Stability has always been the predominant theme in the 27-year trajectory of Chicago shop Goble & Associates. Sure the agency has grown significantly over the last four years, expanding from under 50 people to over 70 currently. But it's been a path of steady, measured expansion rather than a steep, precarious climb—and that's just how president and CEO Joseph Kuchta likes it.
“Revenue was about the same as 2007—up a little to $19 million—and I'm more than happy with that,” Kuchta says. “We stabilized and got comfortable. Steady revenue is a great indicator for 2009. We tend not to lose business. We have long, stable relationships. There's no rollercoaster, which makes managing the financial end and staff a lot easier.”
Abbott, Shire, Upsher-Smith and Hospira are among the long-term clients that awarded the agency new assignments last year.
Other work was won from new clients, such as Ikaria, a critical care focused biotherapeutics company, which started as a corporate assignment and expanded to two brands (INOtherapy and Lucassin).
A new relationship also began with Smith & Nephew (for work on Supartz, a joint fluid therapy), and the agency also picked up corporate work from Clarient, a West Coast cancer diagnostics company.
Kuchta notes that clients are more open to and curious about digital than ever before. He's thrilled to report that Greg Waitley, who helped shaped the agency's digital practice before leaving a few years ago to work for a client, re-joined as a digital strategist. Waitley is doing a lot to help clients understand ways in which digital can benefit them.
Social networking is on the rise—at least six clients are involved.
“We're naturally integrating it—not treating it as brand new entity,” Kuchta says.
Kuchta also sees mobile as a means of communicating rather than a communications effort in its own right.
“I'm not sure mobile as a vehicle is as important as content and interaction,” he says.
“Content, targeting and telling people what they need to hear, or are interested in hearing, is important,” Kuchta notes. “If the content is targeted and compelling, the vehicle doesn't matter. The onus is on making sure it makes sense for the audience, and that will never change.”
Recruiting talent has never been a problem, though Kuchta is choosey because the culture is close-knit.
“People from the corporate side or big agencies don't necessarily fit into our very personal approach,” he says.
“There are a lot of good people on the streets. I'd much rather look at a talented known entity than a blind resume,” Kuchta explains. “We are getting a regular stream of resumes from people who are concerned about their agency's position or are already out of jobs.”
Among industry trends, Kuchta finds the increasing influence of procurement and purchasing on client/agency relationships “alarming.”
“There's a devaluing in thinking and partnership at the hands of procurement folks,” he says. “If creative strategy is constantly demanded and we're treated as just suppliers there's a big disconnect—all in an effort to save 3.6%. Nobody's going to feel like they're in it together.”
This year is shaping up nicely, with a couple of pitches completed already and a couple of more on the horizon. And, as always, Kuchta's team is focused on “business at hand” and maintaining those relationships.