The year 2009 has been mostly about whining in the advertising industry. We all the know the basic tale of woe by heart by now. No new business at many agencies. Clients cutting back. Losses piling up. And on and on. But you won't see many long faces around at least one Chicago ad agency, namely Two by Four. No indeed. In fact, Two by Four chief creative officer and founder David Stevenson threw a big bash for his staff last week, and then was kind enough to send us information about all he did for his employees to celebrate Two by Four's successful 2009.
So what does Stevenson know that so many others in the ad biz don't? Apparently he knows how to manage staff and his cost structure to sustain a 20 percent profit margin. Not bad. Even in a very down year.
To celebrate his ad business acumen and his staff, Stevenson presided over a "Let's Make A Deal"-themed bash for employees on Friday, Dec. 11th, at which he gave away no less than $20,000 worth of prizes, including a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show (What? Chicago theater isn't good enough for Stevenson's folks??), a trip for two to Las Vegas (another cultural hotbed!), and two tickets to the Final Four in March. And oh yes! A contribution of $1,000 towards the purchase of a pup of the prize winner's choice. Stevenson said the pup prize was by no means the most popular of the lot. The big showcase prize, we're told, was a solid silver bar. On top of all the prizes won, each staffer also got a bonus check.
Stevenson told us his last round of layoffs happened last February. Since then he has added staff, returning total head count to about where it was prior to the February cuts. For those tired of working for ad agencies that have become little more than glorified -- and sharply downsized -- sweat shops in recent years, Stevenson seemed to suggest to us that his agency aims to be anything but that. "We've handed out bonus checks for every one of the 13 years we've been in business," notes Stevenson.