I grew up in an advertising agency. My dad ran the largest independent agency in Houston. His career ended in the Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame. We talked about advertising incessantly. My room had a wall that was covered by the DDB VW ad ‘Lemon.’ The entryway of our home had a Peter Max 7Up billboard. Advertising was dinner conversation. When dad and I would go to Pizza Hut (a client), he’d explain to me why they had PacMan games built into the table. When we’d go to Foley’s (a regional department store and client), he’d tell me to watch how people behave in the store. He’d talk to me about merchandising. He’d tell me about signage (shopper marketing before, well, it was a thing).

Dad would play tennis with several of his clients. One of them was Jack Helfman. Jack owned car dealerships. After the matches they’d talk about traffic count, deals closed, inventory issues, and financing. 

Dad was a runner. On occasion we’d run Memorial Park together. He’d talk to me about the importance of honesty in client relationships. Transparency, just like in a good marriage. The importance of treating business partners as if they were your closest friends.

It was the simplest of lessons. Dad would tell me that when a client’s business was successful, his business would be successful. And vice versa. It takes two, he’d say, both focused on solving the daily challenges each business faced.

It’s been a purposeful path toward my position as CEO at An Agency — working in Los Angeles, working in a multinational, working as a client, settling into the bulk of my career at Kentucky’s largest agency, Doe-Anderson. And experience after experience brought me to the same conclusion: Ad agencies are a dime a dozen. 

Today’s sales story is data and AI and digital nimbleness and of course the long-stated and long-true omni-channel pitch.

And all that is good . . . and it matters . . . and I understand that those are often the boxes clients are checking off with their agency partner.

But I think we have a better box. 

And the foundation of that box is trust. Because when I go to sleep at night, I’m replaying my dad’s words: “Build your business by building their business. Think less about you and more about them. Don’t promise creativity that’s unfathomable to others. Focus on creating opportunities for your clients. Care more about them than you care about yourself.”   

So that’s my space at An Agency. And that’s my promise to you. We’ll care more about you. We’ll focus on you. We’ll eat, sleep, and breathe your mission — until we’ve so internalized it, it’s almost become our own.  

What are you talking about around the dinner table?

Michael Littman

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