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Ad shop grows with office in region

The Martin Group LLC, which is based in Buffalo, expanded here in 2014

Most companies are trying to create what the Martin Group LLC innately has: the longevity and experience of an established firm intertwined with a startup mindset.

The company has had its headquarters in Buffalo for 16 years. In 2014 the firm opened an office here, a move that has strengthened its brand.

“Part of the reason we have success is because the unique thing about the Martin Group in Rochester is that we’re kind of half startup and half established agency,” said Duane Bombard, vice president and creative director for the Rochester area office. “It gives us the entrepreneurial side of things, but we have an agency right down the Thruway that can back us up.”

“We really feel startup to me, but it’s not two guys working on milk crates in an empty office,” he added.

The company was founded in 2001 by Tod Martin.

The advertising agency specializes in sports, health care, higher education, financial, food and beverage, nonprofit, technology and professional service verticals.

The local office is at 10 East Main St. in Victor and has 11 staffers. The firm has 52 full-time and three part-time employees companywide.

The goal is to grow revenue by 10 percent this year—both in the Rochester office and for the agency as a whole. Both offices have undergone renovations this year.

Dion Pender, senior vice president, executive creative director and managing director of Rochester, and Bombard started the Rochester office. Both have spent their careers on the creative side of agencies.

Leading one has been a new kind of fulfillment for both.

“I’m surprised at how much leading a group like this has changed me,” Pender said. “The things that get me thrilled aren’t the things I would have even thought before.”

The Rochester office sees potential for growth in food and beverage, nonprofit, technology, financial services, professional services, health care and higher education.

Most clients are based in New York. The Rochester office has also worked with clients in the Northeast and across the country such as Dave & Buster’s, Qdoba, and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

The firm rebranded recently with a focus on the company’s roots: branding.

“I think there’s a lot of clients that are aware of branding and are aware that their company has a brand, but I think there are a lot of misnomers about what a brand is,” Pender said. “I think a lot of clients think that their brand is just their logo and their tagline, but it’s a bigger thing than that. We walk them through that process, so if they are misguided they leave us with a really good understanding of what their brand reflection is.”

Growth in multiple areas so far has been steady and through past connections.

“It was purely word of mouth, very organic and it was really quite rewarding,” Pender said. “We’ve been able to pick people that would be a good fit for us…Clients have joined on board with us, they’ve made recommendations to other people, so we’ve slowly, organically been able to grow, and it’s been fantastic.”

“I think the truth is that there are some people that are just unaware of us; we’re not as well-known as some of the larger shops in town,” he added.

The company has worked with Mary Cariola Children’s Center for the past couple of years.

“I liked that they first connected emotionally to our work, to really having a partnership with us,” said Karen Zandi, president and CEO of Mary Cariola. “It was really important to see that they understood our work and they understood the kinds of children that we serve who have multiple and complex disabilities.”

The Martin Group helped the nonprofit evolve its message to the community, officials said.

“While they are Buffalo-based, the people who run the Rochester office are either longtime Rochesterians or transplanted Rochesterians,” said Greg Kamp, marketing communications manager at Mary Cariola. “From our perspective they (are) helping Mary Cariola get the brand name out there. They really help build the foundation of the brand, and now we have to evolve it for the future.”

The firm also has helped rebrand Seneca Falls Savings Bank in its transition to Generations Bank. The companies have been working together for four years.

“We continue to do business with them because they have a great team that helped craft our brand when we rebranded from Seneca Falls Savings Bank to Generations Bank,” said Katie MacIntyre, assistant vice president marketing officer for Generations Bank. “They are a team who listens and extracts, and then infuses creativity with heart into the work they produce. They are also really great people who are fun and consistently exceed expectations.”

Looking forward, growth will be more deliberately focused. However, the approach to business will remain, Bombard said.

“I think the growth that’s happened both from a client side and an employee side, those are going to be challenges over the next three years,” he said. “Our attitude is if you continue to do business the right way we’ll get people that want to work here, and we’ll get clients that want to do business with us as long as you keep focusing on what we’re focusing on.”

The marketing agency landscape in Rochester has shifted from a focus on a select few to smaller firms gaining more traction, Pender said. The change is good for competition.

“I think that’s a really interesting perspective because if you do look at the success of Rochester folks that end up leaving Kodak or Xerox or Bausch & Lomb—they started their own small businesses and I think the agency world is really no different,” he said. “There’s key leadership that have left larger agencies and they’ve started up their own, and I think there’s plenty of clients around that can keep us all thriving.”

Smaller firms are resonating with clients in different ways, Bombard said.

“The smaller shops seem to be the ones with all the momentum,” he said. “Obviously some of the big shops are still the premier agencies—they do great creative. But just the fact that looking around a few years ago, I never would have pictured our competition to be some of the agencies that we’re in competition with now. I think it’s great for the whole industry.”

kfeltner@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4020

(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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