Advertising Firms Form Gravity Six

October 15, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Gravity is tearing down the walls between six local advertising agencies.

The West Michigan firms have agreed to form an alliance called Gravity Six to attract more business from companies, based both locally and elsewhere, with a national footprint.

Bill McKendry, co-founder of Hanon McKendry, said last week the alliance has one client so far and is launching a marketing effort this week with advertisements in local publications, trade magazines and a Web site.

“You don’t expect six agencies to work together and play nice, you don’t expect creatives in West Michigan comparable to what you get in New York, L.A. and Chicago. You do expect big fees and egos, but you get neither one of those,” said McKendry.

The agencies will share staff members and resources, assembling teams to pitch to clients and produce advertising campaigns. Gravity Six is headed by Hanon McKendry CEO Bob Blanchard. McKendry said the six companies hope to eventually land enough clients for the alliance to support its own staff.

The six participating firms are Auxiliary Advertising & Design, Extra Credit Projects, Fairly Painless Advertising, Grey Matter Group, Palazzolo Design, and Hanon McKendry/The Brand Consultants. They will remain independent, but will share in profits and losses from Gravity Six, McKendry said.

“We’re all competitors, but it’s almost as if we compete for awards more than compete for clients,” he said. “We have such different specialties and different niches, we hardly ever found ourselves competing head-on. The clients don’t have to meet with multiple account executives or firms. There’s one contact point, and they already know the agencies have agreed to play nice and work together.”

Frank Blossom, owner of The Polishing Center and an adjunct advertising professor at Grand Valley State University, said it’s a national trend for big companies to enlist more than one advertising agency, tapping into the specialties of each and expecting them to work together.

“What’s been happening more and more in the business is that clients, rather than having all their business with one agency, maybe have two agencies and two design firms all working on their business. These agencies have decided they’ve got to find a way to work together because that’s what the client’s asking for today,” Blossom said. “Normally, they wouldn’t do that.”

Blossom said a similar approach tried years ago in Minneapolis “definitely did work.” Combining the talents of these six West Michigan firms “could offer more value to clients,” he added.

McKendry said Gravity Six has a list of potential clients in Michigan and across the country. He said Haworth Inc. in Holland is the first to try out the new concept. He said he thinks the local firms’ strengths in related industries, such as furniture, flooring, roofing and home products, will allow Gravity Six “to push into those categories deeper.”

The size and type of clients that will be pursued by Gravity Six means the alliance won’t be competing for business with its own members, he added.

“We each have won a slice of the pie,” he said. “The goal isn’t to grow our individual slices, it’s more to grow the pie and attract clients to West Michigan that aren’t already here.”

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