Veldman Wins Silver Medal

February 23, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The super advertising agencies that ruled West Michigan in the '60s, '70s and '80s are all gone today. The largest agency in the current market, Hanon McKendry, is barely a teenager. Its strongest competitor, Jager Group, split into a half-dozen firms last year.

"All the very big agencies that were around when I started have all gone away," said Ward Veldman, chairman of Stevens Advertising. "All the new ones that came up and replaced them are gone, too."

Companies like Stevens Advertising, operating locally since 1917, are a rarity, as are professionals like Veldman, a 40-year fixture in the West Michigan creative community and 2007 recipient of the Ad Club of West Michigan's Silver Medal.

Veldman received the lifetime achievement award in a ceremony prior to last Thursday's ADDY Awards at

DeVos Place
, the first year the two ceremonies were held as a combined event.

"This is a fitting end to my career," said Veldman, who will retire this year.

After graduating from Kendall School of Design (now Kendall College of Art and Design), Veldman took a position at Aves Advertising in Grand Rapids, the largest local agency of its time. There he served as art director on several high-profile national accounts, mostly furniture industry clients, including Steelcase, Haworth, Baker Furniture and The Merchandise Mart in Chicago

In 1968, he joined Stevens Advertising, where he worked with then agency president George Woolfson on the Amway account. His work for Amway appeared in numerous national publications and television, and led to a partnership in the agency in 1975.

Veldman became majority owner of the agency in 1985. A year later, Amway took its advertising program in-house. The loss of that $9 million account might have crippled the company if not for Veldman's ability to sign new clients. An early success was Import Motors, for which Veldman managed an award-winning advertising and customer information program for the five-state Midwest business area.

Veldman served as president of the agency until 2004. The following year, he sold his remaining interests to current President Allen Crater and Executive Vice President Mike Muller.

"We started in 1917, and we're still very, very strong," Veldman said of Stevens Advertising. "We've had a different philosophy through the years — total commitment to clients — and that has given us longevity."    

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