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Power of publicity amazes even an ad exec


OK, I’ll confess: I don’t read The Wall Street Journal every day.

My background is largely on the creative side of the advertising agency business, and I just don’t make time for the Journal on my daily reading list. However, 1.6 million people do subscribe to the paper. And it seemed like even more after my office in West Des Moines was featured recently in the paper’s “Workspaces” column.

As you may know, that column highlights an unusual office environment every Wednesday. A Journal staff writer — who has one of the best jobs in journalism, in my view — comes to an office, describes what she sees and asks the occupant what he or she sees as well. A photographer captures the space in one to three photos.

At the offices of The Meyocks Group, visitors see a contemporary execution of a corncrib, grain bins, a diner, grocery carts and a Quonset hut – a tribute to our food and agricultural clients and to our home in Iowa. They also see silo-shaped and milk-parlor-themed meeting rooms that foster the creativity our clients pay us for. Like Grant Wood, who once said, “All the really good ideas I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking a cow,” we think good creative work is more likely to come from a farm than a factory.

The column about my office appeared in May, and the phone calls began. Clients called to congratulate me on the article, prospective clients dropped notes and prospective suppliers used it as an opportunity to initiate contact with the agency. College friends sent e-mails, sparking debate over what was the greater surprise: the fact that they were readers of The Wall Street Journal or that the Donna Kubis they knew from their Drake University days was actually featured in it?

Other professional acquaintances simply used the article as an opportunity to reconnect. For example, I heard from a videographer with whom I’d worked on a single project in Mississippi more than 15 years ago.  In addition to people coming out of the woodwork, at least one person was interested in the woodwork; a gentleman from the East Coast called to find out where he could buy the wooden chickens in the background of one of the photos. (I’m sure he’ll be calling back for brand communications counsel very soon.)

As I reflected on the scores of calls, I was reminded of the importance of where we work. Even though the Journal’s focus is on the no-nonsense business of business, I sense that the “Workspaces” column receives an extra level of attention. People want something other than a gray cubicle for a work environment and are intrigued by those fortunate enough to have something different. I have my predecessor, Ted Priebe, and Cal Lewis (plus his design team at Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture) to thank for creating something so distinct.

I was also reminded that people have a need to connect with other people, whether it’s someone you do business with every day or someone whom you haven’t spoken to in 15 years.

And, finally, I was reminded that things don’t always turn out according to plan. When I first came to Iowa from suburban Chicago to attend Drake, I thought the corn on the north and south sides of Interstate 80 was all sweet corn. Today, I find myself working among grain bins and wooden chickens, and president of an advertising agency that counts the Iowa Corn Growers Association among its clients. It’s ironic, of course, but even better than I expected.

Donna Tweeten is president of The Meyocks Group, an integrated brand communications firm in West Des Moines.

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