In honor of their 25th anniversary, Buffalo-based ad agency Crowley Webb decided to give away 25 consecutive hours of free marketing services for a local start-up through their own 25-Hour Workday Contest. You and Who, my company with Dan, was the winner of this contest.
I work in PR and Communications, and every which way I turned, I saw various shades of brilliance in this campaign. Here’s why:
- It garnered some fantastic press for Crowley Webb.
- It garnered the finalists in the contest–and especially You and Who–some fantastic press, something that any start-up covets.
- It created great public relations for Crowley Webb within the local community, business and otherwise. People took note of what they were doing, and recognized they were offering up free labor in an effort to help give a local start-up much-needed tools to succeed.
- It created an opportunity for a start-up to receive thousands of dollars of free services that it would otherwise not be able to afford.
- It was a fantastic team bonding exercise for Crowley Webb, who emerged, what appeared to be, a stronger and closer team.
- It created an opportunity for Crowley Webb to gain a client for life, bonding both companies together. You and Who is head-over-heels in love with and devoted to CW for all of that they’ve done for us, and, after this experience, we’ll only want to further this relationship.
- It shined a light on Crowley Webb in the ad community–it certainly made everyone sit up and pay attention to what was going to come of this.
- It shined a light on You and Who and breathed new life into our company–Crowley Webb gave us a new, sharpened identity that will position us to take our company to new heights.
- It demonstrated that collective brainpower, when harnessed and put to the test for a greater purpose, can rise above expectations and put forth something worthwhile, smart and creative.
- And it proved that the craziest, most spontaneous, off-the-wall ideas are sometimes the biggest strokes of genius, and when done with the right crowd, can be rewarding beyond measure.
Crowley Webb put a tough task in front of themselves, but they did it right: a morale team was in place, responsible for keeping the team energized and enthusiastic throughout their all-nighter, complete with music on the hour, yoga breaks, a midnight run, and a scheduled snowball fight which, unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate with. They also had a sustenance team that was responsible for feeding and hydrating everyone, which they did so with fantastic local restaurants including the Armor Inn, Lloyd’s Tacos, Curly’s, and La Nova. They even had an ice cream and dessert cart that came calling for that needed pick-me-up. Yes, Crowley Webb is a creative company, but it didn’t cease to amaze me just how prepared they were to make sure this 25-Hour Workday was a memorable one for staff. Some of the highlights included an MTV “Real World”-style Secret Confessional, ping pong, impromptu dance parties in the middle of the photo shoot, BBQ wings at 2am, a visit from an adorable puppy named “Lucky,” footie pajamas…you get the idea. If you’re going to spend 25 consecutive hours working your @ss off, this is the group you want to go to war with.
We arrived back to Crowley Webb’s offices at 9am on Friday morning for the final presentation. The team presented market research findings, strategies for the media, social media, and public relations, and most importantly a new brand identity. This included a modified logo, new style patterns and textures, a website design (which Dan will implement), packaging materials, and a Look Book which will showcase all of our products for retailers to view. When you cram so much into such a short period of time, or when you try to rush the creative process, there’s always a risk of sacrificing some of the details. However, this was not the case. The details were ever-present and it was apparent that great thought went into You and Who’s needs and our audience. We were blown away.
When it was over and they asked us what we thought, Dan was about to speak but caught one look at my eyes welling up with tears. He couldn’t go on speaking. We were all overcome with emotion at the gravitas of what was just presented, and none of us knew what to say. When you’re starting out as a small business, you put everything you have into seeing it grow. It starts with a small idea that gets nurtured daily. You can only give as much as your current resources will let you, and you end up working harder than you ever thought you could for something that you’re just trying to lift off of the ground. The little things are huge wins, and the big things move you to tears. That’s the place we were on Friday morning. It became overwhelming to look at 45 faces looking at us for our reaction to their hard work for 25 straight hours. Delirious from lack of sleep, but yet still energized, wanting to please us. They wanted to please us. They knew what our work meant to us, and they wanted their work to mean something too. In the beginning phases of owning a business, all you have is yourself and maybe a few people working with you. In our case, there’s only three of us. But this time, we had an additional 45 sets of hands making a giant push for You and Who to lift even further off the ground, and hopefully start to fly. How could we not be moved to tears? It was almost too much to grasp. And it made us–me, Dan and Mike–realize that, not only were we not alone, but Crowley Webb has put a face to what we’ve been envisioning for over a year. We can see it now. It’s right in front of us. And our success is that much clearer because of what this creative agency did for us.
I was a little embarrassed to have shed a few tears, but I couldn’t help it–it was an honest reaction. And I was now amongst friends who understood why, because they had worked just as hard. But it’s good. It’s all good. The tears come knowing that other people out there–lots of them– want you to succeed as much as you do. The tears come when you know your efforts aren’t for nothing. That you’re not shouting into a black hole; that people are listening.
