Creative director and partner
Ellingsen Brady Advertising
207 E. Buffalo St., Milwaukee
Industry: Advertising and public relations
Family: Wife: Amy. Kids: Jack, Kate and Caroline.
What was the smartest thing your agency did in the past year?
“We expanded our space to include a production/fulfillment area. Our 3D micro-marketing campaigns for an energy client really took off and doubled the size of their business. We went from sending a few thousand pieces from our office to over 50,000 pieces last year.”
What’s new at your company?
“We are in the middle of a much-needed web redesign, which we’re all pretty excited about. Over the past two decades our business has pretty much grown through client referrals, so we have been very fortunate. We’ve said it since day one, but our work is our calling card. And since this Internet thing is here to stay, we are excited to put our new site to work in the next month.”
Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“In our business, you’re continuously investing in technology, training and software in order to stay competitive. In regard to our staff, I believe we have really settled in on our sweet spot. We downsized slightly about six years ago and while we’ve gained business, our staff has remained pretty much intact. I never had dreams of creating a large agency. In fact, I found that managing a larger staff actually was less fulfilling. Don Ellingsen and I like to do the work. We like to get our hands dirty. We’ve always focused on hiring self-sufficient problem solvers. Half of our team has been with us for over 10 years, so I think that says a lot.”
What will be your agency’s main challenges in the next year?
“Much like it is every year, staying current with the technology and trends. Where, when and how people get their media content is changing every day. We need to be flexible and be able to change with it.”
What prompted you to co-found your advertising agency?
“I was a young Marquette copywriter with only a few years under my belt when an agency split put me in the right place at the right time. Don Ellingsen took me under his wing and showed me what it meant to work hard and be humble. We left a place where we thought the creatives produced work for their egos rather than their clients. We wanted to create something different. We just celebrated our 20-year anniversary, and I still feel fortunate to be able go to work every day and do what I do.”
What sets your agency apart from competitors in the marketplace?
“I would say lack of ego. I used to call EBA the anti-agency. We started 20 years ago with accounts that our former agency didn’t want. Security systems, noise monitors, industrial roofing, German Fest – we loved our accounts. We felt honored that we could help solve their problems. We’ve always had an appreciation and respect for our opportunities. Over 20 years later, we still feel the same way. A lot of agencies get caught up in their image, and that’s fine. We don’t wear Armani suits or combat boots. We don’t have fountains or thousands of dollars in artwork in our lobby. We’re just a passionate team known for busting our tails for our clients. I truly believe we are the hardest working agency in this city.”
What has kept you in business for 20 years?
“The quick answer is results. If you don’t deliver, it’s over. But the main reason for our success is our client base. And I don’t say this just to suck up, but we have great clients. We are pretty selective when it comes to whom we work with. If we are a great fit, awesome. If we’re not, it’s ok. Sometimes prospective clients look at me like I’m crazy for walking away from opportunities, but I try to follow my gut. Our clients look at us as partners, not vendors. I really believe that life is too short not to work with awesome clients. You work harder. You have more passion. You do better work. And at the end, everyone benefits.”
Do you have a business mantra?
“I have a couple: ‘Question everything’ and ‘Put in the work and the results will come.’”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“When I first started in the business, a guy I worked with would always say, ‘Don’t confuse what you like with what will work. They may not be the same thing.’ I use this phrase all the time. It pretty much goes hand in hand with my mantra of ‘Question everything.’ If you focus on strategy and put in the work, good things will happen.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I really love basketball. I watch and attend a lot of high school, college and pro games. My kids keep me pretty busy with their dance and sports schedules. Cooking, California wines and travel are also some passions I enjoy. My wife and I love to come downtown and explore all of the new restaurants on the weekends.”