Think back to a middle school dance: the room is dark, the music is intimidating and the dance floor is empty. The boys slump against the far wall, knees bent and staring at their shoes. On the opposite wall, the girls form a line with their hair curled around their fingers, eyes rolled in boredom. A seemingly impassable gulf forms between the two factions.
Not much changes when the young boys and girls become adults, enter the business world and, one day, confront a merger that brings new cultures and strange people into a different environment. In 2012 WhiteSpace Creative acquired former competitor, SmileyHanchulak Marketing Communications, and in 2013 we acquired Akron’s largest PR firm, Highland PR.
Suddenly, everyone was back on a dimly lit dance floor.
It’s not Like Buying a Phone Plan (or anything else, really)
When any two (or three!) businesses merge, there’s a lot of uncertainty: who fits where, what values align and what are the common goals? This sort of transaction isn’t as simple as buying something like, say, a cellphone. Phones typically don’t come with their own unique culture, emotions or core values. A phone purchase is clear-cut: it has this much memory, these capabilities and a plan with a certain amount of data. When the purchase isn’t a simple commodity but a company with employees (living, breathing people with their own dance moves), the transaction is far more complex.
At the Core
The acquisitions and transitions, like most, weren’t perfect. It’s like that first dance – palms are sweaty, movements are awkward and the whole experience is flush with uncertainty, never quite going exactly how you imagined. Change on any level can be difficult – moving offices, new coworkers, a different commute. But while each agency brought its clients and ways of doing business to WhiteSpace – assigning projects, reviewing concepts, making coffee – one thing was the same: the core values. On a high level, all three agencies were committed to the same goal: being a client- and community-focused agency that develops long-term partnerships in order to make a difference.
Were there growing pains? Certainly. Are we still trying to figure it out? We always are. The most important aspect of our growth and development, though, is what we can offer our clients. With the overlapping core values from each agency, the expanded resources allow us to even better serve our clients and our community, whether it’s in a creative, interactive or PR capacity. Likewise, as the agencies came together, an evolution – a #WSCevolution – was inevitable and necessary to help redefine ourselves, our growth and new potential. It’s one of the main reasons we’re in this place today.
At WhiteSpace, we’ve been thinking about our identity a lot lately (like for the last two years). As a leaping off point, the logo is changing, a symbolic gesture acknowledging that the other two agencies gave up their identities when joining WhiteSpace. It’s a nod to the future, one that shows how the three agencies have grown into one. The old hats don’t fit anymore and our identity – once three now one – needs a facelift.
Of course, we’re still on the dance floor. Our moves from back in the day have gotten even better and we’ve added some new shimmies and shakes to our repertoire. As the #WSCevolution continues, we look forward to developing a voice and visual identity that better represents who we are now that the dust has settled (as if the dust around here could ever really settle).