Advertising Technology

Project: Worldwide’s Robert Vallee Jr. on Moving a Marketing Empire into the Digital Age

Robert ValleeRobert Vallee Jr. is the Chairman and CEO of Project: Worldwide the independent holding company for multiple agencies focused on delivering Engagement Marketing services globally. Prior to Project: Worldwide, Robert was Chairman and CEO of George P. Johnson Company, which became a part of Project: WorldWide in 2010. The Makegood recently spoke with Robert about his position at Project: Worldwide.

The Makegood: As the CEO of Project: Worldwide, you manage about 2,000 employees in 41 offices around the world. How do the offices work together and what tips do you have on managing distributed teams?

Because Project is a young network, we have built collaboration into our DNA from day one. We achieve that by investing in agencies that are complementary to one another and offer skills that are not duplicates of the other agencies in the fold.

We have also selected agencies with leaders who firmly believe in collaboration, as this is essential to the way effective marketing programs are created today and something that needs to be supported top down.

Organizationally, we do our best to spend a lot of time together. Face-to-face meetings at all levels of the company are great at creating the relationships that lead to high-functioning teams. We conduct weekly calls among our most senior leaders to work through issues and opportunities that we can capitalize on.

Finally, our agencies are all run by entrepreneurs who have a “get-it-done” attitude. That leads to inspired work getting out the door faster than at other, more cumbersome agency networks.

The Makegood: How is Project: Worldwide different from other holding companies?

Project is different from other holding companies in several important ways.

Firstly, Project is an independent, employee-owned agency network of wholly owned agencies. We don’t report to Wall Street so we have the ability to make decisions based on what is right for our clients and what is right for our organization in the long term. We are also all owners of the company so there is built-in alignment between doing what is best for our clients and personally benefitting from those decisions.

Secondly, we don’t define ourselves along the traditional lines of agency capabilities. We are engineers, craftsmen and artists making things that inspire people to participate and act on behalf of our clients’ brands. We see this as an important distinction in the way in which we engage with clients and the work that we produce.

Finally, as stated earlier, we are natural collaborators. We have selected agencies that are complementary and whose founders are naturally pre-disposed to working well with others. This is significant differentiation in the eyes of clients who have worked with multiple agencies in the Project network.

The Makegood: How was Project: Worldwide born from George P. Johnson and why?

When you look at the 100-year history of GPJ, you see the story of an entrepreneur who started a business and continuously evolved it in pursuit of bigger and better opportunities. GPJ began as a sail making company before evolving to a leading flag-maker during World War II. In the Fifties, we pioneered the concept of the auto show for Detroit automotive manufacturers. Successfully managing large scale events led us to scale the business to include technology and consumer goods clients. We have expanded globally to meet our clients’ needs in these areas and GPJ has been the leading experiential marketing company for the past several years.

Our management team realized a few years ago that our best source of future growth was to leverage our collective skills at creating deeply engaging experiences and deploy those skills against a broader marketing effort for our clients. Today, Project is the manifestation of that vision. We have assembled some of the most creative agencies across the full spectrum of marketing needs and are working to redefine how to create powerful experiences for consumer and B2B brands regardless of the medium.

The Makegood: How does experiential marketing expertise feed into the larger Project network?

We were built on the proposition that an experience is more impactful than an exposure. We have agencies that create powerful and effective TV advertising, but we are also filled with creative thinkers who are constantly redefining how to engage people in a real world setting and motivate them with meaningful experiences. Regardless of whether you are experiencing our clients’ brands on a screen, in the real world, or anything in between, Project’s agencies are focused on making that experience deeply motivating.

The Makegood: How do you integrate social and mobile to create integrated experiences at scale and how do experience maps help you creating these connections?

We have been integrating social and mobile into our B2B and consumer engagements for many years. We do this successfully by building the experience from the ground up – and experience maps play a large role in that process.

For Cisco’s annual GSX conference, which is a global gathering of Cisco’s massive organization and customers, we have created social networking tools that have driven the satisfaction scores of the attendees off the chart.

Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event is a week-long celebration that requires us to transform several city blocks in San Francisco and turn them into a campus for the company and its many constituents. To enable the diverse attendees to get the most out of the wide variety of options, we use social and mobile to manage that entire experience.

And for our many valued automotive clients, we are constantly reinventing how to use social and mobile to create new and more meaningful consumer experiences at every auto show. We are also exploring ways to leverage those audiences’ experience and lead them into the dealers to complete the purchase cycle.

The Makegood: How will technology change the industry and how do you keep up with the latest trends in event marketing?

Technology continues to evolve and our many agencies are constantly at the forefront of that evolution. Each new event gets rethought from the ground up, exposing new ways to use existing technologies, leveraging technologies that are new, and in some cases creating technologies that capitalize on a gap in the marketplace. Project’s agencies are filled with relentlessly curious people who are driven to create the newest experiences. We celebrate that drive and aggressively share that learning throughout our organization.

The Makegood: Thank you, Robert
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