Our Offices in Richmond and NYC Get a New Colleague in London

June 12, 2014

It's official. We're excited to announce our first international office in one of the greatest cities in the world, London.

Official press release below:

The Martin Agency Opens London Office: Agency’s First Office Outside the U.S. RICHMOND, VA. June 12, 2014 — The Martin Agency announced today it is officially becoming a part of the London advertising community and is moving into 3 Grosvenor Gardens this month.

“Our London office is part of our strategic growth plan, and we’re delighted that it represents our first expansion into international markets,” said Matt Williams, CEO of The Martin Agency. “Several factors combine to make the timing right for our entry into the London market. We have an exciting new global assignment for a client we hope to be able to announce soon and having a London office will help in our management of both our ManpowerGroup and Education First accounts. We also have several projects in the new business pipeline that have the potential to help us grow this new office quickly.”

The agency is currently in discussions with top candidates for our executive creative director and other management team members to lead the London office. Ian Davidson, Martin’s Managing Director – International, and longtime London resident, will lead the office in the meantime. Additionally, the agency will be relocating award-winning creative director Brian Williams from the Richmond headquarters to London.

“London is obviously one of the world’s great creative markets,” said Joe Alexander, chief creative officer for The Martin Agency. “Personally, I’ve long admired the care and craftsmanship that goes into every aspect of the work here. The design, the type, the copy, the art. It’s something we’ve always prided ourselves on, as well. But the proof will be in the size of our ideas and the quality of the execution. Those are the only things that matter.”

The office address is 3 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0BD and will accommodate about 15-20 employees.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Move Over Architects, Today’s Brands Need The Brain of a Biologist

March 14, 2014

My oldest brother is an architect. Early in my career, he would smirk when I talked about brands as if they were buildings – that classic Parthenon-looking thing with a foundation, pillars and such. He gets the metaphor of course – the idea of a solid base, structural integrity, and a need for a unifying design idea. He can even empathize with the struggles we have as “brand architects” in trying to bring clients around to our vision of what this creation of ours could be.

What puzzles him is what happens after the building is done. He gets to walk away. His work is done. The building is finished and can only be changed through demolition or massively expensive remodels. Oh sure, you can make some superficial changes after the fact. Alter the paint scheme or swap out the window coverings, but think about it: Can you grow the building? Can you move it if there is a better opportunity elsewhere? Can you protect it if the neighborhood goes south? What my brother found most bizarre was that the analogy was in direct opposition to everything I had ever talked about when we discussed my favorite clients and the brands I respected most. The problem with using a building as our metaphor is that it is a static, inert object with limited growth potential and almost no ability to adapt.

My view of most brand architectures is probably considered heretical because I believe they do more harm than good.

Here are some reasons why:
1. Like a drug, they are addictive and while at first they might make us feel powerful and euphoric, will ultimately lead to our demise. We become dependent upon them and soon the drug is in control. I have seen great ideas killed because the concept doesn’t have a place in the structure. It is not that the idea violates the brand values, it is just that no one ever thought about it that way before and so a brilliant and potentially effective concept dies due to a lack of imagination and creative freedom.

2. Brand architectures are fool’s gold. They trick us into thinking we have actually created something. In reality they are paper tigers into which we somehow invest a false sense of accomplishment and completeness.

3. As soon as the building is finished it starts to decay. Our function, our goal, is to guide and grow something much more organic, a brand that can mutate with a better future than being knocked down by a wrecking ball.

4. We need to stop kidding ourselves into thinking anything we do can be as rigid or stable as a building ¬– it implies that we can relax and trust in the structure. Our goal should be instability because instability equals nimbleness.

5. Even the greatest, most enduring buildings have one fatal flaw. People have to go to the building; the building can’t go to the people. The old metaphor worked when brands were in control and it was a one-way relationship. The world just doesn’t work that way anymore; it is too fluid.

The best strategists I know operate like biologists and environmental scientists. They bristle at being forced to operate in an engineer’s world. They can’t afford a static and myopic view of the world because the interrelations of ecosystems, survival of the fittest and adaptation are what really matter. Resilient brands are living things, not static, dead buildings.

