New Business: Credentials, Please

“With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good,” goes the old slogan. It’s the kind of line an agency like WongDoody would appreciate. The Seattle-based shop has a goofy name, and it knows it. So, in its credentials kit, it poses the question, “What the heck is a WongDoody?” The package’s various materials are decorated with playful illustrations that offer comical answers to that question, none of them correct. Only the kit as a whole gets it right.

The other shops in this month’s batch have less unusual names, but that may be the only thing they share. In its kit, Publicis in Mid America uses video clips to spotlight its employees. Avenue A leans on a DVD of client testimonials. And Doremus’ package reflects the agency’s recent creative and structural evolution.

Rounding out the group is SS+K. For its kit, it settled on a design principle it calls “municipal chic.” We don’t know exactly what that is, but we’re pretty sure it’s not the same thing as a WongDoody.

– Tim Nudd

Avenue A: ‘Focus simply on what our clients have to say’

Existing clients aren’t exactly neutral third-party observers. Still, their pronouncements about a shop’s ability may carry more weight than those from the agency itself.

That is Avenue A’s approach with its credentials kit, whose centerpiece is a DVD of testimonials from clients including Microsoft’s MSN, and Lancome. The aQuantive-owned i-shop wanted to “focus simply on our clients and what they have to say about how we perform, because that’s the basis that we have for continuing to grow the business,” says Clark Kokich, president of the 7-year-old, Seattle-based agency.

The kit also includes a copy of the agenda from Avenue A’s most recent client summit. At the annual three-day event, clients and a few prospects talk about industry trends. “One of the key reasons a client should come to Avenue A and stay with Avenue A is not only because of us but because of our other clients and the ability to tap into that network of expertise,” says Kokich.

The kit also includes a 14.5-by-9-inch spiral-bound booklet that aims to simplify the subject matter of technology, analytics and media. For example, an image of a mouse eating its way through a maze is paired with the line, “Doing it right requires dedicated, online media expertise, cutting-edge technology and analytics, and industry clout. None of this happens by accident, nor does it happen overnight. But it can happen.” “All of those ideas are things that we used to have on very complex, boring charts,” says Kokich. “We put them into a book that we felt could tell the same story but was a little more visually arresting and not designed so much to put you to sleep.”

Avenue A sent out 40 kits last year. From those, the shop received 25 requests for proposals or presentations, which it converted into 19 assignments. – Ann M. Mack

The Package

– DVD of client testimonials

– 25-page, 14.5-by-9-inch spiral-bound coffee-table book

– Copy of agenda from agency’s most recent client summit

Doremus: ‘A little bit sardonic but very straight ahead’

The Omnicom Group agency’s new package reflects a change in creative leadership and overall repositioning from a traditional b-to-b shop known for “tombstone” financial ads to one that connects corporations with culture.

In 2003, the $220 million New York shop replaced tech-savvy, print-focused creative chief Danny Gregory with Evelyn Monroe Neill, who has more experience with broadcast work with a consumer bent (Nike, MCI, Microsoft). The new kit contains a reel or CD-ROM, as opposed to a book of print ads, which Gregory had included in the past. The video opens with a quick list of services and segues into a fast-moving montage of agency work. The clips are synchronized to the overture from the Who’s Quadrophenia. Print ads, a billboard and collateral materials also are shown, suggesting versatility.

Also last year, Doremus restructured into three operating units – D1 for strategic consulting, D2 for creative development and D3 for communications planning – which are represented here by pocket-size booklets resembling instruction manuals. Agency chairman Jeff DeJoseph describes the no-frills booklets as “pithy, unusual” and “a little bit sardonic but very straight ahead.”

The kit comes in a velcro-sealed navy box the size of a record album and also includes a notebook of case histories for companies such as ITT Industries and ACE Group, reprints of in-house publication Know and a SmartMoney article that featured client United Technologies. The package was completed in January, and initial response has been positive. Doremus has mailed it to 25-30 prospects, and of those, 14 have agreed to meet with the agency, DeJoseph says.

– Andrew McMains

The Package

– Three pocket-size booklets that describe agency units

– Spiral notebook of case histories

– Copy of in-house publication Know

– Reprint of a SmartMoney profile of client

– Reel or CD-ROM of work

SS+K: ‘A smart, sophisticated downtown alternative’

For Marty Cooke, creative director at the New York agency, the term “municipal chic” is not an oxymoron. It’s the design principle behind SS+K’s credentials kit, which dresses a smooth agency pitch in the hopelessly square trappings of educational materials – like putting horn-rim glasses on a pretty girl.

It’s not so much the contents of the kit – a brown cardboard box holds partner bios, case studies and a reel. It’s the voice that is meant to grab the attention of new-business prospects. “We developed municipal chic to telegraph that this unusual hybrid firm is a smart, sophisticated, creative downtown alternative to traditional uptown agencies,” says Cooke. The ad-industry equivalent of Lisa Loeb.

