It’s the late 90’s. The internet wasn’t cool yet. The tech boom and bust wasn’t even in full swing at that time. Stacy Sutton Williams was heading up interactive at a division of Kilgannon. They had started building websites in ’95 when web design was little more than text, bad imagery and tables. Stacy had taken a six-hour correspondence class in SEO to become an “expert.” There were no keyword tools. Meta tags ruled the day. Search engine submission was a thing. And she was rocking her clients' early digital minds.
She fell in love with it. She attended one of the first ever Search Engine Strategies conferences in 2000. She met other digital marketers. She met other entrepreneurs.
Confident. Determined. And with short, spiky red hair that screamed world watch out, she decided to start an SEO company named “Search Engine Goddess” and decided to use a cartoon version of herself as the logo. Not too long after she rethought the name (and logo) and decided upon Prominent Placement.
In the sister post to this, The Ever Elusive Pursuit of Greatness, we discussed why we are creating the Intelligence team. In this post, we want to explore what that really means.
I know I’m biased, but I’m in awe of our Creative and UX teams’ ability to understand users and create experiences that change behavior and delight clients. Their ability to combine qualitative research, client knowledge, and their core design and user experience skills to create amazing digital experiences is something I, frankly, can’t relate to. I can barely draw a circle or even write my name legibly.
I’m also equally impressed with the other Nebo teams. Our copywriters are brilliant and have a gift to communicate that I’ll never be able to replicate. As for Paid Media — I’m not even allowed to sign in to AdWords anymore. SEO — mad scientists doing mad scientist stuff. Developers — well, enough said. I used to be a developer and now I don’t even know how to FTP into our dev server. PR and Social — let’s just say I don’t have the temperament to have a live feed of things I might say or tweet, much less understand their craft.
What makes an agency great?
Not good. Not new and innovative. Not hip. But actually great. Think The Beatles, Hemingway, or Muhammad Ali great.
And once an agency is great, how does it sustain that greatness?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. Even more daunting, there are more than 20,000 agencies trying to answer this same exact question. Sure, there are legends in advertising who have a really good grasp on how they became great. But like most things, it’s easy to define what made you or your agency successful in retrospect.
I’m sure we can all recall stories from when we were younger when our parents tried to get us to listen. I can still remember the days my dad would try to talk to me while I was focused on something, whether it was a great movie—like one of my favorite childhood obsessions, Jurassic Park—or one of my favorite books. He would have to repeat my name several times before he could get my attention.
“Laura, Laura, LAURA HOPE,” he would eventually scream, before I would finally look up and say, “Oh, are you talking to me?”
One of my dad’s favorite nicknames for me was Space-case, because of how often I would zone out into my own little world, especially when he was trying to talk to me. I was always focused on what I was thinking or doing, never focused on what he was saying.
He was right. I was a terrible listener.
When it comes to crafting content, there’s a misconception in agency life that writers are yes men. After all, the client knows best.
And to some extent, the client does know best. They know their brand, their purpose, their goal, and their product like the back of their hand. As an agency, and as writers, of course we want to make our clients happy. We want to help them succeed in every way we can.
But what about the times when the team knows best?