I began my career at the old General Foods, before it became Kraft Foods. I worshiped the creative, participative, “real people” marketing culture and thrived there. So did the dozens of brilliant friends/marketers with whom I am either still working, in touch with, or following with pride and admiration. We were united by an ability to think 360 (before 360 was coined as a buzzword), realistically, creatively and smartly; by excitement not fear of the innovative, and by a willingness to hold hands and take risks together. It was an ideal time and place that launched dozens of brands that are still successes today (Happy 30th Birthday, Crystal Light— one of my own first successful launches— in the news yet again for continued awesome, cutting edge communications!)
The environment? One where creativity was rewarded not feared. Partnerships between clients and agencies were so tight it was often indistinguishable who worked for who. Ideas were totally integrated, not developed in tactical silos. And the resulting campaigns not only worked, but were fun to create together.
I have started to fear that economic pressures, the drive for instantaneous answers, and the increasing fragmentation of media and tactical specialties, have made that environment unimaginable today. (How many agencies does it take to kill a great idea?) But then I go back and re-read the words of Dana Anderson, Kraft’s SVP-Marketing Strategy and Communications. In her speech to the National Advertisers Conference this fall, she gave credibility and kudos to smaller, more generalist shops, seeing that they brought a more “holistic view ” (to marketing challenges.) She claimed that it “sounds simple but that they solve the whole problem, that they look at it as a whole cloth and bring to you that answer.” Through this support, she eschewed the “Sizism” that has been rampant in corporate America, and the love affair with and reliance on tactical specialists.
How refreshing. And how exciting for we “non-large” agencies.
This has been the hallmark of GW Hoffman for decades. It was how I was trained to think and to problem solve and it is how we continue to bring creative solutions to our client partners today. Not hemmed into a silo of functionality.
So if someone in a power position at a company as large as Kraft can once again see the value in the big thinking at smaller, very creative shops, I have to hope that the tide is turning for real and that 2012 will bring even more respect and validity to the awesome work — creativity, strategic smarts and guts —that can be found at places like GW Hoffman. Once again, my heart is with the folks at Kraft (and the ghost of GF). Hopefully, maybe so too, will our business be once again!
Let the 2012 fun begin…