BOSTON, March 1—Two years ago, Boston’s Clarke & Company found itself in a position familiar to midsize agencies in midsize markets: founder Terry Clarke and his senior management team were reluctant to sell out to any of the giant communications conglomerates who had come a-calling, and needed to find a way to continue growing as a full-service independent in a world increasingly divided between niche specialists and multinational giants.
Rather than positioning itself as a regional generalist, Clarke opted to become a “multi-specialist,” focusing on areas in which it had existing expertise: technology and business-to-business marketing, public affairs, and crisis management.
Sally Jackson, president of boutique consumer specialist Jackson & Company, was being courted by many of the same conglomerates. She too wanted to remain independent, focusing on marketing communications for a handful of New England clients.
Now the two agencies have merged, creating a regional powerhouse with 42 professionals and projected 2001 billings of approximately $6 million, a firm that offers a full range of marketing and corporate communications services and can “put the interests of our clients ahead of the ‘quick dollar,’” in Clarke’s words.
Agency president Brian Delaney says that when Clarke & Company started to get calls about three years ago, the management team met to discuss “where we wanted to go with the business.
“One thing that came out of those discussions was the decision that we wanted to remain independent. We didn’t want the emphasis to be on quarterly profits. We didn’t want to be beholden to shareholders. We felt we could serve out clients and our people better if we remained independent.”
The second decision was that while the firm had done some great consumer work for clients such as Polaroid and McDonald’s, it really distinguished itself from its competitors in two areas: the first was information technology, which was booming; the second was in the crisis management and public affairs arena, where Clarke’s team—which includes attorneys and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist—was earning a national reputation.
“We found that we could go up against much larger agencies and win national business,” says Delaney. “In today’s wired world, geography is not an issue for a lot of clients. They are looking for an agency that has relevant experience and understands the issues.”
Clarke’s Crisis Communications Center has experience handling a wide range of crisis, from boycotts and corporate campaigns to product recalls and proxy battles.
Jackson’s consumer credentials, meanwhile include introducing the award-winning Samuel Adams Boston Lager in 1985 and working with other New England stalwarts such as H.P. Hood, Sprint PCS, Cushman & Wakefield, The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel and Grand Circle Corporation. Clarke & Company has provided strategic communications counsel to national brands including IBM, McDonald’s, BASF, Putnam Investments, Polaroid, and Bausch & Lomb.
“In this age of instant acquisition by major publicly held PR and advertising firms, we found our ideal partner right here in our own backyard,” says Clarke.
Adds Jackson, “After 20 years in the business I decided to seek out a firm similar to ours with a shared corporate culture and philosophy. In Clarke & Company, I found a ‘soul-mate,’ a company that puts value on quality, not quantity.”