Motors, Procter & Gamble, Coors Light, Allstate, Kmart, Washington Mutual, Visa, and Crown Royal. In the past three years, the number of employees has increased by more than 250%, from 38 in 2001 to 135 today. And gross billings have surged by an eye-popping 130.7%, from $130 million in 2002 to $300 million in 2003. Due to CHW’s expansion in billings, the firm is gaining on GlobalHue, which posted gross billings of $325 million, for the top spot on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list. This stellar performance has earned CHW the distinction of being named BE’S Advertising Agency of the Year — the second such kudo bestowed upon the firm in the past five years.
PASSION PRODUCES PROFITS
“I’m very good at what I do,” Williams states matter-of-factly. “And I don’t do it for the money. I really love it. I really love to problem solve. I really love the balance of science and art, understanding marketing strategies, helping to find emerging markets. To see results in the marketplace is like slam dunking a basketball. It’s the orgasm; it’s joy.”
Her magic is that she’s been able to share an infectious joy with others around her — mainly her employees, whom she considers brilliant. Recognizing weak areas and filling them with a talented, courageous professional is important, says Williams. How does one determine courage in an applicant? “Courage begins with being ok with who you are,” she explains. “I look for people who will take ownership in the agency. They look at this product as their product. The most important thing I give these people is their freedom.”
Buchanan echoes her sentiments. When Williams recruited him just under a year ago, her pitch was: “Wanna have some fun?” He adds: “Passion is the number one thing. You have to really love it. We look for people who are entrepreneurial. If they weren’t doing this, they could be really good doing it somewhere else on their own.”
The firm’s palpable energy has touched her clients as well. Says James Stengel, global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, “She is a charismatic leader. The character of [her office], the feel, the spirit. The whole culture blew me away while I was there. There’s clearly a high level of energy and engagement and rapport and harmony. It’s what you need in an agency to deliver outstanding work.”
SLAM-DUNKING THE COMPETITION
Williams has the ability to excite clients by developing campaigns that resonate with consumers. In fact, Williams has a professional history of slam-dunking the competition. As a new entrant to the field of advertising with Leo Burnett in the 1970s, she gave birth to the endearing and very successful Pillsbury Dough Boy character with the catchy phrase, “Say hello to poppin’ fresh dough.” As an associate creative director, also at Leo Burnett, she developed another iconic slogan: “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” It revived the dying Secret antiperspirant brand from a No. 9 position in the market to No. 1 within seven months. “That line is