Solve, an independent Minneapolis advertising agency, entered its second decade with a new leadership structure to support continued growth.
“When we started, small independent agencies were scarce and many clients wanted to have a much more managed, nimble and fast type of agency,” said Corey Johnson, who founded the firm with fellow veteran Carmichael Lynch. , John Colasanti.
In its first year, Ad Age named Solve “Small Agency of the Year”. He would earn this distinction once again.
“We kind of identified this as our North Star, shooting for that again here,” Johnson said. “We want to come back to this scene.”
Doing this means paying more attention to detail. It meant a third person at the top. So Colasanti, who was CEO, is now president. Johnson has gone from president to CEO. And the agency has promoted Ryan Murray, previously chief accountant and partner, to president.
“We can once again increase our level of top-down involvement in everything,” Johnson said.
The leadership moves took place in early October to coincide with the agency’s 10th anniversary producing campaigns for, among others, Sunoco, Porsche, Indian Motorcycle and Driscoll’s Fresh Berries.
This month, employees also returned to the office three days a week.
Murray said he looks forward to helping employees grow while making sure clients get the strategic perspective and creative work they need. He expects to be more active in developing new business while continuing to lead numerous client relationships.
“Having this position allows John, Corey and I to divide and conquer in ways that we haven’t been able to until now,” Murray said of his new role as chairman.
Strong leadership will also help Solve maintain its independence, said Colasanti, whose 15 years at Carmichael Lynch began just before one of the large holding companies that dominate the advertising industry acquired it.
“There is no desire to sell, although we have certainly had opportunities,” said Colasanti. “We have attracted amazing clients. We have done a great job. More than anything, I think we have built a culture where people love to work, where people feel able to do their best to think.”
Colasanti considers his role as chairman to be to ensure that the agency “looks at everything as it should, as it sets the vision and direction of the company for the future”.
Johnson said Solve’s strength in developing ideas faster than the big agencies helped during the pandemic.
When customer President Cheese planned to introduce a snack-size version of their pub cheese, Solve suggested creating a “snack-size” Irish pub to promote the product. The company, which had no plans for a launch campaign, loved the idea of the pub, had it built, and are using it to offer samples and coupons outside of grocery stores.
In another case, client Raymond James, the financial services company, withdrew its new “Live Your Life” campaign when the pandemic struck. In three to four weeks, Johnson said, Solve created an animated “People. Always” campaign that was more appropriate for the time.
Solve still needs to do a better job on the diversity and equity front, the three officers said.
Solve’s staff are 84% white, and their management team does not have people of color. Nationally, less than 1% of advertising and marketing executives are black and less than 6% of advertising employees are black, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
After the police murder of George Floyd sparked calls for racial equity and inclusion, Solve teamed up with Morgan State University, a historically black college and university (HCBU) located in Baltimore. Agency staff teach advertising courses through Zoom.
Solve, which has recruited three summer interns from Morgan State, hopes to expand its efforts to more HBCU campuses, Johnson said.
“Advertising, when at its best, has to be at the forefront of the American psyche,” Johnson said. “At the moment, not only in our agency, but in many others, our perspective is limited as we do not have a complete and diverse picture of our staff, so it is important to get it by all possible means. . “
“Even though we can’t hire any of these students if they just find their way into the ad, it’s a huge win,” Murray said.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is [email protected]