MEMPHIS DAILY NEWS | LANCE WIEDOWER
When Doug Carpenter started his eponymous advertising agency five years ago, what the name should be wasn’t too hard to figure out. It was an agency of one with the need to bank on Carpenter’s reputation in the community. So Doug Carpenter & Associates LLC was born.
And it made a lot of sense, as Carpenter and the team he built collaborated on a number of projects, from the Bring it Food Hub, RiverFit, Tennessee Brewery Untapped and Staxtacular to Oak Hall, Financial Federal and Mayo Mallette.
But as the agency has evolved, Carpenter said he realized the name was no longer appropriate. The agency now is known as DCA with a whole new brand centered on a relaunched website, dcamemphis.com.
“We’re not reinventing or rethinking, we’re taking the time to repackage ourselves,” Carpenter said. “Most in our business talk about being an ad agency but we’re more than that. Communications is what we do. It’s all over the board. … We find it rewarding to look back on the work we’ve done in the last five years and it’s a powerful portfolio. … Five years, we thought we’d reintroduce ourselves to the marketplace.”
Carpenter said now is an important time for any company to examine where it’s going. The new website leads with a portfolio of work so potential clients can judge the agency on the end product.
“The evolution is, now there is an entity that is larger than a single person,” he said. “When I started that was the asset. On day one there was no associate. There was a growth plan. I didn’t know where that growth plan would lead. The entity is greater than one person, it’s the quality of operations. I could walk away for a month and the agency would remain strong.”
The new DCA employs eight, including Carpenter. Staff members have specific talents and titles; think art director, copy chief and PR coordinator. But everyone collaborates on work for clients, whether it’s advertising campaigns, public relations or typical marketing efforts.
Carpenter said throughout the rebranding process he was treated like a client, possibly a bad one. But he said the more he surrendered to his staff the more everyone could better understand where the agency is headed.
Carpenter has been around the block in the industry. He started Doug Carpenter Advertising in 1987, and in 2001 it became Carpenter Sullivan. The business grew and five years later became Carpenter Sullivan Sossaman, a firm he sold his interest in before starting the latest venture.
DCA’s first client was Financial Federal. The portfolio has grown to cover everything from the logistics industry and education to restaurants and tourism.
“If it took three years to learn something the first time and three months to change it, now I want to recognize it in three days and change it in three minutes.”
–Doug Carpenter, DCA
Carpenter said the agency doesn’t necessarily seek clients with a pain that needs a remedy. Rather, they look for opportunities, projects like Riverfit that has reactivated the riverfront in Tom Lee Park. Yes, the agency does work with clients. But finding unique project opportunities is important work, he said.
Take the agency’s role in bringing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure from the suburbs to Downtown Memphis. Carpenter said that type of assignment gives everyone in the Downtown-based firm pride.
“It builds on the philosophy of enlightened self-interest,” he said. “We can find clients and ways to benefit the agency by benefiting clients.”
Carpenter enjoys finding projects the firm’s employees can get behind, such as Crosstown development project, Bike Share or Tennessee Brewery Untapped event.
He also noted that it’s important for the agency to continue to evolve how quickly it performs.
“My challenge still today is take all of the experience I have and put into play for this entity,” Carpenter said. “If it took three years to learn something the first time and three months to change it, now I want to recognize it in three days and change it in three minutes. I want to build a special culture where I can do the work I want to do.”
Carpenter said that agency that started with one doesn’t necessarily need to grow to a specific number. Sure, growth is good, but he wants an agency of talented individuals producing quality work.
“For years I would say it was irrelevant whether we were five, 50 or 500 as long as we enjoyed it and did it well,” he said. “But now I don’t think I have a desire for 50. It’s the quality of work and the people we’re working with.”