The Martin Agency Named Adweek’s Agency of the Year: Inside perspectives from two VT Marketing Alumni, Lauren Prociv and Anna Gilliam
As 2019 came to a close, The Martin Agency buzzed with excitement for the opportunities that the new decade might present, not knowing, of course, of the impending disaster they would face. The Richmond-based advertising agency had just developed a campaign that won them the business of Old Navy when the Pandemic hit. Retailers and consumers worldwide stopped in their tracks, and as everyone adapted to the “new normal,” companies like Martin were forced to follow...or fail.
The Martin Agency followed- they pivoted their operations adeptly to suit their new environment. They devised a new campaign to publicize Old Navy’s $30 million clothing donation by having an artist create a massive installation made entirely of Old Navy apparel. This successful transformation and the equally innovative efforts that followed allowed Martin to achieve 30% revenue growth for the year. Their adaptability in combination with their care for employees and dedication to hard work, led them to be named Adweek's 2020 U.S. Agency of the Year.
Of course, Martin owes much of its success to its incredible employees. We were lucky enough to sit down with two VT Marketing alumni and current members of the Martin community, Lauren Prociv and Anna Gilliam, to gain insight into their career journeys, their personal growth, and Martin’s success.
Lauren Prociv obtained both an undergraduate and graduate marketing degree from Tech. While in college, she discovered the value in following her interests, as she shifted between majors multiple times. She explored her passions for data, numbers, research, and art, but had yet to consider the field of advertising. Through her involvement in PRISM and her interactions with the Marketing Advisory Board, Lauren learned that advertising agencies need individuals with both numerical and creative abilities. It wasn’t long before she applied to The Martin Agency, where she continues to work today as Vice President of Planning. Lauren also maintains her commitment to VT Marketing as a member of the Marketing Advisory Board.
Anna Gilliam graduated from Virginia Tech during the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 with a degree in Marketing Management. While at Tech, she was the Director of Target Membership Marketing for the Alpha Phi Sorority and an intern at RippleMatch, a college recruitment company. After graduating, Anna spent a few months doing freelance marketing work, while exploring career opportunities through LinkedIn. At the start of 2021, she was hired by the Martin Agency where she is currently a media buyer.
From Tech to Martin: Lessons Learned Along the Way
Lauren’s love for research led her to join VT’s student-run ad agency, PRISM, where she applied her analytical skills to revolutionize Pamplin’s online presence. Here she learned to think on her feet and says:
“[PRISM] gave me that hands-on experience. You don’t really notice how important that is until you’re in an interview, and the questions are easy.”
The group introduced Lauren to The Martin Agency, which she soon discovered was the perfect bridge between her varying interests. Walking into Martin, Lauren knew nothing about the world of advertising, but thanks to her time at tech, she had the confidence to believe she could figure it out and the curiosity to achieve just that. Now, she is the Vice President of Planning at Martin.
As a recent graduate, Anna was faced with the challenge of finding a job when typical hiring and networking processes were not what they used to be. She did, however, manage to get a position as a media buyer with The Martin Agency. She shared some insight for current students facing a similar situation:
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. It is intimidating to reach out, but it gives the opportunity to learn about the roles and companies that are in the industry that you are going into. You should also learn as much as you can on your own.”
One Company, Two Perspectives, Countless Possibilities
Though she has worked at the same location for the entirety of her professional life, Lauren would describe her career path as “a dotted squiggly line.” She started off at Martin as an Account Executive, then became an Analyst, followed by a Digital Planner, and now she is a Brand Planner. She says:
“I’ve never been bored, and I’ve always followed what interested me, and I think I learned that from Tech.”
Now having spent almost nine years at Martin, Lauren has a comprehensive understanding of what it’s like to work at an ad agency. In her eyes, it’s kind of like being in college. You work on a wide variety of tasks, meaning you must manage a lot of different mindsets and clients on the daily. Like college, Ad agencies don’t necessarily operate nine to five, since creativity can’t always happen when you have a day full of meetings. It’s up to you to figure out your productivity process.
Lauren also relates her job to her time VT simply because it’s fun. She loves the challenging yet creative atmosphere and the opportunities to work with people of all sorts of academic backgrounds.
Anna’s transition from college into the workforce has been challenging, simply because she hasn’t been able to meet her team in person. The experience of learning the ropes at the office feels very different from learning on the computer. She also reflects that that transition has been a slower process than expected, in part, because of the pandemic.
Anna has no regrets, though, since the Martin Agency has made every effort to adapt to the situation and ensure its employees are happy and excited to go to work!
As a media buyer, Anna’s main focus is to talk with radio stations and negotiate advertisements with them. She works primarily with Geico, as they are one of the Martin Agency’s biggest clients.
How did Martin Prevail? The Pandemic Pivot
From Lauren’s perspective, Martin managed to succeed in their drastically changing environment by “making a lot of really smart and empathetic moves.” They took care of their employees first, ensuring they had what they needed and felt psychologically safe to keep working at a time when efficiency was crucial. Then Martin cared for their clients by creating relevant campaigns with the mindset of:
“Let’s lock arms. Let’s figure it out. Let’s be the humans who will be receiving these sorts of messages.”
The Martin Agency found a ‘bright side’ in an otherwise dark situation, as they explored new ideas and accomplished things they never thought possible. They showed the world “how good [they] are at digital and how good [they] are at making stuff fast.
Anna was impressed with Martin’s ability to deal with the unexpected. She shared Lauren’s respect for the agencies’ employee-first mindset, noting that they kept the office open at reduced capacity, so that those employees who could not work at home would have somewhere to go. In regard to Martin’s care for their clients, she remarked:
“They ended up changing the game plan because of covid, but it actually ended up being their most successful campaign.”
Adweek’s 2020 Agency of the Year Award Goes To…
The Martin Agency!
Lauren’s pride in Martin’s distinguished accomplishment showed in her face as she described the award itself and what it took to earn the honor during a global crisis. Every year, Adweek releases an issue of its magazine which features their list of the top ten ad agencies, including the top global agency, international agency, breakthrough agency, and the like. Worldwide, agencies wait for the news with bated breath, all hoping to be deemed the best of the best.
When 2020 came around, no one had the slightest idea which agencies would make the cut in the never-before-seen circumstances. Low and behold, The Martin Agency was named Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year. The award recognizes the creative excellence Martin demonstrated in its campaigns and applauds the resulting business growth. It also celebrates the agencies’ culture, commitment to diversity, and ability to adapt both their internal and external offerings.
Even over Zoom, Anna could feel the excitement lingering in the air at the start of the new year, after Martin had earned its title. Only having spent a few months there, Anna had already noticed the agencies’ dedication to diversity and inclusion. She shared Lauren’s view that this devotion helped Martin win the award, saying:
“Diversity is a huge thing at Martin... They are always looking to get better.”