A mega-association chairman admitted he couldn’t give his medium-size agency members the attention they needed (and grossly paid for). 

In a world of the ‘goliath’ ad agency networks and associations, eight years ago, I wanted to start something new and different – but I was up against a traditional giant: the mega ad agency associations.

I had a vision that there could be something better – a better ‘new-look’ concept where independent ad agency leaders would get more attention to their specific issues, more value and also be able to increase their revenues faster; a vision where ideas are shared and problems solved immediately – all within a peer-to-peer ‘next-generation’ advisory group.

Starting a new concept is never smooth. I took my hits over the years, going up against old-network tradition. Yes, I got laughed at, put down and told this new concept would never succeed.

I was even told by a mega-association chairman that he couldn’t give his members of medium size agency members the attention they needed (and grossly paid for).

I was aghast! As a former ad agency owner, that hurt me, but it inspired me to ‘fight’ for the smaller and medium size shops. They’re the ‘real’ agencies working in the trenches, unhindered by corporate rules and red tape.

It finally came to me that my ‘new-breed’ concept – CEO Stars – was the ‘David’ as in David and Goliath. Certainly, nothing gives anyone more motivation to succeed than the David and Goliath fable. Agreed?

I promise no slingshots!

David beat the Goliath because he had a weapon that no one else had. Plus, he was agile and on-target. I had to be the same. Armed with a different message that was concise and resonated with emotion. I quickly learned the weaknesses of the mega-associations and saw there was a vulnerability that I could hit between the eyes. I even got support from their own ad agency members who were tired of the ‘same old, same old’ and hungry for change.

Every story has a ‘hero character’ and while David may be the hero of this biblical story,
I’m certainly not the hero in mine.

The heroes are the 104 ad agency CEOs (I call them Mavericks) who saw something different and more valuable; who also wanted something more; who believed that change is good. Tradition is ‘old’ and CEO Stars is cutting edge. It’s not your typical agency association.

CEO Stars is a “new-breed” advisory group that reflects the ever-changing advertising landscape we’re all in … and trying to keep up with. It also reflects the ever-changing needs of agency owners and the new challenges to stay ahead of the game, to get an advantage over other ad agencies and to run a more profitable business.

But, I don’t want to be a giant killer. Somewhere, there’s still a need for the mega-agency associations. In fact, a few CEO Stars members still remain as members of the mega-networks. I encourage that. I don’t advocate anyone leaving any current association that one may already be in. However, I do encourage ‘change’ and a reflection on the value and a return on investment.

Being part of a ‘David’ is exciting and ground-breaking. Yet, it’s not for everybody. However, if you’re open-minded to seeing what being part of a ‘David’ is like and sampling a ‘next-generation’ advisory group with other successful, independent advertising agency CEOs that’s collaborative, results-oriented … and truly works for you … then let me know.

 I promise no slingshots.

Joel Cohen is the founder of CEO Stars – www.ceostars.com – a unique concept with a community of over 105 ad agency CEOs. Cohen is also the founder of Dreamland, USA – ‘An Imagineering Community’ – that helps leaders accomplish their ‘impossible.’