If you have a chance, read Rance Crain’s stirring tribute to the late Mike Hughes, the former chairman of The Martin Agency.


In case you’re unfamiliar with the Richmond-based firm’s work, The Martin Agency represents many familiar brands, and has been GEICO’s AOR for years.

In his column, Crain probes Joe Alexander, the agency’s chief creative officer, to find out how the Martin types keep the GEICO campaign so funny and original.

‘The first secret to any good work is a fantastic, courageous client that says approved!’ explained Alexander. To which I respond, amen!

We’ve been blessed to have many clients who’ve allowed us to do our thing.

One current client sees us as an extension of the senior management team.

Another client credits us with helping him elevate his stature within the senior management structure of his organization. And a third entrusts us with full creative license to create demand for his chain of upscale fitness centers. These are the relationships agencies crave.

One of my favorite clients of the past consistently challenged us to bring her ideas that would get us fired. By that she meant she wanted us to keep pushing the envelope with new, and potentially risky, ideas. I love that type of client.

Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side to the client who says ‘approved’.

Some are too timid to try anything new. Others are biding their time until they can cash-in their stock options. One client actually told us to cease and desist from sending her new ideas since she saw Peppercomm ‘strictly as an extra set of arms and legs.’ Needless to say, one does not do one’s best work when one is seen as an appendage of any type. And, employees hate working on a purely tactical piece of business.

I love the GEICO work (and, in particular, the current Pinocchio commercial). I’m also happy to see such a flourishing relationship like the one that exists between GEICO and The Martin Agency. Having been in this game a long time, I know the ‘approved mentality’ is one to be cherished. As for the late Mr. Hughes, it seems he left behind quite a legacy. RIP.

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