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Agency Profile: Campbell Ewald

Posted on March 7, 2013 and read 6,335 times

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ZK Agency Profile: Campbell Ewald  Zack Kinslow
Creative Producer
Art Directors Club

If this were a typical agency profile, I’d tell you all about Campbell Ewald’s creative department, what their traditions are, and show you some photos of where all the magic happens.

The table hockey and foosball. The annual bocce tournament. The fully-equipped video and sound production studio. The bi-weekly “Lot Rock” concerts they host, featuring bands composed of their musically inclined employees. The “Naked Twister” incident (which may or may not have sparked the agency’s relocation program). And the futuristic conference room that seamlessly connects their LA and San Antonio offices with the Detroit mothership.

But rather than describe where they’ve been cranking away for a third of their 100-year existence, I prefer to show you where they’re going in 2014: a preserved industrial building inside Ford Field (Lions stadium), designed to foster collaboration and integration across all disciplines.

Campbell Ewald’s move to downtown Detroit was just announced publicly today, and IHAVEANIDEA was given an exclusive tour of the space by CEO/Chairman Bill Ludwig and CMO Barbara Yolles – two of the leaders spearheading this new vision.

CEDetroitAtrium Agency Profile: Campbell Ewald

Since Ludwig became Chairman in 2010 (he started as a copywriter in 1982 and worked his way up to Chief Creative Officer), he has scouted many possible locations for CE’s next home. The Ford Field building couldn’t be more perfect for a shop that is looking to put their money where their mouth is and create a truly collaborative workspace for their integrated army of creatives.

“We’re keeping most of this as-is,” Ludwig points out as we stroll through the exposed steel girders and sleek-yet-rugged character of the old Hudson’s Department Store Warehouse. “We’re just going to warm it up a bit” – with wooden breakout rooms, treehouses, interactive displays, moveable surfaces and employee-generated whiteboard murals. “It’s a blank canvas for self-expression.”

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The new CE workspace is a salute to Detroit’s scrappy, blue-collar spirit. An old quote echoes through the agency’s walls, from novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard (once a copywriter at Campbell Ewald): “There are cities that get by on their good looks. Detroit has to work for a living.”

Of course, who says you can’t do both? CE’s new digs has its fair share of beautiful scenery. A balcony on one side of the office overlooks Tigers ballpark and the downtown cityscape. Another indoor balcony overlooks Ford Field and will house the bocce court (CE’s annual bocce tournament is a long-time tradition).

The epicenter of the new office is a vaulted “hive” with a 360-degree view of almost the entire agency and its 700 people. A giant skylight beams down from above the hive, spotlighting a social area where employees can eat, drink, and bounce ideas off one another.

Bill Ludwig firmly believes that people have to bump into each other and have sporadic conversations in order to create better work. His open floorplan of the new space promotes random interactions and provides the perfect venue for “Idea Mobs” – cross-disciplinary teams that CE assembles to laser-focus on solving specific problems.

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“A great idea can come from anywhere,” explains Chief Creative Officer Mark Simon. “The goal of Idea Mobs is to generate as many ideas as possible. It’s pretty intense. It can take an hour. It can take a day. We do a lot of bathroom breaks.”

As for departments? The creatives at CE are “fully smashed together,” according to Iain Lanivich, Group Creative Director, Interactive. “We’re hiring more for mindsets, rather than skill sets. Everyone has a good sense of who’s good at what. It’s no longer about ‘MY idea.’”

Rather than ‘breaking down the walls’ of the agency structure, they just aren’t going to build any in the new space.

Bill Ludwig’s philosophy continues through the agency culture in the breeding of “deep generalists” – people who dabble in lots of different fields and bring an array of talents to the table. CE embraces that the next generation of creatives are writing, designing, coding, orchestrating and even building their own mobile apps.

The agency plays an active role in fostering creativity in the Detroit community, with its CE CITY program (Creatively Inspiring Talented Youth). CE CITY provides mentorship, scholarships, workshops and resources for teens in the Motor City.

These up-and-comers may then go on to join the ranks of “The Creative Class” – a term coined by author Richard Florida representing the artists, technologists, scientists and designers that are thriving in Detroit. Campbell Ewald taps into this creative resurgence and even partners with some of the startups spangling the local scene.

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CE also puts 30 employees a year through an intense, cross-disciplinary training program called CE3 (Expand, Enhance, Elevate), making them work in opposite departments than what they’re used to. Then, a select few of the pupils are sent to VCU Brandcenter for the next level of training.

In addition to the new blood at the agency, there are a lot of creatives who have been there for years – even decades. “It’s the best first and third place you’ve ever worked,” Simon jokes. Hundreds of people get their start at Campbell Ewald, and hundreds of people come back for good.

For an agency that’s been around since 1911, it’s impressive that they are able to keep the culture fresh and interesting for newcomers and veterans alike. Through all the ups and downs of the industry – and of Detroit specifically – CE continues to elevate their work, expand their capabilities and integrate their agency in order to better serve their clients. And it seems to be working. CE is booming with new business – including the global Zipcar account and agency-of-record for the U.S. Navy.

“What drew me to Campbell Ewald,” explains Jim DiPiazza, Executive Creative Director of the LA branch – who has held VP/CD posts at some of the world’s best agencies – “is the focus on creative solutions that move the business needle.”

How do they inspire their creative teams to solve their clients’ complex business problems? Chief Creative Officer Mark Simon replies matter-of-factly: “Beer.” It may also have something to do with the fact that they begin each project with an “inspiration brief.” Simon continues, “A brief can be anything nowadays. Sometimes it’s as simple as a purchase order or a job request. At CE we spend a lot of time on ours upfront, to make sure the brief is as inspiring as the work that comes out of it.”

Simon sums up the agency’s creative process in three words: “Best idea wins.” And clearly they are in the midst of a really great idea – by not just preaching ‘integration,’ but rather, reshaping their entire physical space and workflow to encourage a more collaborative culture.

Say goodbye to the cubicles, and hello to a whole new CE in January 2014.

We can’t wait for the office-warming party.

Many thanks to Bill Ludwig, Barbara Yolles, Kelly Barnes, Mark Simon, Iain Lanivich, Jim DiPiazza and the rest of the CE team for showing us around. And an extra special thanks to Getty Images for making this visit to Campbell Ewald possible.




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