Who Can Join the Madison Avenue Makeover Club?

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This post is by Michael Farmer, Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016.

Madison Avenue MakeoverThe Madison Avenue Makeover Club is an exclusive one.  Want to join?  If you have to ask, you’re not invited.  It’s more exclusive than the Bohemian or Belizean Groves, or the Alfalfa and Yellowstone Clubs put together.

Thinking about the Trilateral Commission? Bilderberg Group?  They’re a piece of cake. The Makeover Club (we’re insiders, and that’s what we call it) invented the word exclusive. It’s posh, privileged, swank, ritzy, respected — and open to the exclusive few who can qualify.  It’s not for the Madison Avenue Masses or the perpetual victims of Madison Avenue Manslaughter. Membership rules are very strict.  Want to know more?

We’re a club of partners, not of vendors and masters.  Let me explain.  Partners work hand-in-glove with one another on important matters. Partners are equals, as comfortable together in front of a spreadsheet as in front of the fire with a glass of Armagnac.

We’re equally competitive (not with one another) in wanting to destroy our competitors and succeed together.  We’re winners, with a track record of success and of making big things happen, both separately and together.  We create success for one another, and this includes making very comfortable amounts of money — a fraction of the value that we generate together.

What’s unique about our partnership is the shared belief that we can turn current brand underperformance into future brand growth in the marketplace.  Millennials?  They don’t scare us.  Amazon and e-commerce?  There are solutions.  Transparency?  Private label competition? Digital effectiveness?

On these issues, we forge relationships that permit us to bring the best brain-power, analysis and creativity to solve these solvable problems. We are optimists by nature.  Each partner brings something unique to the table.

One partner brings expertise, analysis, strategy, planning, creativity and production; the other brings money, expertise (enough, but not enough for self-sufficiency), problems to be solved, judgment and rewards for success.

Both parties bring a strong sense of accountability to one another and to their respective organizations — accountability and focus to generate positive results.

Our partnerships are respectful of (and indifferent to) diversity by age, gender, ethnicity and other oft-written-about variables.  What matters is what each partner brings to the “performance party,” as it were, and who can be counted on to find solutions to the daunting problems that can get in the way.

The Makeover Club is a club of partners. Interestingly, equality of partnership is not a natural thing or an off-the-shelf condition in the marketplace. The partnerships in the Makeover Club are forged out of hard negotiations — hard and intense efforts to identify and solidify common grounds on which enduring, performance-achieving results can be built.

Not for us is the easier but less effective solution of “I’ll be the boss and you be the servant,” or “I’ll keep the dollars and give you a dime.”  We don’t do RFPs or use benchmarks.  It is not from such dull tools that great works or great partnerships are forged.

We talk things out.  What do we want to achieve?  How will we work together?  Who will do what?  How will we know when we have succeeded?  How will we reward one another? How will we deal with problems and shortfalls?  We agree to work together for as long as it takes, provided each partner demonstrates commitment, optimism and value.

You can see why we are an exclusive club.  There are few who have the vision or the stomach to pass up short-term “gains” for the uncertain prospect of hard-won long-term success.  We live in a transactional, instant-gratification world, where today’s short-term profits have a higher perceived value than long-term enduring success.

Well, that may be fine for others, but it is not fine for us and our club.

Who can join?  Our members are independent agencies, smart senior freelancers, management consulting firms and some enlightened advertisers. We’re open to holding companies and their big agencies, although none of them yet qualify, and few of their clients make the grade, either — too much short-termism and chronic lack of respect.  The big agencies and their clients are serial daters rather than relationship committers.  They put too high a value on quick hits.

If you’re interested, we have membership coaches who can help you navigate the membership process.

Our idea of “exclusivity” does not mean “few” — it only means “we’re exclusively not interested in vendors and masters.”

Cartoon credit: William Steig, The New Yorker (1988), The Cartoon Bank. With permission

This post was originally published at Media Village

TrinityP3’s Scope of Work Management service evaluates your current agency scope of work and recommends the best approach, calibrated to your needs. Read more here

About Michael Farmer

Michael Farmer is Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016. He currently serves as Adjunct Associate Professor of Branding and Integrated Communications at The City College of New York (CCNY) and is at work on a new book about the challenges facing Chief Marketing Officers.

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