Growth from Within

E. Morris Communications Inc. gained market share in a less than stellar environment by turning to existing clients

seek out a partner. “[EMC] can pride itself on the fact that our financial systems allow us to track our financial position so we’re not spending money that’s not ours,” says Ernest L. Baker, senior vice-president and chief financial officer. “So when I looked at the situation and saw how much our revenues were cut, I wanted to make an equivalent cut in our expenses.” EMC was able to delay downsizing because it had enough retained earnings for at least six months, which was much more than the industry standard of two months.

At a time when many companies would have shut their door, Morris says, “That would have been the worst time to get out,” he says. “It would have meant getting out under stress and duress. [Instead], the first thing I thought about was how to replace this revenue as quickly as possible; second, to come up with a strategy to keep us afloat until we do; and third, to deal with the strategy so that we can survive it.”

Initially, the company planned to focus on attracting new business. But in the post 9-11 business downturn, Morris decided to grow organically and develop more business with existing clients, which turned out to be the right move during a troubled economy. EMC built on its working relationships with firms like Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, and American Family Insurance, which paid off. The company came back to life, not by looking to become the largest advertising agency, but the best. “I wanted an agency that focuses on creativity, but is also a well-run business that nurtures and respects its people,” says Morris.

At first, EMC only did creative compaigns for American Family Insurance, which included newspaper, magazine, outdoor, transit, and radio work, but more recently their duties have expanded to include media planning and placement. “The agency, and Gene, had extensive knowledge, skill, and experience in marketing to multicultural audiences across all media,” says Annette Knapstein, American Family Insurance’s director of integrated marketing communications. EMC’s American Family campaigns range from products, such as homeowners’ and auto insurance, to commemorative/event advertising that speaks to the African American, Asian, and Hispanic markets.

The “Powered By” Tyson Foods campaign is one of its creative standouts. A fully integrated marketing blitz, “Powered By” included public relations, advertising, TV, radio, sales promotion, and community relations outlets. “The concept behind it was based on the idea that protein itself gives you more energy,” explains Morris. “[Tyson is] the largest producer of protein, so one of our charges was to communicate that Tyson is not just chicken, but protein. The consumption of protein gives you the power to get through the day.”

Tyson is pleased with the campaign. “EMC is very well-grounded in the African American market and they worked on that for us. Everybody was in it from the beginning. [Gene] has been around the block a few times, so he has a wealth of experience,” explains Bob Corscadden, chief marketing officer for Tyson, which has been an EMC client

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