Ad agency making strategic moves

Relocation to Ellicott City and new name among changes within past year

Small business

May 20, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The last year has made a tremendous difference for advertising agency Frank & Associates.

The company has gained four large accounts, increased its revenue by 40 percent, doubled its customers and staff and broadened its offerings to clients.

Now the firm is making more moves: It abandoned its offices in the lofty Oella Mill, choosing new space on Main Street in Ellicott City.

The firm also changed its name to Frank. Strategic Marketing, reflecting a shift in the company and its repositioning in the marketplace.

"We've evolved as more of a strategic shop," owner Gerry Frank said. "We have various seasoned professionals to help us with everything from public relations to branding."

While the company was forced to move from Baltimore County's Oella Mill because of its closure -- the mill is going to be redeveloped into an apartment building -- the move across the river to Ellicott City in Howard County was a strategic one.

"We do a lot of business-to-business advertising, which in Howard County is a good place to be," said Marjorie Valin, executive vice president. "There are a lot of support businesses here."

Jared Spahn, president of the Ellicott City Business Association, said the ad agency is following several businesses in locating their offices on Main Street.

"The office market has gotten so good because of its proximity to county offices and the courthouse, a lot of people are converting those old [second-floor] apartments to offices," he said. "We're seeing a tremendous conversion. As far as office space, there's got to be a minimal amount available."

Frank. Strategic Marketing is a marketing communications firm that focuses heavily on business-to-business advertising, representing a wide range of clients, from nonprofits to trade groups. It has about 20 clients, and had revenue of $1.5 million last year, Valin said.

From its inception in 1995, the company's strength was in the creative aspect of advertising. Before founding the firm, Frank had been vice president and creative director for the Baltimore-based Cornerstone ad agency, and won awards for his work there.

But in the past 18 months, his company's abilities broadened as the six-person firm grew to 12.

Both the creative department, which does the artwork, and the production department, which deals with vendors and keeps the projects on schedule, were expanded to keep up with the growing client list.

Valin, Frank's wife, left her position as senior vice president for the American Advertising Federation to bring her extensive public relations background to the firm -- an added service.

The company also created an account services department, which helps strategize with clients, and hired David Heneberry, formerly vice president of marketing for the Ryland Group Inc., to head it.

"He brought a lot of high-tech and online experience," Valin said. "He has more disciplines and insights, [he's been] putting procedures in place -- really building the department from the ground up."

The new hires give Frank. Strategic Marketing the capacity to handle its newest large clients -- the International Consumer Electronics Show, the ICMA Retirement Corp., National Public Radio Satellite Services and Asset Management Central.

As the company moves forward, it will look for opportunities to enter new markets, particularly health care and real estate, where some of its key staff members have experience, Valin said.

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