The World's Leading Independent Agencies 2010 is a Campaign advertising supplement published for thenetworkone.
First, came an idea. Let's create an independent agency with operations in Poland and beyond. All that was needed was to leave the cosy shelter provided by network agencies and make a fresh start. The idea stirred plenty of emotions and head-shaking. Even our friends were doubtful - prophesying a spectacular failure and a quick and harsh return to reality.
We may now say that our friends were right. Here we are, some 700 days from the start, with a long list of failures. Does that make us feel like losers? Not in the least bit, even though last year was not at all easy for us. So what happened in the past 12 months?
We failed to win six new-business pitches, which is a hefty blow to a young organism, such as we are. You definitely know the feeling: go in with a lot of confidence and hope; then come out empty-handed, with unfulfilled ambitions. But then you try even harder. And when you lose count, you realise you have managed to win ten blue-chip businesses, despite all the failures, and that you are topping the country's new-business league.
We dreamed of an integrated, multi-field ad agency group. One that would exist in real life rather than on paper, and yet we have failed to develop an interactive agency. This is a big failure, you're thinking, not to establish an interactive company with all that digital hype swirling around it, with all the digital-specialised agencies fighting for digital awards. And yet, we have managed to run multiple integrated campaigns. And our websites have succeeded in winning "Favourite Website Awards" a couple of times. After all, it's results that count, isn't it?
Fine, you say. Integrated or not, you may be just great within the bounds of what is expected of a decent local agency. What happens in Poland, stays in Poland. But we have failed on this count too. Even though we still feel our strength stems from the local roots of the barbarian character of the wild east, we had no choice but to stop behaving like a local company last year. Following our success in a London-based pitch at GlaxoSmithKline, we were trusted with launching its key brand in 11 markets. And we gave up our local character entirely when PZ Cussons invited us to support its business in Africa.
At Change, we worship what is sacred to every advertising agency - the work. Good ideas are like children: each of them close to your heart, each of them loved to the limit. And still, we failed last year with a countless (please keep it low) number of ideas presented to our clients, even though we truly loved each and every one of them.
A huge failure that led to another achievement: we produced Poland's first-ever fully interactive television commercial. We enabled viewers to experience (and how!) features of the new Skoda Superb by changing the channel on their TV sets (yes, we're aware this may sound complicated, but trust us - it was so much fun for the viewer).
We feel today that we don't mind failing with thousands of TV scripts, if just one of them manages to redefine the medium in the end. As with our recent work for Skoda Yeti, in which we used media interest in the appearance of the famous Sasquatch in the Tatra Mountains. The story was planted on YouTube, taken up by RTL television from Germany and made it to The Sun magazine and many others. This made people Google "yeti" and find our sponsored links, pictures and articles about the new car, before it was officially launched.
There is more. We have failed to live up to the high expectations of the three biggest Polish telecom companies. We have successfully re-launched a fourth operator in Poland, invented a new creative story and structured its communications around new values. This has brought in 1.5 million new users in the past 12 months.
We also failed to win gold at Cannes. Tough. Even tougher, considering that some of us already knew the feeling of hugging a Lion, and wanted to savour it again. For those addicts, there is no real excuse or consolation, but the rest of us are proud to be featured in the 2009 Gunn Report as the sole agency from Poland.
Finally, there is one more thing. Slightly personal, maybe. We failed to become friends with our competitors in the market. It's not that we haven't tried, but we guess that, yet again, last year's circumstances didn't help. Awarded "Agency of the Year" at the most important local creative festival, "Advertising Group of the Year" by the most influential local trade magazine, one of the highest scores in client satisfaction surveys and a bunch of international successes. Who would befriend guys like this? We would probably find it hard as well.
As you can see, we failed quite a lot last year. But we are still strong and we believe we did the right thing, moving from corporate careers to an independent business. Pompous though it may seem, we are still pursuing our dream of making a difference by building Change. Independent, innovative, integrated.
This is what makes us tick. Day by day. And here we are, some 700 days from the start and hundreds of failures later. Eager to endure even more.
This is probably a good moment to quote the final line Michael Jordan makes in one of his Nike ads, which (as you can see) became our inspiration to write this article: "I failed over and over again, and this is why I succeed."
Marek Zoledziowski is the chief executive of Change Integrated
AT A GLANCE
Marek Zoledziowski, chief executive; Anna Panczyk, Magda Tuczynska, managing directors; Rafal Gorski, Jakub Korolczuk, Ryszard Sroka, creative directors; Adam Smilowski, strategic director
What would you like to see more of in 2010?
We would like to see more international clients trusting that a company that happens to be located in Central Europe can deliver world-class ideas also outside of Poland
Which country's creativity (other than your own) do you most admire?
South America in general. Constantly top-performing creatively, and hungry for more