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Windsor Street puts creative people on front line

There are no account executives at Windsor Street Design Associates Inc.
Originally a pure design studio, the firm has evolved into a full-service advertising agency, devoid of account managers-a traditional staple at most ad shops.
“We don’t have the kinds of layers a regular ad agency has,” said Joan Hantz, owner of WSDA.
Most ad firms have account management teams that maintain the agency’s relationship with a client. Creative folk such as copywriters and designers often remain behind the scenes, and depend on a client services executive to relay messages back and forth.
“The client and we become a collaborative team,” Hantz explained. “It doesn’t get filtered through an account executive.”
Diane LaPietra, the firm’s managing director, terms the lack of account managers as “skipping a level.”
“People here have a broader capability,” she said. “Though we are skipping over a level, we are not skipping over any steps.”
WSDA’s 10 employees have had work experience in account management from previous jobs, in addition to their creative strengths.
“We have managed to keep close relationships with our clients,” LaPietra said.
WSDA’s staff usually work on projects from the beginning-when a client is charting out a possible marketing strategy, agency officials said.
“Clients feel more valued by us in some ways,” Hantz said. “It is not as dollar-driven as it is quality-driven.”
However, expanding its services translates to heightened competition for the design firm. While pitching for new accounts, WSDA now competes against larger local ad firms such as Roberts Communications Inc. and Buck & Pulleyn Inc.
“We conducted research to find out how people viewed us,” Hantz said. “Clients felt the design work was great but they wanted us to expand our services.”
WSDA officials said its strategy to allow the creative team to interact directly with customers gives the agency an advantage.
Located on Windsor Street, the 18-year-old firm offers clients an integration of graphic design, strategic planning, copywriting and interactive services.
“We started out as a straight design studio and evolved to a more full-service type agency,” Hantz added.
Hantz would not to disclose any information about the agency’s billings or growth.
It has 15 local, national and international clients that use the firm’s strategic branding solutions and creative marketing applications. The list includes Xerox Corp., Identrus LLC, Corning Inc. and George Eastman House.
The agency’s newest assignment is designing packaging for Royal Caribbean International’s culinary collection.
“Joan and her team have a grasp of strategy and have the ability to deliver a superior design solution,” said Douglas McLaine, principal of the McLaine Consulting Group.
An independent marketing consultant, McLaine did the marketing research and positioning for WSDA’s win earlier this year-Identrus. New York City-based Identrus helps firms manage business-to-business, e-commerce transactions.
“Usually small agencies have limited specialties but this firm has a global strategic grasp,” he added. “They put a lot of heat on a particular challenge.”
WSDA hopes its ability to deal with clients directly will help the firm grab new business. As it battles larger firms for jobs, company officials plan to work harder on promoting the agency.
“We want to continue moving in this direction and be involved in projects earlier, when people are making decisions,” Hantz said. “We don’t want to come in the end and decorate.”

12/29/00

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