So This Guy Walks Into an Ad Agency

First Impressions Count

By Published on .

David Jenkins David Jenkins
Let me start out by saying that I am a rookie blogger and, amateur that I am, I am greatly looking forward to my new role on's Small Agency Diary. I must apologize in advance for any lack of blog etiquette.

By way of introduction, I thought I would first provide a little background on myself. Historically, my career has led me to the big cities. I worked for Ogilvy and Mather in three cities: Houston, San Francisco and New York; for Wieden & Kennedy in Portland; DDB in Chicago; and as an independent creative consultant in both New York and San Francisco.

Now, I work at tbd in Bend, Oregon. It is comprised of a great group of creative and strategic talent, and I am happy to be back home in the great state of Oregon.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with a few small agencies in an Anonymous Town. Coming from large markets, I found it interesting to observe the difference in how each agency presented itself and how my impressions were defined by what I saw.

First Impression
Visually, some of the spaces that I visited smacked of the dentist's office or perhaps an insurance company. The experiences were sometimes near painful: quiet and dull, with work that went with the aforementioned.

Here are just a few of my experiences:
  • Nobody home at the reception area.
  • Void of color on the walls. No visual stimuli.
  • No newspapers of the day or stimulating magazines to peruse while waiting for the receptionist to appear.
  • Some were stone silent. Not a creature was stirring.
  • A few seemed to be void of anyone enjoying work. No laughter. No discussion. No music.
  • Some had samples of work on the walls that were not good ideas.
It really brought the point home that every company has an opportunity with its space to convey a visual communications experience with impressions that linger. And those impressions should be compelling.

My experiences proved to me that the initial environment when first stepping foot into a small agency can spur questions like these from potential clients:
  • Will the people here be a good steward of my company's money?
  • Is this a nice place to work? Do the people that work here look at least halfway happy to be here?
  • Do these people create work that works?
  • Is this place an idea factory?
  • Do these people lead or follow?
  • How does this place make me feel?
Much has been written about how buildings look, function and affect the way people work and interact. There are many disciplines now devoted to creating and presenting the right kind of environment.

Last Impression
Then again, maybe a building is only as good as the people that it holds. I believe in the power of first impressions, but I also know that the impression that really lasts is good work.

A small agency creating memorable work with clients that brings success is the best impression possible.

Sure, an inspiring environment provides a conduit for the generation of good ideas and powerful work for your clients.

At the end of the day, the work comes first. No matter what a building says. No matter where a building is located. No matter where a client is located.

Your client's customers do not care what your agency looks like and where it is located. For them, ideas that engage are what make the first and last impression.
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