Being a good biologist requires some important traits. First, they are curious, looking for linkages between things that on the surface do not seem entwined. Looking for why things are the way they are, how things can be manipulated, why some things thrive and others die.

Second, they are comfortable with chaos. They know that in a complex system it is impossible to predict what will happen next. Externalities, strange attractors, mutations and migrations all impact the success or failure of an organism in any environment.

They understand that things at a microscopic level can have mass impact, and how global shifts will have an effect on the smallest organism, how macro- and microelements interact. Strategists who fall in love with tactics don’t see the ice caps melting and those living in the clouds don’t see the bacterial infection killing the trees. We need to know what is ailing our brands and what makes them great, but we also need to step back and see the bigger picture.

Finally, biologists worship at the altar of adaptation. They know that adaption never stops. All strategists who are halfway decent at their jobs never stop watching, digging, investigating and looking for clues. The job doesn’t end once the brief is delivered, but all too often that is the perception and planners are faced with the daunting task of tearing down a structure they helped build. Worse still is the idea that once the strategy is set, the planning job is complete. Nothing is further from the truth – the hard work for the strategist has just begun.

Our goal for brands is that they become successful species propagating like crazy, spreading seeds across a wide swath of geographies by adapting to new environments. Like humans, cockroaches and weeds.

The big advantage brand builders have over biologists is that we get to create and modify our organisms while they tend be observers. It is this act of creation and, more specifically what we create, that most concerns me.

Look, I can knock out a brand architecture with the best of them, and I know they serve a purpose for getting everyone on the same page and cataloging important aspects of what the company or brand is all about TODAY. They keep people from drifting off into territories where the brand can’t survive. However, in the wrong hands, they are deadly. They become an inviolate, unwieldy, dumping ground for everything anybody wants to say about the brand, and then become, at best, useless. At worst, they become a checklist for creative and then the well-intentioned structure is downright damaging.

A more organic model is one based on a single core belief at the cellular level that can guide decisions as the need to make those decisions arises – an internal guiding spirit, not an immutable structure.

At Martin, we spend a lot of time understanding the nucleus of a brand and use that to determine what we think the brand should look like in the future. It is a loose and open-ended construct that looks like something you’d see in a textbook on cellular biology (by the way, so does Sinek’s golden circle).

This is not so much about swapping one metaphor for another as it is a caution about becoming a slave to them. We need to continue to build stuff, we just have to make sure we’re building launch pads and not prisons. We should keep it simple, and then start monitoring our environments. Look out for things that are altering the ecosystem around us – there could be new competitors for scarce resources, changes that create new threats and opportunities. We have to be ready to move, adapt and mutate or risk extinction.

— David Griffith, SVP/Group Planning Director

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Creativity Innovators of the Year: The Martin Agency

January 15, 2014

Creativity Innovators of the Year: The Martin Agency

Citing work for GEICO, Moen, Benjamin Moore and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Creativity named us to their Innovators of the Year list. We are thrilled to be included amongst the best in the world and can't wait to see what 2014 holds.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Jeff MacDonald Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30

January 06, 2014

Just this week, one of our creative technologists was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list. We're proud. Though honestly, for a self-proclaimed geek who grew up with a petri dish farm for his science experiments, we expected nothing less.

Check out the rest of the list.

Jeff MacDonald (right) with fellow Richmonder, Charles Merritt, who was also named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 List.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Hump Day Named One of Best Ads of 2013

December 20, 2013

Both Adweek and Entertainment Weekly included the GEICO spot among their picks for top ads of 2013. In the words of Caleb the Camel, "whoop whoop."

Posted By: The Martin Agency

JFK: An Idea Lives On

November 18, 2013

While many see November 22, 1963 as the end of John F. Kennedy’s life, we see it differently. His ideas live on. They live on in people, places and actions. The live on in theater, in poetry and in the ideals he set as President. And now, they will live on AnIdeaLivesOn.org. Here you will find stories of how JFK lives on today — how even 50 years later, he is still very much a fabric of everyday American life and his impact is still being felt.

That said, we need your input. Submit your story of how JFK lives on today or how he has inspired you. Once we clear the content, you will be added to the bigger story, becoming part of JFK's living and evolving legacy.

For more info, visit the site or view the article in the Associated Press.

Posted By: The Martin Agency