Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Onward Beyond Co-habbing with the Ad Agencies

Part of change is coming to terms and accepting that it is indeed taking place and embracing it.

Mark Kooyman
4 min readSep 20, 2019


Howard Schultz wrote a super book that premiered a couple of years ago titled, ONWARD. The book is about “how Starbucks fought for its life, without losing its soul.”

Schultz shares the challenges that the coffee house icon embraced in a rapidly evolving market… and a rapidly evolving organization.

I think in my reading it, I was most moved when he elected to shut down the entire chain for a day — in the middle of the week — and re-focus the core product delivery, its presentation, its packaging and its product quality.

He also goes on to share about how the brand team had to re-evaluate its space style, look and design.

And he also talks about the refinement of the logo… something that I believe I challenged in one of the early blogs I scripted some 100 blogs ago!

I am writing this blog in my new space in Atlanta.

Note, I did not say “office” space.

I am sitting in a place that carries a brand name: ROAM.

While the space I am sitting in is very cool and I plan to share more about it in future Emails, the intent of this blog post is to share more about the change I had to embrace… and the change that others are challenged to embrace as well.

About three years ago, I made a decision that part of me regrets… I moved my office space for part of my week into shared space offered by an ad agency.

A year ago, I shifted from the space at one agency to the space offered by another agency.

This is something that I will never do again.

Both of the agencies are staffed by nice, good, talented people. Both agencies are owned by very nice, good and talented personalities.

Problem is, ad agencies really no longer work… not that they don’t do stuff and spend time crafting things.

While the teams inside the agency walls today come together every day, what they generate is more often what the business should not be doing.

And many of those agencies remain confined in physical walls that they spend a bunch of dollars on making look hip and cool!

Ad agencies are out of sync.

If you do not believe so, go Google a set of agencies… big ones, small ones, national ones, local ones… you will see a bunch of consistency.

The focus is most on making their clients happy.

They will showcase their own branded “planning” process. They will all talk about going in and speaking with top client management, marketing and sales.

They will highlight how they take what clients say about their products and how they develop creative to communicate it and media plans that will generate the reach and frequency to convince customers to believe it.

If you ask them what they do, the mantra is memorized. And it has not changed.

Sure… they will talk about integrating social media and online communications, but it’s all anchored around “building brand awareness” and the ability to “interact and sell in their client’s brand.”

My scripting this Email was delayed by about an hour while I contacted one of my client’s media teams.

The media team brought a plan to the table two weeks ago that the client’s retail manager quickly dismissed and voiced concern over in that it “was no different” from what had been brought to the table before.

When I dwell among creative free lancers, film producers, ethnographers, brand inventors, entrepreneurs, app engineers… I hear them speak in a very different context than the context spoken inside ad agencies.

Many of these folks work in non-conventional space and rather inventive environments.

They elect to explore new ideas and challenge others with whom they relate.

As colloquial a phrase as it is… they do “break outside of the box.”

Here at EXPERIENCE, we are driven on a set of fundamental principles that truly do not match up well with the environment of the conventional ad agency.

Our strategy is not driven by the client, but instead by the consumer.

We challenge convention, make clients feel uncomfortable and do not shy away from it.

We re-invent conventional models of doing things relative to the execution of the brand experience, its delivery and they way it is brought to life in the communications dialogue with the consumers defining it.

I am writing this in the year 2013. The year 2014 is now on the flow charts of my clients’ annual plans. The year 2018 is in the five year projection stats.

Ad Agencies had their hey-day in the 1970s to be sure.

I moved into a new context of work environment and will not move back ever again in my ownership of EXPERIENCE into the ad agency surrounds.

As Howard Schultz write… it is now moving ONWARD… and beyond!



Mark Kooyman

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.