Employees hit the ground running at Accelerated Digital Media, an aptly named performance marketing agency that’s headquartered in Chicago and rapidly expanding its national reach.
Especially in recent years, as the company’s team has become more geographically distributed amid pandemic-precipitated remote hiring, ADM’s growth has been driven from the ground up, with new hires bringing fresh ideas to the table — sometimes within their first few weeks.
For Isabella Yates, senior SEM manager, successfully leading search engine marketing campaigns requires a great deal of creative thinking. But equally vital is the streamlining of core digital strategies that pertain to multiple clients in ADM’s portfolio, especially in its specialized areas of direct-to-consumer e-commerce and digital health.
“When I first started,” Yates said, “I wanted to automate and write out instructions for all our core strategies, so there wouldn’t be much variance from person to person, or from client to client.”
Yates knew that doing so would ease the onboarding process for future employees while giving ADM a valuable internal resource to improve efficiency and quality assurance. Besides, many of the company’s clients required certain maintenance tasks to be completed at a weekly or monthly cadence — though time-consuming in the short term, wouldn’t creating instructional guides for such processes ultimately be a win-win scenario?
Yates soon raised the subject at a team meeting. To her excitement, higher-ups met the idea with open arms. Far from pushing an administrative boulder uphill by herself, Yates instead experienced a snowball effect, as colleagues pitched in and the process of creating such guides picked up momentum and spread across departments. “As we started meeting more collaboratively at the senior-manager and director level, it became a larger project that everyone was able to tackle together,” she said. “Now, it can impact the account managers, analysts, and everyone else working on those core strategies.”
Yates’ experience is not unusual at ADM, which has thrived through cultivating a culture of open communication. As a performance marketing company focused on facilitating real human connections in digital spaces, fostering a work environment that empowers employees to have their voices heard has been a consistent, companywide imperative.
Before reuniting at ADM, Yates worked with Elizabeth Nelligan, associate director of strategy focused on programmatic marketing channels, at a previous agency. Both agree that the culture of mutual respect and support they’ve experienced in their current roles is what makes ADM such a special place to work.
“Everybody is so welcoming,” Nelligan said. “It’s definitely been one of the only agencies that I’ve worked at where everyone felt immediately like a family.”
Each of you joined Accelerated Digital Media within the past year. What has it been like to join a new agency that utilizes a hybrid working model?
Associate Director of Media Strategy, Programmatic Elizabeth Nelligan: ADM doesn’t dictate a camera-on policy, but everybody just has their cameras on. It’s nice to have that face-to-face interaction, because you do lose that if everyone is working from home or only some people are in the office.
Senior SEM Manager Isabella Yates: Being a Chicago local, I was able to onboard in person, though I did eventually move to a more remote situation after getting a puppy. I appreciate that ADM has been so flexible with work-from-home offerings and doesn’t mandate in-person work, with news of other companies now requiring employees to come back into the office if they’re able. ADM still allows us to work as convenient to us. The company does offer incentives to come into the office, like a $100-per-month travel stipend for locals, as well as paid lunches every day. They’re motivating us in the right way — as opposed to just forcing employees to come in whether they want to or not.
Business Development Manager Jake Meline: I’m leaving for Minnesota this afternoon. I’m not coming back for three weeks, so I’ll be working from there. I don’t have to worry about using my vacation, because I’m just visiting family and not busy the entire time. The hybrid setup gives me the opportunity to work a full day and spend time with family in a different state, without worrying about getting back to the office.
ADM’s website describes its work environment as “open, dynamic and productive.” Has this been your experience with the company?
Nelligan: ADM gives people the autonomy to voice opinions and pose thought-provoking questions. We have a Google survey sheet for idea submissions; if you believe that there’s some tool or process we don’t have that would help you do your job more efficiently, or something the agency lacks overall, you can enter that idea and send it to the executive team. There’s no idea too small, no idea too big. Everything is addressed.
Meline: One day, I realized we were branding our team as a “client services” team, which sounds like “client success.” In actuality, we’re trying to help clients grow, so I suggested we call it the “client growth” team. Leadership wasn’t just like, “Oh, cool, whatever.” It actually got changed. Even though I’m a junior employee, they had a conversation and decided to make a change. With any type of idea I have, it might not be implemented, but I know I’ll be heard.
Yates: Our CEO, Tellef Lundevall, is genuine. I’m sure we could all name past CEOs who said their doors were open, but were in fact distant. This is the first agency where I’ve experienced the opposite: Tellef wants to hear ideas and encourages everyone to contribute.
Maintaining that level of open communication can be challenging amid scale. As ADM expands, how would you describe the atmosphere at your workplace?
Yates: We’ve become more efficient and impactful in our processes as more people have joined the team. For example, we sat down and revamped how we onboard new employees, because we feel that’s important not just from a culture standpoint but also in setting up new employees for success. We also implemented new internal meetings with director-level employees and senior-manager employees who have more of a middle-ground perspective on operations and processes. We meet together every three-or-so weeks to talk about what can improve. That’s also a setting in which we can escalate ideas from one-on-one meetings we may have with people on our team or address things we witness during day-to-day operations.
Nelligan: We have the benefit at ADM of being smaller but growing. As such, we have the autonomy to build the teams in a manner most beneficial to us as a department and an agency. I’ve had the benefit of working at a couple different agencies, and I’ve seen what works well and what doesn’t. My manager has been very open to me saying, “This is how I envision this department being laid out. And it’s different from any other department within ADM.” I have the green light to do that.
Isabella Yates on Tools to Tackle a Hybrid Work Environment
- Slack: “My team primarily communicates over Slack. For client communication, we have a Slack channel with clients, so we can chat in the moment.”
- monday.com: “We use it for our project management dashboard, which allows us to easily communicate updates and questions on specific tasks as needed. It’s helpful to have everything there for record-keeping.”
- Google Meet: “We use this to collaboratively work and hold meetings.”
Jake, ADM is a prominent agency in the digital health space. Tell me about your efforts as a business development manager to highlight that.
Meline: We’ve been working with our biggest digital health client for four years, and now we’re pivoting to showcase that. All of our front-facing materials focus on digital health, because we feel we have an upper hand there. No other agencies in this space market themselves as digital health agencies. It provides a way for us to set ourselves apart. The more digital health clients we bring on board, the more we’ll be able to test out [strategies] and learn from them. It’s an up-and-coming industry.
When you discuss ADM with friends and family, what do you take the most pride in?
Yates: ADM is accommodating to people paving their own career path. I’ve seen people pivot their existing paths and move to something more catered to what they want and need. We interviewed someone for an SEM role, who spoke about having experience in copywriting; we ended up hiring him as a copywriter. I feel like this is the first agency I’ve worked at where I’ve really seen people be able to take their future and mold it however they want. The company is really open, receptive and encouraging of that.
Nelligan: That’s also what I’m most proud about working at ADM. It’s not necessarily the work or the great things that I’ve done, or any new client. It’s the camaraderie that we have within the company.
Meline: With a remote workforce, you don’t always meet your coworkers, but we have two or three get-togethers per year. Having great benefits and a hybrid work policy are both strengths. Everyone is also bought in on the goals of the company, which allows it to feel like we’re all pushing forward.