A small, bright-orange handbook, titled “What to Do Before Someone Eats Your Lunch,” features pages in which one drawing stands out from among dozens of identical ones, to illustrate the shop’s “asymmetric” approach. To explain how SS+K’s process works, other pages present diagrams that look like those in old instruction manuals. The agency’s philosophy is summed up in tidy blurbs. Instead of answering a competitor’s television campaign with a television campaign, for example, the booklet urges clients to find a new approach – “or risk eating crumbs.”

The reel keeps the industrial/educational theme going. Done like a school filmstrip, it uses a faux slide-show format to present case studies, including Time Warner Cable and Road Runner broadband. “Were trying to practice what we preach,” Cooke says. “You always tell clients to have a unified voice and have a perspective on your design, and a lot of agencies don’t do it very well.”

– Deanna Zammit

The Package

– Booklet titled “What to Do Before Someone Eats Your Lunch.”

– Executive bios and case studies

– Reel of work

Publicis in Mid America: ‘It’s not too flashy, because we’re not too flashy’

Get to know me!” Jon Lovitz would plead on Saturday Night Live. Publicis in Mid America imparts a similar sentiment – minus the manic persona – in its credentials package.

“Most agencies sound just alike, with all these cookie-cutter things,” says Phil Jacobs, evp and chief marketing officer at the Dallas agency. “We want to humanize this thing. … If we can give people an opportunity to get to know us a little bit, there’s a good chance they’ll like us.” The strategy is based on the agency’s belief that clients tend to hire shops because they like their people and can trust them.

Thus, the reel begins with a two-minute segment in which the shop’s employees speak into the camera. Staffers take turns saying, “Hi” and “We want to make a difference,” before the top executives delve into the agency’s philosophies. For example, president and general manager Mark Bateman says, “We like rolling up our sleeves. We like getting our fingernails dirty and really working with a client to solve problems.”

Another dose of personality comes in a spiral-bound notebook that offers biographical outlines of the agency’s leaders, including snippets of who they are outside the office. Jacobs, for instance, is a pilot, while Bateman is a father of four boys who likes fishing and Texas Longhorns baseball.

The cover of the notebook features a collage of handwritten notes that might be found on a creative’s desk. Under the heading “reinvention experts” are a scribbled diagram of a strategic process and Post-It notes with words like “revitalize,” “restage,” “reposition” and “results” written on them. The book also contains a client list and a short sample of print work. Four of the book’s 24 pages offer information about parent Publicis Groupe.

Ted Barton, the agency’s president of creative, and art director Dean Hlavinka developed the look of the package, which replaced what Barton described as a “more standard, dry, just-the-facts kit” six months ago. The present packet arrives in a zippered plastic bag, another element Jacobs hopes will reflect the agency’s earthy attributes. “It’s not too flashy, because we’re not too flashy,” he says.

The agency says it has won four of six new-business pitches since the new kit was created. – Mindy Charski

The Package

– Spiral-bound notebook with agency capabilities and bios

– Reel of work with introduction by agency executives

WongDoody: ‘It’s hard to get past the name’

Is it a medieval cold remedy? An ancient fertility goddess? A nasty fungus that grows in a sock drawer?

If you’ve never heard of the Seattle-based shop, the natural first question is: “What the heck is a WongDoody?” In their credentials kit, co-founders Tracy Wong and Pat Doody pre-empt any immature potty jokes by answering that question with various humorous graphics. “It’s hard to get past the name,” admits Wong. “We realized quickly it was a word, not a name.”

The materials, done in a green-and-white color scheme, include a hardcover book that details capabilities, personnel and case histories for clients such as Alaska Airlines, the Seattle SuperSonics and Adidas, and a 10-minute reel of work. The design, from the box cover to the reel inside, plays off the agency’s “Yin & O’Yang” logo, which is meant to symbolize what Wong and Doody bring collectively: “the unique balance of a Chinese creative director and an Irish account guy,” according to Wong.

The materials are intended to illustrate the self-effacing personality of the partners and the place by displaying a healthy sense of humor without compromising the facts. The agency, which turned 10 years old in November, has been using this kit for about seven years. The partners considered changing it a couple of years ago, but Wong says they decided the combination of silly and serious worked pretty well. “This is a serious business, but you can’t take yourself too seriously,” he says.

When the agency launched in 1993, it took a more traditional, “corporate” approach to its kit, but once it had proven itself with some credible work, says Wong, it became easier to have some fun. “Our best clients are clients who also have a sense of humor,” he says. “It’s worked out pretty good.”

– Eleftheria Parpis

The Package

– Hardcover book that details case histories, personnel and case studies

– Comical graphics that answer the question, “What the heck is a WongDoody?”

– Reel of work