Last month, Merkley+Partners was awarded the Daimler Partnership Award. This award is given to the companies which Daimler deems to have made the most significant contribution to the success of their company. Merkley beat out IBM and Drees & Sommer — a huge German construction company that builds factories for Daimler. Not only are we the first agency to win the award, but we are the first non-manufacturing company from North America to do so.
I cannot think of a moment in my 17 years at Merkley when I have been more proud of our agency. This award represents recognition of what we believe matters most, and it moved me to write this letter on the plane back from the ceremony in Germany.
What matters most at Merkley+Partners?
It is building enduring partnerships that win consistently. It is about partnerships that not only deliver great advertising, but also understand the complications of our clients’ businesses and their significant investments in infrastructure. It is about partnerships that match client personnel with agency personnel who do more than just get along — they bring out the best in each other, recognize and embrace change versus resisting it, and, above all else, put the greater good of the brand first — always! Great advertising campaigns may come and go — and in the world of change in which we live, they do so for good reasons — but enduring partnerships find the next great one.
We have worked for Mercedes-Benz for 17 years, Nutella for 12, all detergent for eight and TEVA Pharmaceuticals for five. We hope that, in 10 years, those clients who have joined us recently will have tenures of 11, 12 or more years.
Why do our relationships last so long?
First, we deliver creative that performs in-market: work that is consistently recognized as the best in the category, in the case of Mercedes; work that made Nutella one of the fastest-selling SKUs in grocery stores in 2014; work that has consistently built market share at a fraction (a really small fraction) of what our major competitor, P&G, spends, in the case of all detergent; and work that has helped ProAir remain the number-one-selling asthma rescue inhaler for four consecutive years.
We couldn’t be more proud of all that. But that is only what happens on the surface. What goes on behind the scenes, in the day-to-day trenches, working hand in hand with our clients – those are the moments that fill us with pride, because those are what ultimately create partnerships that last.
We strive to deliver two core attributes to our clients in order to create longevity, which on the surface seem quite contradictory: one is consistency and the other is constant change.
Consistency stems from our management. Andy Hirsch, my creative partner, and I have been running Merkley since 1999. We don’t know how many agencies can claim that type of longevity, but we can’t think of any. And we are an agency composed of adults. Of our eight-person senior leadership council, the newest member of the team has been with us for eight years. However, this is not to suggest that we are set in our ways. The reality is that our stability allows us to focus completely on servicing our clients’ businesses, rather than managing the changes within our own organization.
Constant change – or, to put it more aptly, our ability to manage it — has always been at the forefront of what we do. When we took charge of Merkley in 1999, worldwide Internet penetration was at 4.6%, Napster and MySpace had just launched, Google was one year old, and e-commerce was more a buzzword than a reality. What hadn’t happened yet included the iPod (2001), LinkedIn (2002), iTunes (2003), Skype (2003), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006) and the iPhone (2007).
Fortunately, because we have never unbundled, we have been able to monitor and help our clients understand and exploit all of these changes. We stay current in all areas instead of being a specialist in any one. We have never been siloed as just a creative or media or digital agency. We believe that seeing the total landscape is the only way to help our clients win consistently. It is this ability to see that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts that is the key to building enduring partnerships.
Many non-clients don’t know these things about Merkley, because we place the success and visibility of our clients above our own. Internally, we refer to it as being quietly great. We understand that this approach flies in the face of much of our industry. But when Dr. Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, handed me the Daimler Partnership Award, shook my hand and thanked Merkley for our service, it convinced all of us here that it is the right approach.
To winning consistently through enduring partnerships, sincerely,