Since 1967, our agency had been generalists. Some notable clients in our history include Kay Jewelers; NVR, Inc.; Honda Dealer Groups in DC and Pittsburgh; BMW Dealer Groups in the Carolinas and Florida; Precision Tune Auto Care; and various condos and car dealers. That strategy worked for decades, propelling us to the elite agencies in the mid-Atlantic. When a new business prospect came knocking, we almost always had some experience in their category and were able to put on a credible presentation and, if we won, do a good job.

Then, two things happened. We won the USO account, and we started losing pitches on other categories that had always fueled our success. And almost without exception, we lost to agencies that specialized in whatever field that prospect was in. Those agencies were able to get up to speed faster and to provide best practices in ways that were compelling. Meanwhile, we were developing deep expertise in nonprofit marketing as well as proprietary methodologies that made us very attractive to other nonprofits.

But focus is a very funny animal. We spent our time working with the USO and, later, the American Red Cross, and also responding to pitch requests from the rest of our world. For our nonprofit accounts, we continued to develop programs and campaigns that were the envy of the industry (witness three Effie Awards and two AMA Marketer of the Year awards for our nonprofit work). Our background in the world of commercial marketing meant that we brought a sensibility to nonprofit marketing not often found in that space.

So, by doing, we became experts in nonprofit marketing. We talked about becoming a nonprofit-focused agency, at first creating a division around that expertise. But the demands of other types of accounts kept drawing our people away. We experienced a full-on identity crisis.

So, in July of 2012 after 46 years of being generalists, Williams Whittle evolved to  an agency that specializes in nonprofit marketing. We hire and train people in that category; we target and accept new clients only in the nonprofit and Association space. We are an inch wide and a mile deep.

And it works. Since July, we have won The Mission Continues, National Park Trust, SCORE, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Results for clients ultimately determine the fate of ad agencies, generalists or otherwise. For one nonprofit we placed $150 million in free PSA media in a single year and watched as their fundraising went through the roof. Our belief is that we can create better value for a single category of clients because we know what works, and have pioneered techniques that are proven to work in that space.