Special Success in a General World: Cayenne at the Addys

By way of background – a couple of observations. First, agencies, like law firms, physicians, and restaurants, are becoming increasingly specialized. In fact, we attended a conference of agency CEOs last year where one of the speakers actually recommended that agencies specialize. The problem with that is most agencies that “specialize” rarely create anything we would call “special.” And, in our business, special work is recognized, while mundane work is marginalized.

Every year, just as we return to work from the annual holiday recharge of our personal batteries, we jump both into client work and into preparing our best work from the previous year for entry into the Birmingham Addys. It’s a labor of love… sometimes, a love/hate thing. This year it took a handful of employees a couple of days just to process our entries. Oh, and it’s not exactly inexpensive to participate.

The Addys, for those of you not in “the biz,” are a localized version of our industry awards. We’ve gone back and forth over the years as to how we feel about their value, but eventually resigned ourselves to the fact that the Addys are beneficial to Cayenne for two reasons. First, and most importantly, they’re good for morale – after all, they’re an annual celebration of a year’s worth of toil. Second, at least anecdotally, they appear to be good for business. We’ve had a number of clients and potential clients reference Addy wins in conversation. Can we point to a client we won because of Addys? Nope. But, Addys have probably helped along the way.

This year’s Addys were interesting. For starters, Cayenne’s work was really well received. Not that we need third-party validation – after all, the real proof of our work is in how it helps our clients grow. But, it sure is nice to bag a healthy number of those precious sections of gold and silver I-beam. This year, we damn near bagged our limit with 17 gold and 25 silver ones. But, numbers don’t tell the complete story. It’s like measuring your social media following by “likes” instead of engagement. The real story is in the breadth of work.

Second observation: most of the time, when an agency wins big at the Addys, it’s for a single campaign that has been entered into every conceivable category. That’s how the game is played. We did that this year with UAB’s Cancer campaign. And it won big (and rightly so: our team, along with brilliant photographer, Liesa Cole and superb videographer, Steve Moe, created some extraordinarily compelling work). But, it wasn’t a one-campaign year for us. In fact, a broad range of work won big.

We won with an app we created for Altec (manufacturers of aerial utility vehicles) that allows them to guide folks on plant tours using tablets and headsets. Also for Altec, we won with a dimensional direct mail piece (we call ‘em clutter busters). We won with an animated social media post we did for Milo’s Hamburgers that featured a french fry competing in olympic diving by doing a front flip into Milo’s Original Sauce. We won with a gorgeous campaign for the Birmingham YMCA that seeks to prove that, no, the YMCA is not your grandaddy’s Buick; in fact, it’s easily as nice and as cool as whatever hipster-ballistic gym it is you go to for your crunches and kickboxing. We won for some exquisite work we did for a New York boutique real estate agency called CORE. We won for work we did for Railroad Park Foundation, and Marion Military Institute, UAB Nursing, and Russell Medical Center.

So, this year, in addition to celebrating a hard year’s work, and truly fortunate Addy results, we are also celebrating the diversity of our work, and feeling tremendously grateful for the incredible clients who allow us to do great work. In a world that is becoming increasingly specialized, it’s nice to know that an agile generalist agency can still score big on all fronts.