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30 Most Valuable Brands of the Year 2023

 Glue’s vision is to deliver a client-centric, results-oriented performance that other agencies, large or small, can’t match

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Glue is a full-service advertising and public relations agency founded by industry veterans, Cindy Machles and Alan Rothenberg. After rigorous training at agencies within the big 4 conglomerates; Havas, Interpublic, Omnicom, and WPP, they recognized that the big-conglomerate model was broken. Over the years, the model had shifted. Senior strategic and creative talent who could best meet the needs of the agency’s clients had been deprioritized in order to make the conglomerates as profitable as possible. In their stead, more junior staffers, still learning the ropes, were put in charge of day-to-day business, which is, of course, at odds with partnering with clients to achieve the objectives they hold for their brand.

In creating Glue, Cindy and Alan committed themselves to a different, better client experience grounded in hands-on, senior-level, strategic attention, turn-on-the-dime responsiveness, and flawless, on-time, on-budget tactical delivery. Both agency leaders work alongside their teams as a matter of course, which ensures that one or both founders review every deliverable before it goes out the door.

Clients include Fortune 500 firms and start-ups in the B2B, CPG, entertainment, financial services, and healthcare industries as well as government agencies and not-for-profits that embrace Glue’s big-agency thinking without the big agency promise.

In conversation with the founders of Glue Advertising

Q. How is Glue different from other advertising agencies?

At Glue, we believe that sound creative is built on insights; what target audiences think, feel, and desire. What compels them attitudinally and behaviorally. And most importantly, what will motivate them to choose a brand. Insights are not only critical to our process––but insight generation has grown into a core strength of the agency. In fact, market research comprises about one fifth of the agency’s business.

In addition to this home-grown expertise, many of our senior managers were trained at big-conglomerate agencies and have also served as product managers at CPG companies. We use this foundation as the basis for training all Glue personnel, which gives us a competitive advantage in understanding the needs and pressures our clients face. The result: we are naturally more proactive and noticeably stronger strategic and tactical partners.

For these reasons, we have been called upon to support our clients or even take the lead (when they are short-staffed) on marketing-plan development, high-visibility presentations (preparation and delivery), and market research, advisory board, and workshop moderation. We have even stood in for our clients at off-sites and legal-medical-regulatory meetings and have been asked to provide strategic direction and oversight to other agencies working on the same brands. Success for us is when it is impossible to tell where the brand team ends and the Glue team begins.

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Q. Expertise is key to a highly-functioning marketing firm. How do you source the right talent to maintain the quality of your services?

Fairfax Cone, co- founder and chairman of FCB, famously said “The inventory goes down the elevator every night.” While the world we live in today is vastly altered since Mr. Cone’s astute observation, at Glue, celebrating our valued and valuable staff is a prioirty. Even before the pandemic, Glue staffers were able to work from wherever they felt they could be most productive, whether that was in-office or remotely. As a result, many of our staff took the opportunity to leave New York for other destinations that beckoned them. Videoconferencing was a mainstay of how we collaborated then and how we collaborate now.

We also ensure that our employees have ample learning and development opportunities through in-office mentoring and rotation through our wide-ranging roster of clients who give us equally wide-ranging assignments. Our staff is also encouraged to work on campaigns that speak to their soul, which could be anything from improving public health by increasing awareness of a disease to working on a pro bono account that they believe in. Beyond giving our purpose-driven full-time staff many reasons to stick with Glue, our secret sauce is our vast network, which allows us to draw on the best talent in the business, full-time and part-time, and match their expertise to the task at hand.

Q. Most businesses compete in a crowded marketplace. How do you help them stand out?

We believe that the best work begins with authentic stakeholder insights. When these insights are used to showcase how and why your brand uniquely satisfies unmet consumer needs, you have the foundation for great creative, that in and of itself, can be a competitive advantage. We invite you to see examples of our business-building work at glueadvertising.com

Marketing is most effective when it’s targeted and tailored toward an individual. Tell us about your analytical approach to improving engagement with targeted audiences.

