoid of pushy egos. Could it be too good to be true?
What I saw for myself confirmed the rumors. And actually, my expectations were exceeded. For a small, humble shop, Preston Kelly had a sophistication of process, digital expertise and strategic thinking – by everyone, not just those labeled “strategists” – that you’d expect to find in big, glossy agencies. And somehow, there was no elbowing others out of the way to make way for individual success. People worked hard for one another, and for their clients. When I spoke to Chuck Kelly and Chris Preston about the right fit being someone who had a diversity of and openness to ideas, but was like-minded in demeanor, especially with respect for others and shared optimism, I knew it was the agency I was meant to join.
Spoiler alert: I accepted the job. And I realized I had only scratched the surface of what I knew about Preston Kelly. The heart, expertise and goodness of the agency truly sets it apart. Staff deeply care about the success of their clients, and solving their business problems, before they think about winning creative awards. Whether old or young, there’s a maturity about the way every person here approaches the work. That’s in part why the agency’s new positioning, “Good Wins,” is so fitting.
It’s important to note that Good Wins wasn’t pulled out of a hat. We undertook an extensive 2-year process to get here, making sure we were being true to ourselves and evolving culturally with the times. The theme that bubbled up most prominently was that of positivity. The way we work, the creative you see, the interactions with clients, through all of it runs a thread of positivity. It’s just one of the four COOP values that came from our deep dive, the others being courage, optimism and openness.
Those values are lived every day. They inform how we hire, what standards we hold our people to. We give surprise rewards to agency staff for exhibiting these values to reinforce how important they are to us. The values all ladder up to our renewed purpose, which is to make brands positively matter by creating meaningful experiences that are welcome in people’s lives.
Preston Kelly has an exciting future on the horizon. This year, we plan to release the Good Brands Index, a quantitative study that will help companies understand why and how “good brands” win in the marketplace. The study will identify key attributes of a good brand in order to uncover advantages and vulnerabilities and will analyze three components of good brands: performance, personality, and purpose. We’re reconfiguring our physical space in order to best fuel a positive, collaborative working environment. And we’re finding more ways to recognize and reward standout talent. In a world that can often seem negative, we are pushing brands, and ourselves, to play a role in making it a more positive place. We believe that emotional connection and purpose are key ingredients. And when you sprinkle that with strategic and digital expertise, trusting relationships with clients, and a collective mission to do good, anything is possible.