SEATTLE—It’s Friday afternoon in August. The agency is empty but for a handful of dedicated souls working on a new business pitch. Mike Hayward, Executive Creative Director at Copacino + Fujikado, greets me warmly and shows me around the agency’s 7th-floor offices. C+F will enjoy its 20th anniversary in 2018. Hayward, a copywriter, started at the agency 13 years ago. He’s a home-grown creative leader at one of the region’s best shops. Let’s hear what he has to say.
AdPulp: Tell me about Seattle as an ad market…
Mike Hayward: Seattle’s always had wonderfully creative people. I don’t think talent has even been an issue. We’ve had agencies that rise and fall. A lot of agencies have had nice runs and have stability, and now we have so many great companies here, so many innovative companies. Seattle is so cool right now. It’s having its moment. We don’t try to buck our Seattle origin story. The challenge is keeping that talent in the agency world when you can go to Amazon or REI. These companies can out pay us. Nevertheless, we have agencies where people stay a long time. Which is great. I’m one of those people. You do your best work when you’re part of a consistent team and comfortable and know each other.
AdPulp: What kind of clients do you like working for?
Mike Hayward: We do best when we ‘own’ the account. when we have that personal relationship and you’re sitting across the table from the decision maker. We do best when we can work from the brand strategy and brand position all the way down to content creation and social and digital. We have seven clients on our roster that we’ve had for 10 years or more, which is rare for an agency our size. The seven clients are Seattle Mariners, Seattle Children’s, Premera Blue Cross, Symetra Financial, Seattle Aquarium, Washington State University, and Washington Forest Protection Association.
AdPulp: How do you earn this kind of client loyalty?
Mike Hayward: In my 13 years here, I’ve worked with two people who didn’t care that much. We get consistently high marks for being easy to work with. I don’t think we do anything that’s not in our client’s best interest. We care deeply about results. Our clients aren’t with us for more than 10 years because they have consistent declines in sales. They’re doing better than when we met.
AdPulp: How was the agency formed? Can you tell me more about the partners?
Mike Hayward: Jim and Betti met at Livingston I believe, it may have been McCann. Jim, the creative, went out on his own with the Mariners as his founding client. He teamed up with Betti again who worked in finance. She’s a fascinating person. She’s a really smart woman and creative as well. She has an art degree from the University of Washington, along with her background in finance. They’re kind of yin and yang and provide a wonderful balance. She drives a lot of our strategic positioning here, along with Scott Foreman. Also thanks to Betti, we’ve been very fiscally responsible. We’re incredibly responsible with our client’s money, and as a result, we’ve never had an unprofitable quarter.
AdPulp: You have some amazing clients on the roster. Can you name a favorite?
Mike Hayward: Best is hard. The Mariners are the most recognized account. Chateau St. Michelle wine estates is a wonderful account and a great challenge. We’re not just saying how does this Columbia Crest wine stand out in the category. We have to do Columbia Crest with a distinct voice, and Chateau St. Michelle wine estates with a distinct voice, plus Villa Antinori, and fit them all into the portfolio. I think Holland America Line and Chateau St. Michelle, that’s our sweet spot being in Seattle. They’re headquartered here but have a regional and national footprint. And for Holland America, international. Seattle Children’s is the other one that’s wonderful to work on. They’re curing cancer right now. It’s wonderful to be involved.
AdPulp: What type of creative people do you attract?
Mike Hayward: We’ve been told that we’re really easy to work with. We’re open, we’re honest. The creatives that we hire…their first job is to listen. To anybody, to account people, to planners, to media. We have this low ego group and I think that benefits us in terms of the type of clients that we attract. They enjoy working with us. If we didn’t get it right, we come back and do it again.
AdPulp: What type of creative people do you look for?
All the creatives I know, almost all of them are high integrity people, they’re interested in things. They are storytellers. They’re not trying to trick people. They’re trying to find the truth of the product.
AdPulp: If the agency were a car, what kind of car would the agency be? (Note: This question was posed rhetorically by Hayward. I did not ask it)
Mike Hayward: The Ford Fusion. People may laugh, but I’m serious. Ford invested $500 million in the technology behind the Fusion. Ford invested a ton. They just put a billion dollars into an Artificial Intelligence company working on self-driving Fusions. But people still see the exterior and go, ‘that’s a Ford.’ Like the Fusion, I don’t think people know what’s under our hood. We’ve built up our brand strategy division, we have more research tools that any agency our size. We’ve doubled the size of our content department. We’ve invested heavily in equipment. We’re shooting a ton. We’re managing the social accounts for some of our biggest clients now. We have our editing in-house. So it’s about growing these areas while retaining our core competencies too.