SMZ has been in business since 1929, 85 years. In an industry that is often dramatic, very few weeks were as dramatic for us as the last few.
We moved offices for the first time in nearly 30 years. It was a herculean staff effort. Combing through decades of work to determine what to keep, store or toss is a physical, mental and emotional challenge. To then unpack, reorganize and get back to work in one business day was rather, well, exciting.
Coinciding with the move, we said goodbye to our Executive Creative Director, Gary Wolfson and welcomed into that position, Michael Corbeille. That change alone is also a very big deal for an ad agency.
SMZ’s client mix is strong and healthy and includes several retail accounts whose busiest ad production time is now. There was no time to figure out how to work the pretty new microwaves in our hip, new office. We were cranking. In our spare time, we were preparing for an agency open house. And don’t even get us started about the extreme road construction that has surrounded us for months. You couldn’t come or go without hitting stalled traffic and orange pylons.
Then came word that our much beloved Research Director, Bonnie Michelson, a champion and cheerleader of our agency for over 50 years, was gravely ill. Bonnie, wife of SMZ Chairman Jim Michelson and mother to our President/CEO Jamie Michelson and Executive Vice Presidents Pam and Debbie and sister Laurie, was truly one of the kindest, smartest, classiest people one could ever be fortunate enough to meet. She was an inspiration to so many.
By being her fabulous self, Bonnie taught us how a strong work ethic and high work standards led to success. With her positive words and bright smile she taught us how to treat others. By example, she taught us how to be an amazing mom and wife. (SMZers loved watching Jim’s face beam every time she called.)
Bonnie passed away the night before our open house. Many thought we might cancel. That morning, Jamie came in to address the staff. He explained that Bonnie was a big believer in the world’s timing. That when something bad happens, something good always happens at the same time. He could hear Bonnie’s voice saying “Go!” What Jamie didn’t know is that a lot of us could hear Bonnie’s same voice, strong as can be, “Go!”
And so go we did. The SMZ staff once again rallied, putting finishing touches on the office, arranging food, decorations, hanging signs—all the stuff one has to do to welcome guests into a new home and throw a fun party.
It was the best party we’d thrown in years. SMZ clients, former employees, media reps, and vendors all came in droves to support us. The air was positively electric.
The next morning we attended services for Bonnie in what many said was the most beautiful service they’d ever attended. Once again, we were uplifted by SMZ supporters.
We left the services and went back to work that afternoon. And wouldn’t you know it? On the way back to our new office the construction pylons on our new office street had been moved aside and the road was clear. It was as if Bonnie was giving us another sign to, “Go!”
And go we did and always will. Thank you Bonnie.
Ann McGee, senior vice president, general manager