Kavita Singh spoke with CEO of Bader Rutter Jeff Young about the ad agency’s 2019 and 2020 distinctions.
This year, Bader Rutter has won multiple awards, including the #1 B2B marcomm agency in the US, the #1 Global B2B marcomm agency with global partner BBN, and the #1 AgriMarketing Agency in the US. Hear what its CEO had to say about how it was able to achieve these distinctions.
Q: Can you tell me your reaction to winning these distinctions?
With some agencies, it’s all about winning awards and for others, they don’t care about awards, they simply care about their client’s business success and I would say generally we lean in that direction. Awards are nice, but they’re fleeting. What persists over time is the client’s business success.
Q: What works well about your partnership with BBN?
We’ve been partners for nearing 20 years now. We were constantly being asked about our global presence and at that point in early 2000s, we didn’t have a global presence. We were fortunate to hook up with BBN and learned that we shared a number of common practices. If you think about an approach for client services, we follow similar processes for planning, branding, and creative development. We meet multiple times a year, and we share clients when appropriate. It’s like a co-op of intellectual power and it’s been wonderful for us.
Q: What are some keys to building bonds with other agencies?
Once a year, we do a get together, where each agency brings three or four people, and we gather for what we call
. It’s really for up and coming new executives and creatives to share ideas with each other. We hold it all over the world, and it’s been proven very popular with our younger staff. That’s a good way of building knowledge and bonds with each of our sister agencies.
Q: How were you able to achieve such success in the past two years?
In 2019, we were onboarding a new client, Pioneer, and this was a big win for us. We also organically grew the largest number of clients. We reorganised agencies in early 2019 in April, and we organised what we called ‘ecosystems’ and it was a new way of thinking about it as a self-contained agency. We primarily did that by clients and client audiences so that we could even learn more and go deeper on those audiences. That year, we adopted a workflow process called agile just because of its methodologies in getting work done.
So then in the beginning of 2020, we were actually in a decent spot. We were hearing some good things about our clients and budgets, and that’s when Covid-19 hit. One surprise, maybe even a relief, was that we hit the ground running. We closed on 16 March and, on 17 March, every team that we had was doing virtual stand-up meetings as a part of the agile process, so our teams never really skipped a beat with our clients. And this surprised me because we had never really done that before.
Q: What challenges have you faced during Covid-19?
For me, the biggest challenge is the level of uncertainty. We’re uncertain because our clients are uncertain. Our clients are uncertain because their customers are uncertain, so what’s coming next? Nobody knows how quick the recovery can be. So if our sales go down, then our marketing budgets go down. This uncertainty is real, some of it is perceived. But there are a lot of practical things as well. For instance, no one has been doing photo shoots in months. We’re starting to do them now, but there are social distancing guidelines and cleaning guidelines that we now must adhere to. We also rely heavily on video as well, so our crews are just coming back in the fields now.
Q: You also were recently awarded
The One Show 2020 award
for your ‘Growing Debate’ podcast. How did the podcast come about?
I don’t believe the idea started as a podcast per se. It started with the idea that we needed to get a few of our client voices heard in agriculture. In agriculture, there’s so much knowledge, opinions and thoughts among all these companies, and we thought how do we share that with the world?
The idea came up that we should do a podcast and partner with our client Corteva Agriscience to talk about some of the topics that might be controversial and affecting both farmers and non-farmers, such as race, gender, inequalities, immigration reform. In addition, those involved in agriculture happen to have gone through a spell of high suicide rates and so the idea was to have honest conversations between our clients and their customers. I have to tell you, it’s a risky thing for a client to do this but it’s paid off for us, so to get that type of recognition was pretty cool.
Q: Why did you think it was important to merge some of these societal issues into a B2B podcast?
Well, I think we just had a six-month experiment in bringing our business, consumer and private lives all together in the pandemic. The pandemic has affected everything, so when you think about some of these societal issues, such as immigration reform and race, it has been huge in the past few months.
Sometimes, it impacts companies because it impacts the employees, it also impacts the customers. I’d like to know one company where their customers are not impacted by race and gender issues. The lines have been blurred for the past few years and they’re going to continue to get even blurrier.
Q: Where is the company going?
I will tell you that we are a pro-growth company. I like to tell our new joiners that we are a pro-growth company, but it’s not growth for money. It’s growth for a lot of really great things. It means getting recognised for new clients and overcoming challenges to help you grow. Our business is all about our clients. I expect that we make decisions to help us grow. It’s just very true. We don’t settle. We want to continue to push.
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