Williams Whittle has been a member of a worldwide network of independent ad agencies for many years. It has been one of the best business investments I have ever made. ICOM+IN holds two meetings a year, spring and fall. The spring meeting is international, where all 70+ agencies get together for three days of fun and frivolity with ad agency peers from around the world—Singapore, the Philippines, Europe, South America, Africa, Russia and, of course, all over the U.S. It’s fascinating to learn ad customs from around the world.
The best thing about the network are the friends you make. Significant others are always invited so you often become “couple friends”. We have good pals now from all over the U.S. and the world. We could go just about anywhere and have dinner with an ICOM pal in their native city. We’ve done just that in Puerto Rico, London and Santa Monica, to name a few.
Some of the more exotic locales over the years have included Buenos Aires, Auckland, Melbourne, Cannes, the Loire Valley, London, and Toronto. This spring’s venue is Sao Paulo.
The fall meetings are for the Americas so attendees are largely from the U.S., but people come from as far away as Brazil. These tend to be intense workshop sessions where you start at 8.30 and don’t quit all day. The locations aren’t as exotic—Minneapolis, Atlanta, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Kansas City—but the learning is tremendous.
A favorite feature of both meetings is the agency visit. I know from hosting the meetings three times over the years that the host agency always tries to put on a good show. The office space is spotless, the employees are all present with name tags, bars are set up and the proud proprietor is primed to show off his agency.
A few years ago, the Vancouver agency hosted. I was aware that the agency had an account supervisor by the name of Rob Whittle. I asked the owner what Rob’s middle name was. It happened to be Caswell. When we took the agency tour, I sought out my namesake. I found his name plate and went in to his office. I pretended to be discovering for the first time that we had the same name. I met Rob and showed him my name badge. He was amazed at the coincidence: two Rob Whittles in advertising, how bout that. Then I said, ”You know what would really be amazing? If we had the same middle name. Mine’s Caswell, what’s yours?”
The other Rob Whittle looked at me in shock. I couldn’t stand it anymore and burst out laughing at about the same time he got the joke.
To this day, I get correspondence meant for my Canadian counterpart.