News General

Corporate Culture: Just as important today as it was then…

BY: ON April 2, 2012

Walter OhlmannA few weeks ago, Walter dug up a memo that he had written 14 years ago.  I think that this message of corporate culture is just as important today as it was then.  The adoption of this belief is why our agency has not only survived, but has thrived since our founding over 63+ years.


TO : P/O/N Staff

FROM: Walter

DATE: April 1, 1998

About two months ago, I returned from another IAAA Conference. As most of you know, the Intermarket Association of Advertising Agencies consists of 20-something agencies around the country. We get together to learn from each other or from speakers in specialized areas of the business.

But this meeting was different from the 60 meetings preceding it. It dealt with a single subject. Corporate Culture. As we began our discussion, I wondered if Penny/ Ohlmann/ Neiman really had such a culture. I came away from the meeting with the conviction that we do. It is strong in some areas; it needs strengthening in others.

What is corporate culture? David Ogilvy, the legendary Adman, defined it as “a compound of many things – tradition, mythology, ritual, customs, habits, heroes, peculiarities and values.

I would add the words “belief” and “behavior.”

When you consider that we spend more of our walking hours here than at home or anywhere else, we must ensure that we do everything within our power to make this a happy working environment. Although we have the pressure of deadlines, of pleasing clients, even of pleasing each other, nevertheless, we must always strive to produce an atmosphere of fun an friendship to make the hours we spend here the very best and the most satisfying that we can make them.

Toward that end, I’d like to list some of my beliefs. First, we always need to help each other so that all of use can make the very best use of our talents.

Our management system is truly democratic. We don’t like bureaucracy or rigid chains of command.

We despise ruthlessness or office politics. We like open and honest communication and civility with each other.  And we want that honesty to be both within our company and on the outside. Honesty with clients, honesty with suppliers and certainly honesty with those to whom we advertise.

We admire people who work hard, who are objective and follow through. Who can understand a fellow staff member’s viewpoint even though we may not agree with it. Who work to not only advance themselves but also advance their clients and the agency.

We do not admire those who are superficial and try to just slide by.

In hiring decisions, we will always try to bring people on board who share our beliefs and values; fitting comfortably into our culture.

An agency’s culture also defines its relationship with its clients and how it conducts itself in the market- place.

When we make recommendations to our clients, we do so as if we owned their companies We make them in their interest not how we can best profit from the recommendations. We know that if we help the client succeed, chances are, so will the agency.

We take pride in our success but realize that there is a fine line between pride and obstinance. We agree that the client has the right to make the final decision whether or not that coincides with our own beliefs. But we will always provide our best advice and counsel regardless of that final decision.

We are always mindful of discretion and guard to provide confidentiality to our client’s business. And we continue in that discretion when we discuss the affairs of the agency with those not connected to our business.

Our culture is evident in our work and in the advertising we create. Others see us as solid and stable; not flash in the pan, gimmicky or trying to dazzle with smoke and mirrors.

To the extent possible, we shall solicit those prospects whose culture mirrors that of our own. We have all heard the word “chemistry” and “comfort level” when referring to prospective accounts vis-à-vis an agency relationship. Simply put, however, we are really determining if our cultures blend together or repel each other. It they do not blend, chances for a long relationship are mighty small..

So what are some of the ways in which we can strengthen our culture? To foster a truly harmonious staff while still maintaining our individualism? To attract new clients while retaining the old? Here, in no specific order, are some suggestions:

Penny/ Ohlmann/ Neiman – one agency !

We work together to solve problem, not to place the blame.

We work together, helping each other to the best of our abilities.

We work together focusing on the needs of our clients each contributing from our area of expertise.

Blaze new trails!

Lets be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than today – regardless if we work in creative, media, wherever.

Work from a base of knowledge!

The more we know, about our jobs or our clients, the better we can be. No one ever produced something of excellence from ignorance.

We hire nice people!

Don’t let the pressures of business chance your outlook or demeanor.

Go first-class!

Always try for first-class accounts and treat them in a first-class way.

Look and act like a pro!

Make your surroundings speak for themselves in a positive way.

These are some of my thoughts on our culture. We do have one. Let’s expand on it. Live by it. Prosper from it. It will help us grow internally and bring new business to our door. A growing, expanding business benefits us all.

Share this article: