While agency and client are like-minded, the relationship is not without compromise. "There has been a level of conflict and debate that has impressed and surprised us," says Quinn, who points to a recent holiday commercial that the agency fought to produce.
The ad, "Christmas Wish," shows U.S. troops enjoying a snowstorm in the desert. "What did you wish for?" a mom asks her daughter in the spot. "Something for dad," she replies, as the voiceover explains, "To all of our troops and their families. Thank you. Because of you we are all living better."
The ad was on the table for a year, but Quinn says the company was skeptical of its "fantastical" approach. But Hughes' passion in the concept convinced the retailer to make the ad. "They vehemently believed it was the right thing to do," says Quinn. "What I hadn't fully recognized was how important it was to thank people. They were right."
The shop's Walmart experience has attracted other megabrands. Pitching and winning the business with the agency's 2-year-old design firm, Collins:, led by Brian Collins, Martin won the lead role on Microsoft's retail business. Working with Microsoft's brand and design teams, as well as its architectural firm and software developers, the agency helped Microsoft roll out its first concept store this fall. The agency was responsible for designing everything from the store's visual identity and logo, packaging and collateral to the advertising for the store and a series of 10-minute films for an 180-foot digital display. "It was a once in a lifetime design opportunity," says Collins.
The agency's design capabilities have added another potent weapon to Martin's arsenal and played a part in its successful bid for Pizza Hut. "Microsoft and Walmart have allowed us to be pioneering in the final four feet of the consumer experience," says Kristen Cavallo, svp, director of business development at Martin.
To service West Coast-based clients Microsoft and Expedia, Martin has opened a Seattle office. It is also establishing a European presence with the hiring of London-based Ian Davidson as worldwide account director. Davidson, who splits his time between Richmond and London, previously held a similar position on UPS at McCann Erickson, a role he is now assuming for Martin's Manpower business. Won in October after a review, the global business will help make up the loss incurred by the defection of UPS last year. (UPS, which had been working with McCann overseas, put its global business into review; Martin, which handled its domestic business, subsequently withdrew from the competition.) It was a loss that Adams describes as "a heartbreaker" but "out of the agency's control."
Manpower, a worldwide employment services company, will help Martin grow its global reach, predict agency execs. Emma van Rooyen, svp, chief marketing officer at Manpower in Milwaukee, says 85 percent of the company's revenue comes from outside the U.S. "We hired Martin to help us take a fresh look at our brand," she says. "We believe we have a great story to tell and we want to do a better job making sure that people inside and outside the company understand the value we bring to the world."
The Martin Agency is evolving its story as well. After 28 years as creative leader, Hughes, who is being inducted into The One Club Hall of Fame this year, last November named his successor. John Norman, an art director with a design background who most recently served as co-executive creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam, begins as co-chief creative officer of the agency this week, a title he will share with Hughes for at least a year. (READ AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN NORMAN.)
"I'm 11 years behind in doing that," says Hughes, referring to the year when he was diagnosed with cancer. For more than a decade, Hughes has battled the disease while building the agency and fostering work that he says "sells everyday products to everyday people in not so everyday ways."
Although Hughes is passing the torch, he's assured the staff he's not retiring. "I'm exhilarated by the opportunities in front of us," he wrote in a memo, "and I plan to work here forever."