People thought I’d lost my mind when I quit my job as a Marketing VP at L’Oreal.
According to the industry, I’d “arrived.” After serving nearly a decade as a brand marketer for brands like Tide, Gillette and Lysol, I’d learned to manage a P&L, lead global product launches, execute comprehensive marketing strategies and more. If I wanted to be the Chief Marketing Officer for a major U.S. brand, I was well on my way. But there was a problem. For ten years, I’d been in a dysfunctional relationship with advertising agencies. And I wanted out.
The story was always the same. Producing anything creative required a journey through a fragmented matrix of approval, resulting in hundreds of billable hours wasted. Meanwhile, The Recession was hurting brand profits and small start-ups were creating content quickly on their iPhones, putting the rest of us to shame. Sitting across the table from some agencies, I couldn’t help but wonder how we were stuck in such an antiquated system. There had to be a better way.
My frustration with advertising agencies is a reflection of America’s changing business landscape as a whole. In August 2014, Procter & Gamble announced a plan to shed 100 of its under-performing brands by this summer—iconic names like Duracell and Zest. But not every company is in a position to sell off its problems. Like it or not, major American brands are at a crossroads. They need smart, strategic minds to help them traverse into the digital age, where the pace of business is faster, and the consequences of inaction are worse than ever before.
In October 2013, I boarded a plane and spent the duration of the flight listing the qualities I desired in the agency of my dreams. I wanted a true partner that could execute market research, tap into psychological insights, build effective strategies, deliver mind-blowing creative, and measure ongoing results, all at a quick pace and within a reasonable budget. I wanted an agency that could think creatively and like a business—one that could help me cut costs, just as easily at it helped me tell an effective story.
Staring at the list, I knew I had a bigger problem than I had originally thought. I didn’t want to get away from agencies; I wanted to build a better one. With my business partner and former West Point classmate, Dionna McPhatter, we built BLKBOX, an integrated marketing agency designed to engineer breakthrough business growth. No more “billable hours.” No more ego. Just straightforward business solutions for brands that need a competitive edge.
So now, here I am, on the agency side of the table. I wish I could say the grass is greener. The view from here is much like it was on the other side— exciting, messy and constantly changing. The truth is, business is hard, and the marketing landscape is changing dramatically, because the nature of business has changed dramatically.
I’m contributing to Forbes because I hope to be a voice of reason in the arena, helping to clearly articulate what it takes to succeed on both sides of the table.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey.