Hey, nineteen

lab1aaaaa999995This week marks Peppercomm’s 18th anniversary, and the beginning of our 19th year in business. So, without further ado, here’s my list of the 19 most memorable moments in agency history (good, bad and otherwise):

1.) I win my very first battle with Ed, and the firm is named after my black lab, Pepper. The name immediately separates us from our mostly eponymous competitors and strikes a chord with canine-loving prospects everywhere.

2.) Gary Sullivan of business insurance giant, Alexander & Alexander, says he has a “good feeling” about Ed and me, and becomes our first “blue chip” client.

3.) Steelcase hires us to introduce the Leap office chair. Some 15 years later we remain their agency of record.

4.) Julie Farin and Larry Thomas retain us to represent Money Talks, a personal finance site. We win our first Silver Anvil, the Oscar of public relations.

5.) Valerie Di Maria rolls the dice, and hires Peppercomm as GE Capital’s agency of record. That, in turn, leads to an introduction to GE Corporate and our subsequent launching of the multinational’s ‘Imagination at work’ campaign.

6.) In the dotcom era’s waning days, we create PartnershipCentral, an online destination that, at its peak, had 26 full-time staffers. P’Central closes when the bubble bursts. It was a bad day at black rock, to say the least.

7.) A Drew University intern is fired in her first week of work when, after I ask the status of a research assignment, she responds by saying, ‘Sorry, dude. I guess I just flaked.’

8.) A Northeastern University intern barely keeps her job despite twice flipping Ed the bird at a holiday party.

9.) In 2006, Peppercomm hits the trifecta as two industry trade publications name us agency of the year, and a third names us most innovative.

10.) In that very same year, Peppercomm hits its biggest speed bump ever when two Fortune 500 clients promise us multi-million dollar budgets. We staff up accordingly, and then neither guy so much as spends a dime with us.

11.) We’re hired on the spot by Whirlpool’s Audrey Reed-Granger as we wrap-up our new business presentation on a Friday afternoon in Benton Harbor, Michigan. We’d have the privilege of serving WP for the next seven years.

12.) We make perhaps the worst new business pitch in agency history when, in the midst of presenting to a company called BraunAbility, we somehow manage to show slides of their direct competitor’s product. That one still hurts.
13.) We create the Uncorporate Challenge Race, Peppercomm’s answer to the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge (and yet another example of our belief in taking the road less traveled).

14.) We begin incorporating stand-up comedy training as part of the agency’s management development. MSNBC subsequently airs an eight-minute segment that attracts clients et voila, a new service offering is born.

15.) We fire a foul-mouthed, high profile CEO for his abusive ways. He responds to me with an e-mail, declaring: “This is complete and utter bullshit.” The phrase becomes legendary in Peppercomm vernacular (right alongside ‘I found your presentation both glib and superficial.’).

16.) We create Brand Squared (licensing), acquire H20 (a creative digital shop) and invest in Flagship (a London-based consultancy). The firm evolves from providing traditional PR to a more holistic mix of strategic integrated communications.

17.) Crain’s New York Business names Peppercomm New York’s top workplace. We beat 930 other organizations, including Microsoft and New York Life, to earn what remains our most prized award.

18.) MINI Cooper names Peppercomm AOR and the firm enters the highly coveted (and uber competitive) automotive category.

19.) To be announced later this week.

30 thoughts on “Hey, nineteen

  1. Best to you and Ed and congratulations on all your accomplishments. You have created quite a firm and taken on many industry “sacred cows”. Both take courage, a true sense of who you are and what you believe in, and the wonderful ability to poke fun at yourselves. Don’t ever lose that.


  3. Thanks for the note, Julie. You were a key part of our early success. And, our Sgt. Pepper-inspired holiday card remains my all-time favorite.

  4. Congrats, Steve! I am honored to be included as No. 4 in your Top 19 memorable moments. Besides the fact that your firm was named after your black lab (which I thought was way cool), you established yourself as a Beatles fan, which sealed the deal with me.

  5. I failed to put the second “m” on Peppercomm. After I posted the comment, I realized that, and I thought about it being “Peppercomm” now. So, I thought I would post another comment. I think you made a good decision for it to be “Peppercomm”, the type of business that it is. Again, Happy Anniversary and many more! David and Betty Ford

  6. We are David and Betty Ford, Sam Ford’s parents. Happy Anniversary to Peppercom! Sam really enjoys being a part of your company. All of you have been wonderful for him to work with. We are glad that he has the opportunity to be a part of such a great and growing company! Wishing all of you the best!

  7. Congratulations on Peppercomm making it to legal voting age, Steve, Ed and the rest of the PC family.

  8. a good list but how do u leave off the Julianne Garry email? or Stump the F? or Short Shorts? or Sister Mary Moed? or Ted getting tossed around by the Tiger Schulmann karate client during our “immersion” session? Either way, congrats to you and Ed for the success.

  9. The EY PR re-engineering was a very special time indeed, Colette. I can still remember an EY IT guy coming to our office and setting up a 24×7 media hotline on Ed’s desk. Ed looked at me, and said, “I sure hope they don’t expect me to stay late and answer phones.”

  10. Steve, how could you have left off all the fun with PR Reengineering. And the reality based approach that was!


  11. Thanks so much, Pony. You are 100 percent right about my leaving out Efrem Luigi Epstein. My bad. The man transcended the word memorable. I’d have to say my favorite F moment at Peppercomm was the second anniversary holiday party. Ed tipped the waiter in advance assuring that everyone but F received shots of water. F pounded one vodka after another, and very nearly lost his lunch and dinner right on co-worker, Karen Cleeve. Great times.

  12. Huge Congrats Steve, Ed and your Peppercomm team!!! Working with you two pre-PC was a roller coaster of fun! No Eff-man reference? Hey, where can I snag one of those cool PC t-shirts?!!

    • I’d heard stories about the apartment, but you know I was referring to that now-defunct agency.

  13. I remember hearing how you’d left that smoldering wreck to start your own firm out of Ed’s apartment.. Many congratulations!

  14. Congratulations to you, Ed and everyone, and I wish you continued success. I am fortunate to have been a Peppercommer.

  15. Congratulations, Steve! You must be so proud; my firm only lasted 11 years, but I know just how you feel. It’s been a privilege meeting you and I sorely miss our annual meetings at Counselors’. Many more years of success!

  16. Thanks, guys. Dave: that Northeastern intern is today a member of Peppercomm’s management committee. Not (but, in retrospect, she should be). We usually reward gutty decision-making.

  17. ‘I found your presentation both glib and superficial.’ OK. That made my day.
    Re: #8 – no promotion?

    Congrats. You guys (all of you) are awesome and deserve all the kudos you’ve received. You truly are a model not just for PR, but for how to do business.