This weekend, Well Done will present The Anatomy of An Advertising Agency at Anderson University’s Jessie C. Wilson Gallery. The gallery opening is from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 23; Associate Creative Director Amy McAdams-Gonzales and I will give a brief talk at 4 p.m.
The opportunity to do this show came by way of James and Jon Sholly, the brothers behind the most-excellent Commercial Artisan design studio. The Shollys have put together an exhibition for the same space in the past, and they suggested Well Done as a candidate to Anderson University Director of Exhibitions Programming Tai Lipan. When Lipan asked us, we enthusiastically accepted, even though at first we didn’t have a clue about how to approach it.
Unlike Commercial Artisan, we are not a design studio. Although we employ some very talented graphic designers, the end product of our work is not necessarily beautiful design (although that is often a component of it), but instead effective marketing and advertising. But who wants to walk into a gallery and look at a bunch of ads and strategy documents?
So we approached it like a marketing challenge, starting by thinking about our audience. In this case, that means mostly university students—young adults in the midst of an education intended to help them choose a career. Some who attend our exhibit are probably considering a career in marketing and advertising. And even those who aren’t will have to interact with ad agencies in the course of their careers.
So we thought: Why not pull back the curtain on how a 21st century advertising agency works? Because to most young people, ad agencies are a mysterious thing. The only exposure a 20-year old is likely to have had to an ad agency is Mad Men. And while that’s a great show, it presents a romanticized, antiquated version of an ad agency. Furthermore, it’s milieu is Madison Avenue and major consumer brands. In the democratized digital world, the advertising industry goes well beyond New York City. There are more than 8,000 agencies in America, in places like Anchorage and Albuquerque and Fort Wayne. And none of them look anything like Sterling Cooper.
So what do today’s agencies look like? What, exactly, do they do?
That’s the question we sought to answer in The Anatomy of An Ad Agency. By giving viewers an inside look at Well Done’s work and processes, we hope to illuminate what “ad agency” actually means in 2016. To that end, we’ll show not only our successful work, but also the many failures we endure before success is achieved. We’ll also be illuminating the all-too-often obscure process of branding, and the client-agency collaboration that goes into it. We’ll show examples of broadcast and online video, as well as the scripts and props that bring them to life. We’ll demonstrate the surprising amount of teamwork it takes to execute digital projects. And finally, we’ll show some of the non-advertising work our team produces to keep creatively fit.
Although this exhibition is somewhat instructive by nature, it’s also intended to be fun. We certainly had fun putting it together. We thank Tai and Anderson University for the opportunity, and we sincerely hope to see you there.