David Baldwin, founder of the startup ad shop Baldwin&, has been talking about the effects of winning AdAge’s “Small Agency of the Year” award last year. As any art director or account manager can testify, the prize is a pretty impressive accolade for a shop that launched in 2009 with no clients to its name.
A strong sense of self
But the same art director or account manager will want to know what made Baldwin& stand out.
Well, for one thing, this little shop from Raleigh, North Carolina has a strong sense of self. Shortly before winning the award, it received a call from a client offering it the chance to take over part of a big telecom account. But after a quick founders’ meeting, Baldwin and his team asked “Does this sound fun at all?” They decided it didn’t – and walked away.
It also managed to strike a blow for the wider agency world. After being invited to take part in a pitch by a client recently, it argued that all participating agencies should be paid for the work they put into the presentations. They didn’t win the business that time – but they did get paid for their pitch and so did the other agencies. That’s the kind of thing to gladden the hearts of hardworking art directors and account managers across the land.
Qualities like that impressed the judges at AdAge last year. So did the fact that the company has been more than successful in realizing its aggressive goal of doubling in size annually during its first five years. The shop’s revenue climbed by 28 percent between 2009 and 2010 but doubled between 2010 and 2011. Holding uncompromising principles isn’t bad for business.
Baldwin says that since winning the award, numerous doors have opened for the agency. But he’s still resolute that his shop doesn’t do anything just for the money (“we won’t take a gig just to get paid,” he says). This often means turning down pitches – small companies aren’t in a position to compete with the big beasts when it comes to the sheer expenses involved, and Baldwin regrets that agencies put up with this.
As he puts it, “We’re not going to change the rules of the industry overnight. But damned if we’re not going to keep trying.”