Why B2B Marketing Is More Relevant Than Pimping Cheeseburgers

In 2001, I became chief creative officer of an agency within Leo Burnett, which we called LBWorks. Our emphasis was on B-to-B and technology clients. At the time, I had trepidations about leaving the world of consumer advertising for the new and intimidating frontiers of high-tech marketing. I worried that I wouldn’t understand the clients’ businesses, let alone their communications. But I had been part of Burnett’s new-business machine in the late ’90s and pitched a bunch of dot-coms. Therefore, willing or not, I was the right guy for helping my famous agency build out its B-to-B and technology capabilities.

My biggest fear, however, was about producing good work in a space dominated by technical jargon and business clichés. Selfishly, I was afraid of becoming irrelevant, especially in the context of my consumer-focused advertising peers.

I soon discovered most of my fears were unfounded. To this day, what we accomplished at LBWorks remains among my proudest achievements, surpassing even that of helping create the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids. For all its potential creative limitations, working with truly contemporary clients was a rush, and is one that still has not abated.

Currently, I am the executive creative director at gyro (the “g” is lowercase on purpose) in San Francisco. Here, we specialize in technology clients that market to information architects, developers and CIOs, most of them in Silicon Valley.

Just last week, my job took me to Cisco’s sprawling campus in San Jose, where we showed Cisco a new campaign. In the last year I’ve visitedTwitterGooglePayPal and CA Technologies (formerly Computer Associates). Those are pretty big names. I’ve also created and presented work to many smaller, but no less interesting, companies such as Cloudera andTurn. These businesses merchandise in big data, the cloud, software and algorithmic solutions.

gyro’s vision is to create marketing for these future-forward companies free from engineering-speak and tired tropes; to do work that, as we like to say, is more “humanly relevant.” It’s not an easy sell, but it is possible. Moreover, it is becoming deeply necessary. The world has feverishly embraced technology. It is no longer just scientists talking to engineers. People at these companies are people we know. They need to be marketed to as such. At gyro, we feel we are ahead of the curve.

It’s amusing (though not surprising) how many of my peers still consider consumer advertising the zenith. The companies I work for are changing the world. Right here. Right now. Consumer products like fast food, cars and packaged goods haven’t changed much in a century. If anything, they are old-fashioned, even out of touch with our changing world. I’m not denying that it’s easier to do great work for many of these clients. But they are hardly the end-all and be-all when it comes to relevance. In some respects, they are anything but.

Steffan Postaer is the executive creative director at gyro San Francisco.

Follow him @Steffan1