The Award-Winning Advertising Leader Capturing the Hearts and Minds of a New Era of Consumers
In 1988, when Suzanne Darmory was 14 years old, she wrote an essay detailing her future goals: she wanted two kids, her own advertising agency, and to make $40,000 per year. Today, that 14-year-old girl would be proud. Suzanne is president and founder of The AGNCY, an award-winning advertising agency leveraging strategy, data, and analytics to create best-in-class brand experiences with holistic advertising and marketing solutions. And The AGNCY’s results never cease to amaze—a former client once referred to Suzanne as “The Client Whisperer.” And with good reason. She brings more than 25 years of international experience creating groundbreaking advertising and marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 clients at world-class agencies, and a cache of over 100 advertising awards. She was recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Leaders, one of the 29 Most Powerful Women In Digital by Refinery29, and among the Top 100 Influencers in Advertising and Marketing by MARsum, and featured on the Where Are the Boss Ladies? list. Her work can be found in publications like Forbes, PR Newswire, Communication Arts, and AdWeek, as well as on major networks like MTV, NBC, CBS, and CNN. She’s worked with some of the most notable agencies in New York—Deutsch, Grey, Moxie, Ogilvy, R/GA, and more, and in London with Bates UK, Euro RSCG, Imagination, and Ogilvy & Mather. She’s also served worked as an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, teaching advertising, and continues to be an active advertising judge, portfolio reviewer, panelist, speaker, and mentor.
In 2019, Suzanne brought her talent and experience to found The AGNCY, in Connecticut, with the motto “We are a new AGNCY for a new era,” and already the firm’s client list reads like a Who’s Who of the industry. As a creative mind who lit up the industry from the start with innovative and influential campaigns, the immediate success of her firm came as no surprise to those she’s worked with. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, she created the entire original websites for IKEA and L’Oréal Paris, as well as the global HSBC Premier “The World’s Local Bank” campaign, which still adorns international airports—and the list goes on. But for Suzanne, the advertising industry is not just about creating groundbreaking ad campaigns. She is dedicated to creating a more diverse landscape for the future generations of creatives, to helping empower female advertising professionals, and to designing inclusive advertising content that speaks to the hearts and minds of the worldwide tapestry of consumers. Top 100 Magazine caught up with Suzanne to learn more about The AGNCY, what it takes to create an award-winning campaign, and how she’s helping to pave the way for a new era of advertising.
What goes into creating an award-winning campaign that captures the hearts and minds of consumers?
There are just a few elements things that go into an award-winning campaign but they’re critical. One, you need a great story. Two is you need a great connection to the consumer. Three is you need ground-breaking, innovative creative. For example, my favorite campaign I’ve ever done was for Verizon Wireless. We came up with the concept of creating day to connect customers to Verizon and humanize the brand. We called it Connection Day, which was the day before Thanksgiving, and our goal was to turn the busiest, most stressful travel day of the year into a triumph for people. We partnered with Amazon, Apple, Condé Nast, Gogo, Boingo, Pandora, and JetBlue to give away free content and keep people entertained and connected all day. It was an astoundingly successful integrated campaign resulting in 3.7 million visits to the landing page and 735,000 sign-ups, and it won a DMA Echo Award and was featured in major publications, including Advertising Age, The Washington Post, The New York Times, PC Magazine, as well as on Good Morning America and MTV. This is one campaign that I am particularly proud of, and still makes me smile.
To what do you attribute your own success and that of your firm?
We take a modern yet human approach to helping clients share their brand story in innovative new ways, and I think this makes us different. We leverage strategy, data, and analytics to create best-in-class brand experiences with holistic advertising and marketing solutions. That includes branding, advertising, marketing, strategy activation, innovation, transformation, photoshoots, production, and social and provide the smartest marketing and advertising solutions possible. With respect to my own success, I’ve been really fortunate. When I started the firm, I had a lot of industry connections who really set me up for success. In my role, I’m equal parts leader, creative director, new business leader, and account director—and that’s a rare skill set and I think one that differentiates me in the field. I have a profound understanding of what clients are trying to articulate without them having to articulate it. That means I’m able to really dig into their vision, their messaging, and their brand is just by talking to them.
You enjoyed what many would consider an enviable advertising and marketing career before founding The AGNCY. What led you to start our own company?
I wanted to take my decades of experience that I had gained over two decades in the field and implement it in a new, fresh way. I have a core, hand-picked creative team whose skills and creativity complement one other and are the best fit for any given project or client, whether it requires a more seasoned mind with decades of experience or talented college grad. Consumers—their language, their interests, where they live in the marketplace, both digital and physical—are changing faster than ever before. Because of that, I believe that messaging must speak directly to a specific target or segment to create the most successful ads. This requires a variety of perspectives, worldviews, and experience. For example, one of my Jedi design students, whom I taught as an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, is now one of our art directors, focused on designing logos for our clients.
How have advertising and/or marketing techniques changed over your career, and why is it important for companies to stay up to date on trends?
When I started my career, advertising and marketing were two different fields. Now they’re more closely aligned with each other. The world is evolving so quickly now, there’s always something new around the corner, so companies and brands must be proactive—not reactive—in knowing what’s next. I am fortunate that I have the two best trendsetters for insights—my 13- and 11-year-old sons. I know what technology they’re using and what’s coming next, and that allows me to see what’s about to explode and track it. A lot of my clients are looking towards social—TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc. but in many ways, I don’t think it’s about the next innovation, it’s about the message and it’s about understanding what that is before jumping on it. Unless you have the right message, story, and content, you’re not doing it right. You might find the “right” social platform to engage consumers, but you’ll still fail to capture their hearts and minds.
You’re a huge advocate for diversity, inclusion, and promoting women in business. How are you actively working to support diversity, and, in particular, females in the creative field?
It’s wonderful that equality and diversity are being celebrated now, and inclusivity is finally a big item on the Fortune 500 companies list. The percentage of women running these companies is reaching an all-time high and the share of women sitting on boards has nearly doubled. Diversity is more than just male/female. It’s gender, age, race, LGBTQ, ethnicity, disabilities, etc. The most successful, creative teams include people with these different perspectives. Each year, I pick a few young, new female creatives and help set them up for success. What I’m most grateful for is my former boss and ongoing mentor, Anthony Reeves. He’s a huge proponent of equality in the workplace as a male voice supporting women and he taught me everything valuable to be a good leader and an amazing mentor.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love being part of a larger cultural conversation in the world. Advertising has always been at the crossroad of pop culture, and I love being part of this. Incredible advertising provides entertainment, education, information, and changes people’s opinions with different products and brands. I do a lot of inclusive advertising to help define, reflect, and promote this constant evolution. This just one example of how advertising can be not only an effective vehicle for brand exposure, but also be leveraged for the betterment of our industry.
President & Founder — The AGNCY
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