Marketing shifts to social media

T3‘s chief executive Gay Gaddis speaks about maintaining independence, agency culture and more

Q: What’s the greatest change you’ve seen in marketing since you founded your agency 21 years ago?

A: The most interesting thing for us is how we evolved and got into Internet marketing in 1992 with our clients, even before we were sure where it was headed. We were fortunate to be able to think ahead about what was going to resonate with customers. The Internet and digital have created such a level of interest, and data and insights, that we’ve never had before.

Q: I’ve heard some marketers say social media is a fad. What do you think?

A: I don’t think it’s going away at all. It’s an enhanced way for people to communicate in ways they’ve always wanted. The ways in which we use it may change, but to me, social media is here to stay.

Q: A lot of agencies have suffered during the recession as long-standing clients pulled back marketing budgets. How did you navigate this?

A: What we saw last year was overall account pullback, and a lot of that was pushed by procurement to pull back on budgets, like 30% decreases. We got very active with our clients by helping them decide what to pull back.

The pie hasn’t changed, but the slivers of the pie have. Because a lot of our work is in the digital space, we’re seeing dollars are being taken from the traditional advertising pots and put more into social media.

I don’t think we’re going to be leaping for joy in the next couple of years because the economy is so good — I think we’re in for a haul here.

Q: Is it hard to be an independent firm in this atmosphere?

A: I have been approached to sell so many times, I can’t even count them. But we like our independence because it gives us the opportunity to make a decision just like that. We also invest in things that I don’t think we would be able to if we were in a holding company.

Q: What types of analytics are clients asking for?

A: I think sometimes we can provide more than they have time to deal with. What we’re trying to do is simplify the insights as quickly and as visually as we can. What they’re looking for are some fast insights along the way…because we can make changes as we go.

Q: There’s a motto on your website that says, “Culture: babies, dogs, creativity and balance.” What does that mean?

A: In every high-pressure environment there needs to be some levity. A number of years ago, we had four women on staff who got pregnant at the same time.

These were key roles, and we were a 22-person shop. We tried an experiment where parents can bring their kids to work until they are nine months old. It was an incredible opportunity to hold on to our talented women. And we decided the dogs could come, too.…Sometimes it’s chaotic, but it’s managed chaos.

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