Working with purpose

Doubling down on its core values during the pandemic, The Marketing Department starts a new chapter with reason and optimism

Photo: The Marketing Department owner, Dave Cliche

IT’S OFTEN SHARED as a piece of advice: businesses need to look forward, plan ahead, think about where they want to go rather than where they are.

Sound advice, for sure, but not always the easiest to follow — the here and now is often plenty to think about. Sometimes, a business just needs a little push, and if that comes in the form of a global pandemic… well, why be picky?

“Maybe the only good thing about the pandemic was the timing for us,” says Dave Cliche, owner of The Marketing Department, a marketing firm on the east edge of downtown London. “It fell right into our plans and gave us the catalyst we needed to look forward.”

For The Marketing Department — TMD, for short — that meant thinking about their planned new office, opening this fall on Horton Street. But it also meant thinking about how a marketing firm should function for its clients going forward.

“Like anything, this is an opportunity for us,” Cliche says. They’ve added new clients and strengthened relationship with existing ones.

“We start with what we call a discovery. We open stuff up a little bit and have discussions about what’s working and what’s not” ―Dave Cliche

Cliche credits much of that stability to a forward-looking approach — investing now (TMD has hired five new employees since March) and helping clients see the value in not reacting impulsively to the crisis at hand.

“I think you’ve got to embrace what’s going on around us,” Cliche says, suggesting that businesses should be sticking close to their clients and communicating with them, even if there’s not much business to be drummed up right now. “They may not be buying as much now, but you should still make the investment to stay close to them.”

Working with purpose The Marketing Department EnterpriseAbove: Dave Cliche with finance manager, Diane Allen

TMD aims to operate more as a partner than as a ­vendor, which can seem like a ubiquitous statement these days, until Cliche explains how it changes the way they carry out their work.

Instead of functioning as a senior agency, one that might be purpose-built to execute big, flashy ideas for clients, TMD sees its role existing further upstream, where ideas are formed, spit-balled and researched. They want to be there, Cliche explains, “for those organizations that are smaller, or just needed the extra arms and legs. We would be the team you don’t have so you can just continue to get stuff done.”

This October marks the 25th birthday for TMD, and the fifth since Cliche took over as the owner. Since then, he’s geared TMD further towards this philosophy of getting involved in the ideation stages. From TMD’s perspective, it results in a mandate that is perhaps less rigidly defined than others in their industry.

“We go in with a bit of an agnostic view, whereas if you’re a PR agency, every problem has a PR solution,” Cliche says. “We start with what we call a discovery. We open stuff up a little bit and have discussions about what’s working and what’s not.”

Story Continues BelowWorking with purpose The Marketing Department Enterprise

It means being somewhat chameleonic as a firm, adapting to fit into the broad range of marketing needs a client might have rather than steering them towards their own methods, practices and preferences.

The end result, Cliche says, is a stronger client relationship and more impactful work, in part because it gets clients and TMD all rowing in the same direction. “We’re kind of ­facilitating buy-in,” he explains. “Not just buy-in from them to us, but buy-in for them internally.

“It’s not a question of quoting every job that comes in the door,” he continues. “We almost understand their organization as well as they do — we become a partner in the truest sense.”

Working with purpose The Marketing Department Enterprise

Now, with a new office on tap, TMD is casting its gaze to the future. The pandemic prompted them to design for the new normal — wider walkways, open-air courtyards, spacious seating. It’s a space, says Trisha Beausaert, director of client engagement, that marries the requirements of social distancing with a creative environment, without sacrificing the ability to work alongside clients and one another.

And it will certainly give the firm space to grow into its own skin. With five new team members, most of whom where onboarded during the dark and strange days of quarantine, there’s some adjusting to do. But Cliche feels that the time, and the size, was right. TMD heads into this new space with a team comprised primarily of senior staff who have experience on the client side, rather than coming up through the agency ladder.

“We are about 25 people now,” says Cliche. “That is about the right number. There some other agencies in town that are quite bigger. And that’s okay.”

“You’re working with people who have done your job before,” Beausaert adds. “The senior people that you meet are those that you are working with the entire time.”
“It’s a different business model,” Cliche sums up. “We’re senior by design.” Working with purpose The Marketing Department Enterprise Kieran Delamont

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