Five years ago, I outlined a bold strategy for Edelman. We had reached the top of the PR category. We had built a substantial social digital business. We had a global footprint. We had great clients who believed in us. We had a strong heritage in marketing, from the Toni Twins to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. We understood the inextricable connection between brand and corporate reputation through our work on Walmart, Starbucks and HP.
But there were storm clouds on the horizon. The mainstream media, our oxygen supply, was facing existential threats from reduced circulation and diminished advertising. Ad blockers were being introduced, while OTT options such as Netflix were offering ad-free content. The new money was largely going to Facebook and Google.
We decided to broaden our offer beyond classic public relations, though we would retain brand and corporate PR as the trunk of the Edelman tree. At the core of the strategy was Earned Creative, social by design and as fast as the news cycle. Our ideas would be different than advertising, moving clients to take a stand, then encouraging consumers to build on the idea in their own way. Our mantra would become Act With Certainty, helping clients to move forward through tangible actions, using our unique skills to Evolve, Promote and Protect their brands and reputations.
We began to bring in creative talent from ad agencies, digital firms and media buyers. Over the past four years, we have hired scores of creatives and planners. We have served as creative lead on programs for Dove (Real Beauty Productions), HP (Family Portraits), ASICS (Blackout Track), Adobe (Make the Cut), WNBA (Take a Seat, Take a Stand), Sunkist (We Were There), and REI, co-producing the #OptOutside campaign that won the Titanium Lion at the Cannes Festival in 2016. Thank you, team, for believing in the idea that Edelman could compete in a new way.
Now it is time to go to the next level, to make the case for Edelman as the lead creative partner when a brand or business wants to disrupt the market by taking a stand.
Today we are proud to announce that Judy John, current chief creative officer of North America and CEO of Canada for Leo Burnett will be joining our firm as our first-ever global chief creative officer on April 29. She is the visionary behind the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. She has also led a number of major efforts, including Amazon’s first Super Bowl commercial and Samsung’s first global Olympic campaign. She has won Titanium Grand Prix and Glass Lions at the Cannes Festival. Her IKEA Cook This Page campaign was named one of the Top 10 Most Awarded Campaigns in the World. She was ranked as the No.1 Chief Creative Officer in the world by Ad Age in 2015 and Marketer of the Year by the Canadian Marketing Association in 2016, the first agency person ever to win that coveted prize.
Judy is a perfect fit for the Edelman culture. She comes from a family business background. Her parents ran a Chinese restaurant in a small town in Canada where she learned values such as hard work, humility and team above all. She is committed to societal change through marketing; she especially loved our work for CVS, when the company took tobacco off of its shelves. She loves to work on clients; she manages by leading from the front. She believes in ideas and fights for them. This is all in keeping with the legacy of my father, our founder Dan Edelman, who began with four people in a little office in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago but with big dreams of building a global business based on our clients’ success. As an independent family-owned agency, we have the ability to make this type of superb hire and keep our commitment to always putting our clients first.
I close with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, whose book “The Little Prince” was one of my childhood favorites. He said, “If you want to build a ship, then don’t drum up men to gather wood, give orders and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.” This is the dream of Earned Creative as the new frontier for marketing. Judy, I cannot wait for you to start.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.