Glue uses analytics to understand target audiences at both the segmentation and persona levels. This allows us to build targeted, tailored communications that cater to characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors, address goals, motivations, and pain points, and intervene appropriately by stage of journey. Once we put materials into the field we collect real-world feedback quantitatively and, when budget allows, qualitatively, so that ROI and the customer experience that goes along with it can be continuously and rapidly improved.

Q. Tell us about your content development. What are the factors that will contribute to the engagement level?

Glue creates content development for clients across all social media properties. We do that in a disciplined and considered manner that has been proven to secure above-average engagement right out of the gate and boost it over time.

Here are the three main principles that we follow:

  • Before we begin, we conduct a trends and competitive benchmarking analysis to make sure we understand what target audiences care about and the unmet needs and gaps available to be filled
  • We think about ways that we can infuse news and interactivity into what will be shared, because engagement is typically higher when one or both are present
  • We plan—using content strategy and a content calendar—and adjust, continually assessing the types of content that perform best and using those learnings to guide what comes next

Q. How do you maintain the balance of exclusivity and attainability of goals for the brands you promote?

We rarely work on luxury brands that benefit from exclusivity. Instead, our sweet spot is regulated industries and B2B, where goals are typically to establish desirability and attainability. Our clients hire us to cut through the clutter. And we do that with compelling, single-minded, straighforward positioning and messaging and high-impact creative that together fuel brand awareness and positive associations, heighten brand quality and differentiation, and deepen brand loyalty over time.

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Q. What new services is your company planning for its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

Our belief is that marketing and advertising fundamentals never go out of style. Therefore, as we create new services and innovations, we make sure that strategic thinking and cost-effective, mistake-free tactics are always baked in. That said, we do have several newly-launched service offerings in the wings that will help continue to set us apart:

  • SecureCHEK AI, where Glue’s CEO Cindy Machles is also CMO. SecureCHEK is on the cusp of revolutionizing how advertising collateral is developed—at the push of a button using AI. This will save marketers millions of dollars and months and months of time that can be reallocated to business building
  • YourMedEdge, an online network of healthcare experts who will bring consumers the latest information on trends and life-changing discoveries from the floor of major medical meetings in language that’s easy to understand
  • Glue Cooperative, through which marketing consultants can use Glue to deliver white-label agency tactics, allowing them to provide strategic counsel long after their engagement would otherwise be over

Meet the leaders behind the success of Glue Advertising

Cindy has long been a leader and pioneer. While part of WPP, she filled a marketplace gap by creating an independent operating unit that developed branding exclusively for prescription products. And in 2014, seeking to disrupt the industry once again, she envisioned and launched Glue Advertising alongside Alan Rothenberg as a more nimble, accountable, innovative communications company. Cindy was featured in two books—Surrounded by Awesome Women and Founded by Women: Inspiring Stories from 100 Female Founders—and serves as a mentor to young companies through University of Chicago’s prestigious accelerator, The Polsky Center. In recognition of all of these efforts, she was named a top-100 entrepreneur and innovator for 2022. Cindy has a BS summa cum laude from Boston University and an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Glue Creative Director and Co-founder Alan Rothenberg has led award-winning creative teams at agencies within WPP, Havas, and Omnicom. At Glue, he manages a team of copywriters and art directors that continues to create award-winning creative work that has been repeatedly recognized by industry awards shows over the past 9 years. Career-long recognition includes Apex Award, E-Healthcare Digital Leadership Award, The London Award, Rx Club, and MM+M. Most recently, Alan and the creative team at Glue broke new ground with real-people casting for a top-5 U.S. bank, producing a photo shoot of a diverse group of couples and families, including the first trans-inclusive couple for a national financial services company.

“Glue has been recognized as a top 20 NYC agency since 2017”