Surviving the Game

With battles for ad budgets more competitive than ever, African American agency CEOs rely on solid leadership to win

its bottom line by 23%. “The business that we won with State Farm and Chevrolet came through consultants that represented these brands and that were looking for minority advertising agencies,” says Robert V. Wingo, president and CEO. “We weren’t actively pursuing those businesses, but we were delighted when the opportunities presented themselves.”

In dealing with the search consultants from State Farm and Chevrolet, Wingo provided them with information about his agency’s capabilities. “You have to let potential clients know that you’re in the market and that you have the assets and disciplines in place to do the things that are needed,” he maintains. “These are brands that any agency worth its salt would love to have as part of its roster.”

Creative powerhouse GlobalHue (No. 1 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $720 million in billings) added Wal-Mart, Subway, Chrysler Financial, and Abbott Laboratories to its client portfolio. The top agency knocked out five multicultural and general market firms to consolidate the Verizon business. The firm added $160 million in new and existing accounts. To help handle the growth, Chairman and CEO Donald A, Coleman hired more than 100 new employees and expanded his New York office space from 12,000 to 40,000 square feet.

Even with GlobalHue’s recent resignation of the American Airlines business — an account the agency had handled successfully for seven years — Coleman remains optimistic. “We did well because we have a different business model than just a strictly African American consumer market model. So, I think the leadership of African American agencies has to be looked at to determine why they did good or bad,” he says. “In most cases they are running under the business model that [black agencies] established 30 years ago. You can’t use [that] business model and think it is going to be effective today. You have to evolve with the times.”

IDENTIFYING THE NEXT BIG WIN
At Carol H. Williams Advertising, securing the next big win is on the minds of staff members even when they’re not working. Although Williams’ agency has been doing creative for The Walt Disney Co. since 2005, it was personal trips to Disney World that sparked the idea for the television commercial Signs. That spot is now ranked by IAG Research and listed in Advertising Age as the No. 1 commercial among general market viewers for 2007: It shows the rapture of an African American boy who races home after a trip to a Disney theme park and uses sign language to share the experience with his hearing-impaired grandfather.

“We developed six or seven commercials which we then exposed to Disney, and that’s the one they bought,” Williams says. “And it was great because it really lets you know that African American agency owners can dive into a commercial through African American eyes and still impact the mass market, which this commercial did.”

In addition to expanding work with Disney, Carol H. Williams Advertising also landed Coca-Cola Co. and Full Throttle, and is currently negotiating a contract with GlaxoSmithKline. She identified these

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