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Bus ride downtown was destiny for ad executive

The hybrid of big city experience, a passion for Rochester and advertising chops honed from working with some of the most well-known modern brands equals a career Courtney Cotrupe is honored to pursue.

For over a decade she has moved up the ranks in Rochester at the full-service ad agency Partners + Napier Inc., while consistently challenging the status quo and striving to push brands forward.

Cotrupe, 39, is the firm’s managing director.

“Clients work with agencies because they need help thinking through things that they potentially don’t have the time to do,” she says. “They want an outside perspective, and so we’ve got to be sharp, we’ve got to be ahead of them, we have to see challenges differently than they do and bring solutions that they’ve never thought of before.”

A native of Brighton, Cotrupe is a boomeranger. She left Rochester for college, earning a bachelor of arts degree in communications from Boston University in 1999.

While growing up, Cotrupe, her two sisters and her mother would take a bus downtown a couple of times a year to eat lunch with her father. He worked at Lincoln First Bank of Rochester.

The feeling of entering downtown never left Cotrupe.

“I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do, but I knew the feeling I wanted to have when I was working and what excited me,” she says. “That point is probably when I really started to dream and think about being in a city, being part of building something and not necessarily knowing what it was, but just enjoying the environment of it.”

Both parents instilled in Cotrupe and her sisters the importance of working hard to advance a career.

“I learned my work ethic a million percent from both of my parents,” Cotrupe says. “My parents taught me that work is positive; it can be a good thing. You have to follow your heart, you have to be ambitious, you have to say yes to things when everyone else is saying no. But it can be really gratifying, and it can play a really positive role in your life.”

In college, she began as a film major before switching to communications. The vantage point of creating characters in film helped inform her advertising eye.

“Film is all about character building, and that’s where you start every project,” she says. “You actually don’t start writing a story, you start building a character, and as the character develops it creates the story for you. And (film) created an interest in humanity and psychology and human behavior that ultimately is what we do every day.”

Connections key

After college, she moved to New York City. Traveling by bus once again, Cotrupe found the same sense of excitement of a new city as she did when she was younger.

“I remember getting that feeling again like, ‘this is awesome,’” Cotrupe says. “It was energy, it was excitement, it was anonymity; a fresh slate in a way.”

After a few months of interviewing, she landed a job many in advertising would deem the perfect starting point.

Through her Rochester connections she was able to get an interview at Ogilvy & Mather.

Landing at Ogilvy “is kind of like the dream first job,” Cotrupe says. “It’s where you learn all the rules, so you can break them later.”
She began working there as an assistant account executive.

“That’s when I first learned the power and importance of connections and networking,” Cotrupe says. “Having a network or being connected doesn’t get you the job, it opens the door. You have to work hard to get through, but you’re put in the right place.

“You have to pay it back, because if it wasn’t for that one conversation my life could have turned out really differently.”

She worked on accounts such as Kraft Foods Inc., which included Kool-Aid and Country Time Lemonade. This exposure to top brands so early in her career helped her learn fundamentals of the advertising industry.

“I definitely found I caught the bug,” Cotrupe says. “Advertising’s a crazy industry; it’s the highest of highs and it’s the lowest of lows, and if you can somehow always even out somewhere in the middle it keeps you going.”

She left New York City in 2003 and moved back to Rochester to be closer to family. She began working at Allendale Columbia School’s summer camp while she figured out her next step.

Another connection introduced Cotrupe to Sharon Napier, CEO of Partners + Napier, a chance meeting that helped Cotrupe transition back to advertising.

She joined the firm in September 2003 as a senior account executive.

“Ultimately I just felt a connection to (Partners + Napier) above anything else, and I knew after meeting Sharon that there was no way this was going to be a Rochester-bound agency,” Cotrupe says. “It was going to be a Rochester-based agency with a wide range of clients and really big ambitions, and that’s what I was interested in.”

Partners + Napier has 125 full-time employees here and keeps service offices in San Francisco and New York City. Last year the firm added 30 staffers.
The agency prides itself on operating in Rochester with the value of family at its core. But its impact is far-reaching. Partners + Napier is nationally recognized and offers clients a relevancy that comes from working with brands across the country.

The firm works with a variety of clients, including Constellation Brands Inc., BMW and Mini Financial Services, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Bausch & Lomb Inc., Delta Vacations, Saputo Inc. and Gannett Co. Inc.

“I really like to work across a variety of different accounts. I think I can bring value that way because I can take learning from one and apply it to the next,” Cotrupe says. “It’s always this balance between the knowledge and understanding of a category and completely fresh thinking.”

Partners + Napier has been named to AdAge’s Best Place to Work List for two consecutive years.

Culture and the environment of the agency as it relates to employees is something Cotrupe thinks about every day.

“It’s making sure that people feel inspired to come to work here every day, that we can attract great talent because we’re a thriving agency and we’re a place that people want to work,” Cotrupe says. “Culture plays such a big role in why people choose their careers. I want to make sure that we’re creating an environment where real people can live and work every day with the value of family at the core.”

Current job

Cotrupe leads various teams within the agency. Each day she works toward solving client problems with creative solutions. Her leadership style can be described as adaptable, she says.

“I think to be a good leader you actually have to be able to adapt your leadership style to situations,” Cotrupe says.

When faced with tough decisions throughout her career, Cotrupe has looked inward.

“You have to weigh pros and cons. You have to go through that process, and in the end you’ve just got to trust your gut,” Cotrupe says. “I just believe so strongly that you can rationalize anything, but in the end you have to feel something.”

Staying in the moment has helped Cotrupe learn. Navigating the ups and downs of business in the advertising industry requires slowing down, she says.

“I always like to win,” Cotrupe says. “You can’t forget to celebrate. I think the industry moves so quickly. You really have to take the moment and celebrate what you’ve achieved and even celebrate the losses, because oftentimes there’s a lot of really good work that happened.”

With over a decade at Partners + Napier, Cotrupe continues to strive for excellence. She is always looking for ways to grow the business both as a leader of others and as the driver of her own career.

“There’s a reason why I’m still here and I didn’t go back to New York or I didn’t move to San Francisco,” Cotrupe says. “I really believe in the power of this agency to service some amazing brands that are here locally, as well as some nationally recognized that I’m so proud that we get to work with. And at the same time we can be a place where people want to raise a family and come to work every day.”

3/31/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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