Interview with an Ad Agency Owner

Jamie Allebach is CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Allebach Communications, with over 30 years of experience as a creative director and marketing professional. He has had an extensive career in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, sales promotions, interactive marketing and public relations.

Mr Allebach graduated from the Art Institute of Philadephia and started his career working for several small to mid-sized advertising agencies and design firms in the Philadelphia area. Prior to establishing Allebach Communications, Jamie was president of The Creative Network, Inc.

Jamie Allebach and His Career

How did your career unfold?

I excelled in art and creativity all my life. As a youth, I enjoyed drawing, painting, and cartooning. I’m a musician, a writer, and a creative thinker, so it became a matter of how to make a career out what I love. I decided on a commercial art career, with some prompting from my mother, of course.

Along the way, I decided that I would like to be in the ad agency business. So, shortly after the completion of my education at the Art Institute of Philadephia, I began to gather the experience that I would need to advance in the ad business.

If you had to define yourself vocationally in one sentence what would it be?

I bring people who are “selling” things together with those who wish to “purchase” them.

What has been your key (or keys) to success?

Perseverence, hard work, treating others as I would want to be treated, and lots of prayer. I love finding creative solutions to marketing problems.

What was your greatest success and biggest setback?

There have been many successful and gratifying moments along the way, such as seeing our clients succeed, managing a business that provides for my family and my employees and their families, and investing in our partners in business.

But, I would say that my greatest business success over the years was helping to build the brand for Atkins Nutritionals (The Atkins Diet). Through our marketing and advertising partnership with Atkins, we helped grow them from a few million dollars, up to $600m international corporation.  It was an exciting time in business.

As with success, there have been many challenges over the years. However, in 2002, the economy was in trouble, some of our clients were cutting back on ad budgets, and we lost a very large client. This was a very financially challenging time for us, and it ultimately took 3 years to fully recover.

Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

Jesus Christ modeled and exemplified servant leadership and I try to use Him as my role-model in my life and business. Steve Jobs and Apple Computer were the epitome of creativity. Merrill Moyer, CEO of a regional bank and my father-in-law, Edward Molnar, were both mentors and inspirations to me.

What are some common myths about advertising agency executives?

That they are “slick” sales people, out to deceive and manipulate people. That they sell SIZZLE and not STEAK. Neither of which truly represent a great ad exec.

The Actual Work Of Being an Advertising Agency Owner

Describe a typical day of work for you.

As the company owner and Chief Executive and Creative Officer, no two days are the same. I spend time reviewing financial and budget information (boring, but important). I interact with clients, via email, phone and in meetings. I write copy and develop ideas for campaigns.

We have collaborative meetings on client strategies and creative work. I work closely with my employees on both the account management and creative side of the business.

How does Internet search marketing and SEO play into your business?

SEO plays a key role in our business, as well as our clients’ business. Being found on the Internet, when consumers are looking for your product or service is critical. If they don’t find you on the first page or two, they will move on. Just Google “Allebach”, we’ll be on the first page every time.

Is it important to collaborate with colleagues in the field?

It’s always important to talk with other people and groups that are doing what you are doing. It’s an ideal forum to share ideas and gather industry information.

Job Information and Advice

Who are three of the most renowned advertising executives in the world? How and why did they get to the top? What are people at the top of this profession paid?

In the advertising industry it’s not so much individuals, it’s more the ad agency itself that brings the prestige. Some of the top agencies in the world are:

What is the average salary for your position in the US?

It really varies from small, mid-size, to large agencies. Agency principals and top executives can make anywhere from $120,000 up to millions, depending upon what your options and incentives are.

Typically, creative directors are the highest paid positions in ad agencies. However, you can make a good living in just about any position within an ad firm. Opportunities are always there to work your way up.

What are the hottest advertising specialties?

Social media, search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, and viral online videos.

What are the best ways to find and go about getting a job in advertising?

Personal contacts, relationships, and networking will always lead to the best jobs. Online directories and forums offer great opportunities to prospect for jobs. Email and pick up the phone and call prospective employers. Be creative and persistent in your approach.

Then, you have to work your way up through the ranks, and learn as much as you can about every job in the company. Focus on getting as much HANDS-ON experience as possible. Be a sponge.

Describe your ideal job candidate and your nightmare job candidate.

Ideal: An experienced, hard-working, detail-oriented, creative, humble, teachable, ethical, and committed person who LOVES the advertising business.

Nightmare: Someone with a long resume who elaborates their talent and expertise, and over-sells their ability. I end up paying them a lot of money but they ultimately can’t deliver what they promised.

Education Information and Advice

Tell us about your education.

Personally, I don’t have much of a formal education. I dropped-out of college and went to an accelerated course at the Philadelphia Art Institute. I was never a very good student — I was more concerned about how I could get in and out the quickest.

But my little education did afford me the basic skills that I needed and then I got to work in the field.

I will say that since the very beginning of my career, I’ve been a student of my trade. I’ve been in the advertising business for 30+ years, and I still push myself everyday to learn as much as I can.

If you are not continually growing and learning everyday, you are already behind. I read books, publications, blogs, and basically everything I can get my hands on. I go to seminars, attend webinars, go to trade meetings, and more. So perhaps I became a good student after all.

How should prospective advertising students assess their skill and aptitude for this field?

It’s not about simply picking or deciding on a career. It’s about figuring out what makes you tick. What gets you juiced up? How are you wired?

We all have a unique set of core gifts. Something that we like and something that we’re good at. It’s what we were made for.

If you like creativity, strategic thinking, problem solving, working collaboratively with people, if you like working under deadlines and pressure, if you like taking risks and receiving the reward, along with the defeat… you may be cut out for a career in advertising.

What advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in the business side of advertising?

Think creative, work hard, and have fun. Try to get practical, applicable skills and information from your education. Get a minimum of a 4-year degree. Don’t just learn the skills of advertising, but learn people. When you learn the art of people, you will succeed.

Industry Trends

The growth of the Internet affected nearly every industry in profound ways. How has it affected your business?

The Internet has truly opened-up a global marketplace. It was a completely new medium back in the ‘90’s, more revolutionary and expansive than either TV or radio.

Within the past 15-20 years, ad agencies have completely transformed to where significant revenue is coming from online initiatives. Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click Campaigns, Blogs, Email Marketing, and Online Videos, are as common in today’s ad agencies as traditional mediums like print, TV, and radio.

What do you believe will be the next big trend in advertising?

Social media is a continuing trend in advertising. Informational democracy is now the state of the marketplace.

The soccer mom, the blogger, disgruntled consumers, product enthusiast, and information-seekers. Anyone with an internet connection is empowered to help or hinder consumer brands.

Nearly everyone is out there in chat rooms, on Facebook, Tweeting, uploading to YouTube, blogging, etc. They are seeking information on consumer brands, declaring how great it is, or trashing it to everyone in their network.

Technology is now in place and continually being developed that allows companies to gather data in the social network sphere, and target prospective customers. Social media is a place where businesses are investing significant marketing dollars.

As an agency we have fully embraced the era of social media. We are engaged and we are using it as an effective marketing tool for our clients.