The Native Society Interviews CEO Matt Williams

May 29, 2015

29 May 2015, Q&A for The Native Society

How did you get into the Advertising industry?

Pure nepotism. My dad was a very senior client, so I was around advertising all the time growing up. I wasn't drawn to the client side but all his agency friends were fun and smart and seemed to like their jobs. So he got me an interview with one of his company's ad agencies. Shocker--the client's kid got a job. I loved it and two years later moved to Richmond to work at Martin where, happily, my Dad has never been a client. That was 23 years ago.

Tell us about The Martin Agency. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

The idea began 50 years ago when our founder, David Martin, set out to prove that an ad agency could do great work outside of NY, Chicago or LA.

Our vision:

Be one of the top 3 creative agencies in the world--do work that grows our clients' businesses, impacts culture and is recognized in our industry.

Build a global presence--we opened an office in London last year and want to expand into Asia and South America soon. To attract the best talent and most interesting opportunities we have to look beyond the borders of the US.

Create a community that enriches the life of everyone it touches--our company has to be a positive influence on the lives of our employees, our clients and the cultures in which our work appears. If you're not making things better, what are you doing?

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to The Martin Agency's success?

There are so many disciplines and specialities in our business, nobody can be great at all of them. So the ability to find the right partners becomes a strategic necessity. I can't name any one partnership that's been key to our success, but I know our ability to partner with multiple companies in an open, collaborative way has been a key factor.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

There have never been more ways to bring great ideas to life than there are now. We have to be creatively ambidextrous—able to think in terms of big brand ideas, then transition to be craftspeople who can make that idea come to life beautifully in multiple media and disciplines. The best people in our business can shift between huge conceptual ideas and the detail of craft. Find those people, help them do the best work of their lives and you'll be successful.

Life Motto?

Don't be a jerk.

The Martin Agency's Motto?

Good and Tough. Good to each other, tough on the work

Your greatest success as CEO of The Martin Agency? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

I've been in this job a little over 2 years. I screwed up a lot in my first year because I was so nervous about... screwing up. I was tight. Uncomfortable. And it affected the energy of the people around me. As I've gotten more comfortable in the job I’ve realized that my greatest successes come when I loosen up and let the joy that's the signature of our company at its best, come out. It makes people more willing to experiment and take chances. That makes our work better and it makes this crazy, stressful business a lot more fun.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Be skeptical of advice from anyone who's never started a business. Like me.

Describe the ideal experience using The Martin Agency.

Bring us a brand that's lost its momentum and a CMO with big ambitions for reinvigorating it. We'll tap into new energy and reignite that brand. And we'll do it with a big, enduring brand idea brought to life in multiple communication disciplines. It's what we've been doing for 20+ years with GEICO, what we did with the UPS "What Can Brown Do For You?" campaign, and what we're doing now for clients like Mondelez, Benjamin Moore, Discover, Walmart and others.

How do you motivate your employees?

If we create an environment where our people can do the best work of their lives, they motivate themselves. It's a wonderful, virtuous cycle. My job is to keep the culture healthy, the opportunities coming and the environment positive.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

That's a trap. We've got too many food and beverage clients to choose just one of each. Okay,I won't cop out... New York Strip and cabernet sauvignon.

What literature is on your bed stand?

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. Ad agencies can learn a lot from what he and his team built at Pixar.

Role model - business and personal?

Personal: my wife. The kindest, strongest, most decent person I've ever known. I've got a pink ribbon tattooed on my arm in her honor.

Business: John Adams and Mike Hughes. The pair that made our agency what it is. They're proof you can build a great business without compromising your standards, integrity or sense of humor.

Current passion?

Cycling. I love the escape--it's a great way to clear your mind and break a serious sweat. And the sport has a wonderful community.

And I've been playing in rock bands since high school. I'm still in one and love our monthly bar gigs.

Favorite travel destination?

Home. I'm traveling home on a plane right now and I'm more excited than I would be for any vacation.

What's next for The Martin Agency?

Become a global creative micro-network. Attract more global brands and talent based on our work and our culture. Keep getting better and tougher.

Continue to Native Society.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Supreme Save The Date with Jesse Tyler Ferguson

May 28, 2015

28 May 2015, Funny or Die

Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson tells you how you can convince the Supreme Court Justices to vote for Marriage Equality.

Continue to Funny or Die.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

GEICO Wins Two D&AD Pencils

May 22, 2015

The GEICO team took home two Pencils from the D&AD award ceremony last night. The entire "Unskippable" series was awarded a Yellow Pencil in the digital marketing category and a Graphite in the Integrated & Innovative Media category. Congrats to the GEICO team!

Link to full list of winners.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

The Best Business Cards in Advertising

May 21, 2015

Digiday, By Tanya Dua

Agencies get as creative with their business cards as they do with their pitch decks. After all, it’s all about making that solid first impression.

While some keep it simple, many are the sum of carefully chosen color palettes and stylistic fonts that evoke an agency’s personality — playful, bold, hip.

We rounded up some of the most creative in the field. Want yours to be included? Tweet it at us.

The Martin Agency

In 2014, the Martin Agency rebranded itself to reflect the diversity that each of its 543 employees brought to the table. Its business cards are at once consistent across the agency and individualized for each employee — every staffer gets an avatar reflective of their personality: a centaur, a biker dude, a guitar.

“It’s as much about their personal identity as their professional identity,” said a spokesperson for the agency.

The avatars were generated once each employee filled out a questionnaire on the agency’s microsite, said Chris Peel, creative director and lead designer of the rebrand. “The Mad Lib-like tool focused on how you spend your time, the things you can’t live without and other personal questions which helped the generator find the perfect design for you, resulting in an individual icon for each of our 500+ employees at the agency.”

Continue to Digiday.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

What's Funny About Truck Leasing? A Lot, Penske Hopes to Show in Its New Campaign

May 20, 2015

Adweek, by Kristina Monllos

Penske Truck Leasing is looking to bring a little levity to the business-to-business world with a new, digitally focused ad campaign from The Martin Agency.

The spots feature various scenarios in which Penske can help consumers or business owners out of a jam—a coffee shop trying to keep angry customers at bay because its coffee delivery never showed up, for example. The goal is to catch the attention of B2B decision makers.

"The reason we went to humor here—and these kind of hyperbolic demonstrations of the essence of Penske—is because in the B2B world, people take themselves so seriously," said Cliff Sorah, senior vp and group creative director for The Martin Agency. "They tend to have no sense of humor; it's all business. The fact of the matter is that when people consume these ads they are consuming them as consumers, and we have to get their attention."

It's Penske's first national ad campaign, and the brand is hoping to make an impression. The 30-second spots will debut next week on

Continue to Adweek.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Spark Some Wonder

May 15, 2015

Wonder is everywhere around us, even in the everyday moments that we might not expect. But those moments need some kind of spark to help us see it. That’s the idea that brought Walmart and Oreo together – the world’s largest retailer and the world’s favorite cookie – to tell a story of the everyday wonders that help us live better in a hundred thousand million different ways.

Link to video.

Posted By: The Martin Agency