Last week, we took a major step in the progression of evōk advertising. We merged with Acropolis and Beloved – two of Central Florida’s leading advertising agencies. The merger creates a larger evōk that has, yes, more people, more clients and maybe more headaches, including where we’re going to live. Earlier reports had us working from two offices, but we quickly found the teams needed to be together, under one roof, so, like the Beverly Hillbillies, we’re all headed west…to the former Acropolis office in the SODO district, already painted evōk black, white and green. I believe most of us will be there by the end of August, with a few stragglers here and there.

Who’s going to lead the team?

Scott, Terry and I are no strangers to one another. We’ve known and worked together for many years and have regarded one another as respected rivals. We’ve actually been talking about merging our two companies for quite a while because, not only, do we admire each other’s work, growth and business acumen, but most of all, because we believe we offer to the other an area of specific expertise. And, isn’t that what we all want – to have the opportunity to, and be appreciated for, what we’re good at doing?

Terry Mooney, as many of you know, is very well respected in the industry (which I hope rubs off on me, as some people think I’m an ass. Who knew?) and will be handling evōk’s operations, working with some of our national and international clients, as well as, leading our efforts with responding to RFPs. He’s the “money man” at evōk, carries the title COO and makes sure all our buttons are buttoned. If you want to work with or at evōk, you must get through Terry first. He can smell BS from a mile away.

Scott Major is a lot like me, with a drive, passion, and sometimes, rambunctious, unfiltered personality and love of the spirits (I’m a Jack man. Scott prefers Jameson). Terry is the yin to Scott’s yang, and I only hope there is enough yin to go around for both of us, or lookout. Also, Scott and I each have daughters about the same age and, for both of us, our children are, and remain, our number one priority. Now, if we could keep them off their iPhones for two seconds, we might actually get to spend some Daddy/daughter time. As CMO, Scott will be handling new business development for evōk and working in some areas of interactive, social media and new media.

So, what am I going to do? Well, I’ll continue to serve as agency CEO, but now that I am no longer responsible for operations or new business development (wait, isn’t everyone responsible for new business development? Yes, I’ll be doing some but trying to stay out of Scott’s way), I can focus on the evōk “experience.” I even changed my title, yes once again, to “chief experience officer.” My role includes being an agency futurist, a brand catalyst and playing with creative. But, most of my time will be spent concentrating on account planning and bridging the gap from the seedling of an idea into strategy, creative execution, dissemination of messaging and the measurement of effectiveness. My job is simple – make sure we do the best work we can for our clients.

Mark Holt, managing partner of our Memphis office, will continue to lead our efforts in our newly opened Los Angeles office. Yes, he’s racking up the airline miles!

So, we have everything covered, right? Not really. With new opportunities, come new challenges. Merging the companies together took our account service division to eight, and with a team that large, you need a strong, dedicated leader. So, we convinced the best client services/brand development director in the city, Wágner dos Santos at Beloved, to be part of something special. W´gner and I have worked together on several events in the past, including some great experiential campaigns for Moe’s Southwest Grill. It took some persuading, but in the end, Terry, Scott and I were very pleased when Wágner agreed to bring Beloved into the mix.

Wágner will serve as vice president, client services, ensuring all client needs are met and expectations exceeded, as well as, monitoring and guiding our brand managers’ activities, and maintaining an effective level of direct contact with clients…even managing a couple key accounts.

Wágner brings to our team a true, deep-seeded passion for consumer engagement, and as our industry continues to evolve into one of more rich, one-on-one, personal brand relationships through both experiential and social, we couldn’t be happier with our choice, and his decision.

Chris LeBlanc, evōk’s creative director, has agreed to stay on board and lead a team of talented art directors, copywriters and interactive design specialists. His team ballooned to eight full-timers and a smattering of freelancers with some very unique capabilities – it’s an eclectic group, as should a creative department be. In recognition of his commitment to the team, our growth and because of all the great work his team has been kicking out, we’ve promoted Chris to vice president, creative director. Congratulations, Chris. Well deserved.

Casey Kope, evōk’s director of interactive strategy, will continue to the lead interactive and social media team; Kerri Byrd will continue her role as director of media and Beth Ridenour completes our leadership team as public relations director. Thank you for your continued dedication to our success.

There’s many other great team members helping us get where we want to go, and for now, the teams are blending well. It may not be a Johnnie Walker Blue Label just yet, but we’re getting there. In a year when evōk is also celebrating its 10th anniversary, we’re excited about this significant milestone. We truly are a group of individuals united in a cause, sharing the same vision for our new agency, and we’re confident in our future success.

What does success look like for evōk?

I can tell you that it won’t be judged by anyone’s standard but our own. We’re not Fry, Push, Anson or Engauge, nor do we want to be. They’re all great agencies, and there are many others in the city – we respect them all. But for us, success will be measured by how well we embrace our own culture, unify the team and continue to produce work that may scare some a little at first, but moves the needle in the end.

We’re not striving for a number of employees, though we’re always looking for great talent to add to the team, or some magical billing number that gets us closer to the top of the Orlando Business Journal’s Book of Lists, but we will continue to grow, to meet the needs of our current clients and to prepare us for the opportunities that lie ahead.

Who will make a great evōk client?

One thing that was put on the table right away during our initial discussions was we weren’t doing this just to eliminate competitors and go after the same business we have been fighting over for years. Yes, there are some really great accounts in Orlando, led by some marketing superstars, and we’re fortunate enough to work with many of them, but we also have to be ready to step outside our comfort zone, spread our wings and swing for the fences once in a while.

Borrowed from Stan Richards (thanks for meeting with us, Stan)… evōk will seek

  1. Clients that allow us to do truly good work; work we’re proud of.
  2. Opportunities where we, as a team, can make a difference, whether on a client’s P&L, in the lives that are impacted or the industry we’re helping to shape.
  3. Clients who value the work we do enough to allow us to make a profit, so we may reinvest in our people, our capabilities and our own brand.
  4. Really fun work. We’re here 50+ hours a week and although we know it’s not play time, especially in this highly measured, ROI economy we’re in, if we can’t enjoy the work, the environment and our co-workers, we won’t remain strong.

What’s next for evōk?

Who knows? We’re not even sure for now. The teams are still getting to know one another, working out some kinks and determining where we need some additional support. But, the phones are ringing, and I’m proud to say we were short-listed in our first “new” evōk RFP submission.

Go team!

We look forward to our continued collaboration with our clients, business partners and peers in the industry, many, who took the time to call or wrote a letter wishing us success in our new venture.

We’ll continue to serve many national and international brands including, but not limited to, Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen, which Beloved just rebranded; Ian Poulter, who plays on both the PGA and European Tours; Kenwood USA, who we worked on for five years to land – whew!; Lawhorn’s Signature Seasonings which should be in your pantry; Moe’s Southwest Grill, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, US Equity Advantage and Premier Care in Bathing among others.

We’re looking forward to what the tide brings in next.