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On being named Independent Agency of the Year

On being named Independent Agency of the Year Adam Kleinberg

Reflecting on the value of freedom

My agency Traction just got a trophy.

We were named “Best Independent Agency” of 2014 in the U.S. in two rounds of judging in the iMedia Agency Awards — first from a panel of judges including senior marketers from MasterCard, Walmart, Kellogg., Coca-Cola , and Hershey; next from the votes of almost 5,000 members of the marketing community.

To win any recognition from your peers is a huge deal in my business. But to be recognized as the best user of our independence as a driver of our success has me giddy as a pig in shit.

Why? Let’s start with the fact that I am free to compare myself to a happy little shit-covered pig in a public forum. Seems like a small indulgence, perhaps, but it’s reflective of so much more.

What freedom buys

Not having a corporate holding company overlord to report to gives us freedom — freedom to make decisions because we think they’re the right thing to do, not because we “have to make our numbers.”

We have the freedom to create a culture where people aren’t expected to work until 9pm every day (like I was when I worked at a holding company agency).

We have the freedom to invest in building a mobile game simply because we think it’s a brilliant idea — heck, we’ll figure out how to monetize it later.

We have the freedom to make strategic investments in people or things without guaranteed revenue to back them up, but because we believe that’s where the industry is going.

We have the freedom to fail.

Of course, we didn’t start a business to fail. We take our work very seriously. We strive for excellence and we carefully measure our efforts to make a healthy profit. But in the words of A.P. Gouthev:

“To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born.”

Last year, we had the good fortune to attend the Ad Age Small Agency Awards where we got another nod from our industry with a silver West Coast Agency of the Year Award. The keynote was delivered by Dan Weiden. Dan described the holding companies as “wobbling drunkards” struggling to retain their ridiculous margins in a world gone awry. Small shops should be sharpening their knives, he told us.

We’re free to cut our own path.

MediaPost named me an OMMA All-Star in 2013, an award given to the three most influential digital creatives in the U.S. each year. I was called one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Marketers in Digital in 2012 by iMedia Connection. In 2014, Traction...

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