CJRW Takes On Changes in Marketing Industry

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 10, 2014 12:00 am  

CJRW CEO Wayne Woods (Photo by Jason Burt)

CJRW has been roiled by staff defections recently, departures that have left the state’s largest ad agency increasingly dependent on its big clients, the biggest being the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism worth $8.4 million this year.

More than two dozen employees headed for the door in 2013, by one insider’s account, but that’s not the worst of it. When Rebecca Tennille and Jordan Johnson left the agency to found their own marketing firm last summer, they took the account for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center with them.

The defection prompted a statement from an obviously hurt Wayne Woods, CJRW CEO, who noted that the Little Rock agency had been associated with Bill Clinton for 50 years.

Seeking to restore CJRW’s luster is its new president, northwest Arkansas publishing industry veteran Darin Gray, who refrains from discussing specific plans for the ad agency, allowing only that he wants to build on CJRW’s “legacy.”

The company also recently announced it was moving its headquarters to a new space in downtown Little Rock

“CJRW has a long and very rich history,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School for Public Service and a former executive vice president of CJRW. “It has survived all sorts of changing, from where your major clients were the community banker across the street or the utility executive next door, to a world dominated by technology, where social media is in many areas winning out over traditional.”

These changes are evident in the success and evolution of smaller, “boutique” firms, like Johnson and Tennille’s still unnamed firm, Eric Rob & Isaac or Impact Management Group Inc., all of which are in Little Rock. Rutherford said that clients go to the smaller firms for “the one-on-one service,” and to dodge the bureaucracy that occurs in larger agencies.

“The problem with larger agencies, in this day and time, is that they get bogged down with overhead,” Rutherford said.

That high overhead, he said, typically comes with assigning multiple employees to a single account.

It’s a conventional wisdom in the Arkansas ad industry that CJRW is able to employ so many — it currently claims 85 employees — mainly due to the tourism account.

“It’s hard to have a large overhead of people and resources and equipment,” said Rob Bell, a principal at Eric Rob & Isaac. “We knew early on that we wanted to stay incredibly lean.”

Technology has helped that lean dream come true. It’s even one reason that Cranford Johnson, which had as many as 115 employees in 2005, is getting by with three-quarters as many bodies.



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