Last night Edelman was named the No. 4 agency on the prestigious Ad Age A-List for 2019. There we were alongside industry stalwarts Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, TBWA, McCann and fellow independent Wieden+Kennedy; as equals, because our work had proven that we belonged.
From a standing start five years ago, we have morphed from a classic PR firm to a communications firm. We have added scores of creatives, planners and paid experts. We did this because we believed that we needed to have our own ideas to serve our clients better in a world of diminished mainstream media.
We sought to invent a new planet, Earned Creative, where our work was social by design, as fast as the news cycle, driven by research and insights and based on purpose. We relied on our 60-plus years of heritage as the first marketing PR firm, with instincts honed by pitching reporters as my father did on behalf of the Toni Twins and Sara Lee.
We kept quiet about our ambition, so that the work would speak for itself — until this past year, when we declared that we enable clients to Act with Certainty, knowing that their actions, well communicated, would promote sales and improve reputation. Our mantra would be Evolve, Promote and Protect.
The work is agile, fast and important. We challenged the assumption of the average American family through a film for HP and its Envy printer. We helped Crock-Pot reverse a reputation crisis stimulated by the death of a lead character in the popular TV drama “This is Us”, by persuading the show's star to be part of our tongue-in-cheek rebound, boosting sales and restoring trust. The Dove Real Beauty Productions studio, headed by Shonda Rhimes, is the first all-female production house.
And we are doing the same kind of important and innovative work all over the world for clients like Unilever, ASICS and Johnson +Johnson Vision.
Judy John joins us in two weeks as our first-ever Chief Creative Officer. She is coming not to make Edelman an ad agency. She is joining Edelman because she believes in Earned Creative and that we are unlike any other agency in that we are an idea meritocracy. Earned Creative is an essential distinction made even more important by the rise of ad blockers, Netflix and other ways to avoid paid messages. We will have to persuade consumers that marketing information is worth the interaction because it is part of a movement or the news cycle. It will be direct to the end-user but in a way that stimulates amplification and discussion.
We are making this evolution at the same time that we are leading in corporate and public affairs on the basis of our unique understanding of trust, which has now become local, centered on My Employer. In fact, Edelman has found that 75 percent of people expect CEOs to speak up on diversity and inclusion, pay and re-training, not waiting for government.
Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar lander onto the Moon. He said, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." That is the feeling I had last night at the A-List awards, where we sat among equals, determined to succeed on our new planet because it helps our clients in a unique and powerful way.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.