Thanks for waiting patiently on the next installment of Ad Industry Innovators. It was a busy summer for Hitch as I finished up new projects and started new ones.
Today’s Ad Industry Innovator # 16 is Norfolk, Virginia-based, Grow Interactive. Grow got on my radar thanks to my old friend, Alan at Platt Hollow Road. While they do work directly with clients, the bulk of their work is done for agency partners. Digging in a bit you’ll see they’ve worked with nearly everyone from Goodby, Silverstein & Parners and Wieden + Kennedy, to Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and Mother. These guys are good, and everybody knows it.
Grow has racked up their share of awards and recognition lately, including a 2009, Cannes Lion, two One Show Pencils, two Webbys, and a Clio shortlist. They were also listed as one of the top 10 interactive production companies by Creativity in Aug 2008.
Everyone, meet Drew Ungvarsky, President of Grow Interactive. Drew, meet everyone:
What was the aha moment when you realized “our company needs to be doing things differently than we have been”?
A few years ago, we made a conscious decision to take more risks – both in our work and in our efforts to connect with bigger clients and projects. We’d done plenty of solid (but safe) local and regional work at that point, but we thought if we could just put ourselves in the game by any means possible, we had the talent to compete on a much larger level.
I later heard a better summation of that mindset, which was: “Do what you’ve done and you’ll get what you’ve got.” We keep that in mind with each opportunity we get and try to constantly remind ourselves not to become complacent.
What books are on your nightstand or great blogs on your Google reader?
At last check, I’ve got 85 sites in my RSS. Beyond keeping up with the latest and greatest digital advertising, I follow tech and culture blogs to spot emerging technologies, trends, and cross-platform ideas we can bring into future projects.
Sadly, my attention span is too short for books right now, but I’ve been trying out audiobooks recently. I’m currently listening to Ken Robinson’s “The Element” about the great things that can come when your work is your passion.
Give me an example of marketing you think is brilliant and why.
Whopper Sacrifice was definitely a favorite this year. It was a perfect execution that clearly stood out on an otherwise crowded platform. A close second was Boone Oakley’s YouTube site. With both of those sites, I knew they were hits the moment I saw them. I also really liked Dunkin Run as a great example of utility marketing, and it worked perfectly for the brand.
We’ve all read that the pitch / RFP process is broken. Many agencies aren’t even interested in competing in pitches. Do you see an alternative to this process?
The pitch process works best when the relationship is open and everyone’s respecting each other’s time and effort. If a potential client gives us clear expectations and transparency regarding the obstacles we’re going to face, it then falls fairly on us to decide how much time and effort we can afford to put towards a potential engagement… and everyone can sleep well at night.
What does the agency of the future look like?
The strongest agencies are the ones who are embracing digital as an axis to their campaigns instead of just another outlet within them. Whenever we can work with agencies as partners and help shape a concept from the beginning (as opposed to just jumping in to execute), the resulting work is always stronger and more cohesive with the technology.
What do marketers need that agencies are not giving them?
We’re lucky enough to work with a number of the agencies who I think “get it”, so I’ve got a bit of a skewed view in saying things are pretty good. If anything, I’d say that we sometimes see people putting the technological cart before the horse – be that an app, a widget, or the other buzzword of that day. Clients need strong ideas, and they need to live in the spaces most suitable to their brands.
Who do you admire and why?
I’m constantly trying to be a better leader for my company, so I soak up inspiration and ideas anywhere I can get them. Recently, I’ve been trying to steal from the playbooks of Tony Hsieh and Steve Jobs, both of whom demand great respect in different ways. I admire anyone who can earn the respect and trust of their employees.