Element at Five Years: How We Came to Be

Element Advertising has just celebrated its five-year anniversary. We take this occasion to look back at some of our successes, and how we did it. As our brand and many of our business processes are informed by the scientific method, what better way to tell our story than within that context?


Back in June of 2012, Element’s founders, Rob Young, Matt Levin, and Jack Becker, were only familiar with one another tangentially—meaning, Matt knew both Rob and Jack, but Rob and Jack didn’t know one another. We did, however, have different yet complementary skill sets and knew each other at least by reputation; and so collectively we felt the same idea beginning to emerge: Start an advertising firm! One that emphasized the strengths of our combined 75+ years in the business, and one that would utilize our advantages in the local marketplace. With a quick survey of the available competition and regional opportunities, and armed with client relationships we believed we could count on to help us open our doors, our observation was that there was room for us, and we’d likely, if we were very lucky, have room to grow.


The partners quickly gathered at a local watering hole (quick shout-out to Jack of the Wood!) so we could ease our anxiety about diving into a new business and pose a big question to one another: Could Western North Carolina make room for a full-service branding, advertising, and new media firm? There was certainly one quick way to find out. A request for proposal had been issued by the Destination Marketing Organization of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). So our work was immediately twofold: build up our own brand and identity quickly, and then try like hell to compete for and win Agency of Record for the EBCI. We weren’t sure we’d have enough time, or that our fledgling firm would be regarded as viable by the powers that be, but we knew asking ourselves this important question would return an immediate answer and help us determine our short- and long-term future.


From Jack of the Wood to Jack’s house on Burney Mountain, we began to meet and create our firm, including developing our name, brand, and identity. Our hypothesis was simple: We believed that our experience had led us to this moment, but we weren’t sure…it seemed that if we managed to put it all together, then maybe, just maybe, our local, regional, national, and international experience would be enough to convince the EBCI we were the right choice for them. But getting the EBCI account was an early litmus test for our viability as a WNC ad firm.


And so we rapidly began developing our own business cards, stationery, website, and social presence while we filled out the requirements of the EBCI RFP. The proposal helped guide us in terms of what clients were seeking out there, and helped inform our agency development simultaneously. For this experiment to be successful, we felt that we’d not only have to get to the presentation stage of the pitch­­––we’d have to win the account!


As the experiment ran its course (meaning we soon submitted our proposal to the EBCI and got into the presentation round), we quickly began receiving data, or feedback on how we did. We analyzed how we thought we’d performed, the reaction to the leave-behind gift we created, and the initial responses in the room full of decision-makers. Ultimately, of course, we weren’t the only interested scientists in this particular experiment; the EBCI clients were, too. Here, the result was (drumroll, please) an enormous success! We won the EBCI account, answering our initial question about our own viability as a WNC agency. And we’ve continued to create enormous successes for them, and for our other clients. In fact, Element started with two clients in 2012, and we now have ten that are consistently active. Our gross revenue has increased 359 percent between 2012–17, and our average annual growth is 47 percent.

We look forward to what we hope is another five years of success and beyond, delivering to our clients work they can be proud of, and work that gets results.

For more about our successful agency experiment, and our use of the scientific method to guide our creativity, please visit ElementAdvertising.com.

By Jack Becker

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