As someone who works in marketing and communications, I know that this field is the Rodney Dangerfield of the business world. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves–it’s usually the last area that gets attention and the first area that gets cut when finances are tight. I’ve always disagreed with this from a personal standpoint, but let me explain why, as a business owner, this is a critical function: without a strong brand, consumers don’t take you seriously. You have a weak identity. And with a weak identity, you have a meek voice. And without a strong voice, you lack influence, and even relevance, with whom you’re trying to reach. We had a message, but Crowley Webb gave us an identify and a platform upon which to speak. So that when we do speak, people will listen because we look like we have something to say. Every business person knows that first impressions make a difference. That’s why people dress a certain way, speak a certain way, present themselves a certain way–because they want to be taken seriously. Now, You and Who can be taken seriously–we look the part of a national company in 32 markets.
I need to mention here that one of the most critically important components of this entire 25-Hour Workday was the photo shoot Crowley Webb orchestrated with top-notch photographer, Aaron Ingrao, from which the images will be used for You and Who’s new website, Look Book, and our other marketing materials. On top of pulling off that amazing feat, makeup artist and hair stylist Katie Ambrose dropped everything when I frantically called her at 3pm to see if she would be willing and able to do the makeup for the models. Aaron and Katie are incredible artists, and the fact that each so generously and graciously offered up about 10-12 hours of their time is something that again leaves me speechless. This is yet another significant expense, beyond the services Crowley Webb was providing, that would have been difficult for You and Who to fund, but was essential for creating the type of materials we need as a clothing retailer. Thank you Aaron and Katie – your work made an enormous impact on the rebrand of You and Who.
From soup to nuts (or should I say from the egg casserole to the BBQ wings), this whole experience was off-the-charts incredible, the value of which cannot be underscored. Between the outstanding customer service we’ve received from Crowley Webb, to watching how fantastic they interacted with one another as a team, to seeing the sharp concepts they put together for us, to the extreme generosity that was shown to us by incredibly talented people all for the sake of helping our business succeed is something words cannot do justice. In fact, I know that the rewards from this experience will be reaped for years to come. We gave an interview to The Buffalo News, and I told the reporter that, yes, you can crunch the numbers to see how much value in services You and Who is receiving from Crowley Webb; however the whole experience and what we’re taking from it cannot be measured. It’s truly invaluable. Where do we begin to put a value on people’s time? Where do we begin to put a value on their creative ideas? How do we put a value on them working for our company as if it were their own? How much do you value those who are doing this and not getting paid for it? You can’t begin to put a numerical value on it, and if you try, then you’re missing the bigger picture of what this project was all about. It’s about helping someone–a start-up, and in this case, a start-up trying to help those in need around the country. And we all know that when you help someone, it invokes a deep sense of gratification in both the giver and the receiver that goes beyond measure.
Some of you may be reading this and think, “sheesh, a little dramatic, no?” Nope, not dramatic. This is what an outpouring of heartfelt gratitude sounds like.
Jeff Pappalardo, Creative Director and one of the partners at Crowley Webb, tweeted us yesterday with what summed up the experience for us:
We were happy to know You and Who weren’t the only ones who got something out of this. It was a very special moment for both of our companies. Crowley Webb discovered they had it in themselves to come up with some fantastic creative work under extreme circumstances. And You and Who got the brand they always envisioned but couldn’t create alone.
Before I wrap up, the final point about this experience worth noting is the type of company Crowley Webb is. Few companies would offer up thousands of dollars of free services, or the time of every single employee for 25 hours to focus on one client. And few companies would make it as fun for their employees as they did, turning it into as much a team-building exercise as offering creative services for a new client–and come out stronger as a result. And even fewer companies would cry with you at the end of it all, knowing that what just occurred–for both companies–was something nothing short of amazing. Crowley Webb is the type of company that is an urban legend of sorts: where employees like each other, get along, have fun, work hard, respect the clients, but most of all, respect the talents of one another and know how to work together in a way that leverages everyone’s abilities. Few companies like this exist, but one shines brightly in Buffalo. If I were to ever want to work for someone else, it would be Crowley Webb, without a doubt. They are a true team, and their work reflects that.
Thank you to our dear friends at Crowley Webb, to Aaron Ingrao, Katie Ambrose, the wonderful models for our photo shoot, the media that had an interest in covering this great story, and to our family, friends, fans, artists and shelters across the country that helped us win this contest. Without each of you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do on a daily basis, nor would we be facing a very bright future ahead. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
To take a glimpse into this crazy day, check out Crowley Webb’s Blog, The Daily Revision, and their Flickr page, full of great photos. And if you want to see how 25 hours is done in 3 minutes, take a look at this little video Crowley Webb put together to show the mad genius of it all.
Video and photo credits: Crowley Webb and Katie Krawczyk