This month marks Rosenberg Advertising’s 35th year in business! What started out as a traditional marketing, one-man show with Dave Rosenberg, has evolved into a full-service agency that specializes in digital and traditional advertising. So, how did it all begin? What would Dave do differently if he could go back in time? Find out, in our Q&A, below!
How has the agency evolved since 1981?
Well, since we started in 1981 with myself and one client, a chain of carpet and tile stores, we have certainly grown. Our biggest evolution has been in building our toolbox of capabilities. What started as more of a promotional agency focusing on newspaper, radio and TV advertising for family-owned retail chains has grown into a fully-integrated marketing firm. Now we do brand development and then bring the brand to life with website, SEO, SEM, video, direct mail, outdoor, catalogs, social media and yes we still do print, TV and radio advertising.
What was your favorite year/time in RA history?
The first five to ten years were very exciting. I was 26 when I started the business and it was all so new and exhilarating. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat was all so fresh every day. With that being said I have loved almost every day in the business. It still is very much an “idea and people” business and that is what I enjoy.
The agency hasn’t always been in our current “home.” How has every location of the business contributed to the brand and why was this house so special?
Trust me, my first office, all 10’ x 10” of it for $95/month in a non-descript office park, didn’t contribute to our brand. But it was a place to start. As we grew more we moved to the Warehouse District in Cleveland and had three different loft spaces for about 12 years. Those were very cool and definitely helped shape our brand as far as having a warm and fun company culture. For the last 17 years we have been in our current home. Actually the fact that our current home is really a home, not an office in a building, truly defines who we are. Our company culture is definitely a family-oriented, caring, welcoming atmosphere and I couldn’t think of a better place to not only work but live out our brand in a genuine way.
What have been the most rewarding and challenging moments?
Seeing results is rewarding. That is twofold; first I love seeing that the work we have done and that the relationships that we have with our clients has improved their business. The fact that we have had so many long term clients because of this has been very rewarding. Also the same thing with our team members– I love to see growth in people. We also have a high percentage of our staff that has been with us for many years. My first hire, Dave Simon, has been with me for 33 years and this truly is special. Every day is a challenge. Some days are easier and some are harder but I enjoy the fact that I/we are challenged every day. If it weren’t for these challenges, than this career wouldn’t be as much fun. Another challenge is navigating the company through the peaks and valleys of good and not-so-good economic times. Each of our clients is like us, privately held businesses that have many of the same challenges. By going through these times together you learn so many lessons.
Your son, Austin, is now a partner. What advice did you give him before he took on the role?
Austin will probably say I have been giving him advice for a lot longer than this whether he asked for it or not and he probably is right. Honestly I give both Austin and Melissa, our other partner, advice every day. I’m sure they have heard most of my stories many times over by now. The thing about Austin, Melissa, and I is that we are all huge believers in the power of having a great company culture. We talk about this often but I think they listened to my advice on this long ago. But then, we’re really living it already. The main two pieces of advice I have given them both as they took on their new roles are the power of treating people the right way and also the power of effort or as most call it work ethic. I think business can be boiled down to this.
If you could go back and change one thing about the business what would it be and why?
Honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure I made many mistakes but by learning from those mistakes I became better. I always look at this experience over 35 years as one big journey, so why not embrace the entire ride as it has been?! I now feel it is my role to be a good mentor to people and help them learn from what I’ve gone through ( how many times have we rolled our eyes when our parents would say the same things)! The tactics of marketing are changing all the time and my fantastic team is always on the cutting edge of this. They’re the ones teaching me! What I can teach them however is to share my experience of running the business, not just working in the business.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice knowing what you know now about starting an ad agency, what would it be?
Be a student of all sorts of marketing communication, not just what you may like or get your information from. Many people just want to use tactics that appeal to them. Pay attention to all ads, both good and bad, in all mediums.
When approaching a new business opportunity, what’s most important to you?
Can we add value to this potential client and if so can we have a long-term relationship with them so we both win? We have built the business on long-term, win-win relationships.
What’s your favorite RA tradition?
There are so many fun ones. I think it must be our holiday ritual before Christmas. I love the entire experience of first doing some charitable activity, lately having an adopted family to provide a nice Christmas; then, doing our team-only lunch with our Secret Santa gift exchange, company gifts, me writing a personal card to everyone, and just a fun time; then the next night all team members and their spouses/significant others, gather to play Whirlyball! I’m sure the non-Clevelanders are saying “Whirl-what?!” This has been a tradition for at least 25 years and it never gets old. It truly is our brand to celebrate the holidays, the year that is soon ending, and each other.
BONUS: Who is your favorite RA employee and you can’t say Austin? 🙂
Funny question! Too many to say. I have been blessed with the best team throughout the years. So many of them have become good friends!