Agencies Don't Have to Be Located on the Coasts to Thrive
It's a funny thing being a creative at an agency in the Midwest. Geography works against you. Clients and peers question your abilities, your client roster, your staff's credentials, and the number of direct flights to the nearest airport. Sometimes it's charming, often it's annoying, but it's always an incentive to work harder and do killer creative work, just to prove them wrong.
So, on behalf of all agencies nestled in the Midwest, and to the set the record straight, take note of five reasons not to overlook an agency just because they don't sit on either coast.
1. When you're reared in a place with a strong sense of community, collaboration isn't just a buzzword.
Collaboration is in our DNA. There's not an ounce of pretense in Midwestern values. We would never pretend to know a client's brand better than they know it themselves. We know the result is better when they have input, lots of it, and even better when they have a hand in creating it. Collaboration is about being a great listener, gleaning insights from conversations and observations, and taking the time to do the legwork. Research reports are important, but they're not everything. Good old-fashioned face time goes a long way.
2. As it turns out, quality of life really does affect the quality of work you do.
Creatives were priced out of Manhattan long ago. Brooklyn is nearing out-of-reach prices. Where to turn? Just drive west for about 10 to 20 hours. I'm a former New Yorker who returned to the Midwest for a little breathing room, a little padding in my bank account, and the opportunity to see a tree or two in my daily commute. I got a lot more. It's easier to get refreshed and find inspiration with more room, more money to travel, and more green space. There's amazing design and writing talent in the Midwest, and recruiting top talent to come here isn't a challenge. In our case, Pratt and Savannah College of Art and Design grads welcome the chance to work in a mid-sized city for an 80-person branding firm that's all about the work. And they've got great portfolios to prove it.
3. It's possible to be nice AND smart.
And competitive. And savvy. Even sassy. I once had a New York boss tell me, "Be careful about being too nice. People will think you're dumb." Or they might think I'm smart, and hardworking, and relatively nice. I'll die proving it's possible. The fact that we're nice doesn't mean we're not obsessive about following trends (a recent concern from a New York client). We're on top of what's current in every way. In fact, we help establish those trends. Being nice doesn't mean we can't be honest. We have strong points of view, and we're not afraid to share them. We just do it in an approachable way -- and that often commands instant respect from our clients.
4.The Midwestern work ethic isn't a myth.
We work until the work is done. Without pomp, without circumstance. Sometimes that's to prove we've got the chops to go up against New York, San Francisco or L.A. agencies. But mostly it's to prove it to ourselves. And we don't brag about it. We just move on to what's next.
5. Most of America doesn't live near New York or L.A.
We like to think that we've got a pretty good understanding of the masses who consume brands, mostly because we live around them and with them -- we are them (It doesn't hurt that our agency is located in the No. 1 test-market capital of the country either). A cross-section of today's consumers is always an arm's reach away. Plus, many of today's Fortune 500 companies aren't on the coasts either. They're here, in the middle of America, with us. And they don't want to travel far for good partnerships.
So, to the prospective clients of the world, we encourage you to judge Midwestern agencies on our work, our attitude, and our approach, not our proximity to the newest Momofuku or Standard hotel. Trust me, it will be worth your while.