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GLG Leads the Way Through Marketing’s Transformation

In a blink, GLG is celebrating its 21st year. It started in 1993 with just me and Rebecca Lyman in a little office above a Seattle newsstand on First and Pike. We spent a month cleaning that space, carrying furniture and computers up a flight of 27 stairs, and sharing the men’s bathroom with the guys who threw the fish in the Pike Place Market.

We bought two phones and started ringing everyone we knew. We hoped the phones would ring back. And they did, to the point where we needed to hire someone to answer them. We produced good work. And we got better.

We bought a conference room table for meetings. We met clients and were referred to new ones. McCaw Cellular wanted what we were doing. So did Microsoft and Digital Systems International (now Avaya), and both companies are still great clients of ours today. We hired more people. We managed the growth as best we could. We developed a set of six values (curiosity, collaboration, honesty, thoughtfulness, leadership, and great work as a lifestyle)—our “North Star”—to help guide our strategic and creative processes and the decisions we make. Today, we continue to acknowledge each other when someone demonstrates one of those values in action.

An App, Spike Lee, and New York City

Attachmate asked us to create an application for them (a what?), and we merged storytelling, design, and technology into digital media. We made our clients successful. We increased their market share and their revenues. In turn, we got more marketing business and hired more people until we had offices on both corners of First and Pike. We aggressively pushed the digital technology. We launched the first video webcast for RealNetworks with Spike Lee in New York and George Michael in Cannes. We opened an office in Manhattan, now located in Herald Square. Tech companies and others began pushing us. At one point, we had a new start-up coming in every day to pitch us about being their agency in exchange for stock options. We never took the bait. We moved our HQ to Fifth and Pine in Seattle, where we are today.

Friends, Tweets, and Change

Today, it’s a much different world. Customers are in control of brands like never before. With social media, everyone is a publisher, broadcaster, and critic. Facebook now has more than 750 million active users, for example, and the average user posts 90 pieces of content a month. Twitter’s registered users send about 140 million Tweets a day. And YouTube’s 490 million users upload more video content in a 60-day period than the three major US television networks created in 60 years. The practice of marketing is going through a period of unparalleled change. Our clients, CMOs, look to us for answers. We use data sources to develop strategies that reach their business goals. We build audience engagement with brilliant and compelling creative and deliver it on every digital platform imaginable. We employ even more data to prove what’s working, what could be working better, and what to stop investing in altogether. It’s a beautiful thing.

There’s been so much change in 21 years, but we still rely on those six values. It’s the promise that we keep to our clients and to each other every day. We’ve also now aligned our organization around a single fundamental human value: joy. We move brands forward by creating human moments that spark delight. We’re about being the best part of the day for our clients, their customers, our partners, and our employees. Today at GLG, across the US, there are more than 125 creative, smart, fun people moving brands forward and sparking delight. That, I know, will never change. Just like our first table.