On Critical Mass losing Mercedes-Benz USA

There are some rumours I understand. And there are others that I do not. There are some that I begin. But this is one I want to end.

For years — literally, years — there is a rumour that’s been floating around Calgary that Critical Mass is going to lose the Mercedes-Benz USA account. We hear it every so often, usually from people in the industry or trying to get into the industry. But only people who work in Calgary — never from anywhere else. We used to hear this a lot more a couple of years ago. Back then, it was more a irritation. So imagine my surprise when it came up in an interview today.

I think the last time I heard this rumour was when I’d been out with Virgil a couple of years ago (long before Chris left for Japan). I can’t quite remember the details, but Virgil’s friend was convinced we were going to lose the account, and his company was just going to sweep in there and take the business from us.

What kills me is that this seems to be the prevailing attitude: that when Critical Mass loses the Mercedes-Benz USA account, someone in Calgary is going to get it. Okay, let’s have a little reality check here, okay? Critical Mass is about 200 people (don’t ask me for a specific number, simply because I don’t have one to give). If that 200 people, about 60 work on it full-time. That’s over 25% of our entire workforce, dedicated to a single account. Most interactive companies in Calgary aren’t 60 people in total, let alone that many to spare.

Okay, let’s assume for the moment that maybe — JUST MAYBE — you could handle something the side of Mercedes-Benz USA. What on Earth makes you think they’re coming back to Calgary? Just because Critical Mass is here? Maybe you think that Calgary’s cheapness offers an advantage? Maybe if you set up shop in, say, Moncton, you might have a chance. Believe me when I say that not only is Calgary not as cheap as it once was, there is a time difference which plays to be more of an inconvenience than you might imagine.

Now to really sound like a jerk — who the hell do you think you are? As far as I know, there is ONE major interactive agency in town: Critical Mass. I know this because I keep an eye on the competition. And if you’re in Calgary, you’re not competition to Critical Mass. When we compete against companies like Agency.com, Organic, Modem Media, Sapient, Tribal, OgilvieInteractive, R/GA, and beat them out for contracts like NASA, Hyatt Hotels, Morgan Stanley, and Albertsons, that says something. When AdWeek lists you at #20 on their list of Top 50 Agencies, that says something.

We have Mercedes-Benz USA because we’re good. And they know us.

Think that’s not an issue? Think you can still win them over? Try this on for size. Not too long ago, Critical Mass went head-to-head with the heavyweights in the industry for a USD$12+ million contract. We almost won. Want to know why we didn’t? Because it would have cost the client too much money to move away from the agency they had. It boiled down to the pain point. And if for that reason alone, you’re not going to get Mercedes-Benz USA unless your company appears in AdWeek’s top 50 list.

So please, if you work for an agency in Calgary, cash a reality check and realize that there is just no feasible away you can steal away an account that large. The industry has matured in the last four years. Big companies need established agencies. That’s why we’re still here. And that’s why we aren’t going anywhere, except up, that is. If you’re so hell-bent on working on the Mercedes-Benz account, I can offer you one piece of advice:

Apply for a job. We’re hiring.

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