KSV takes off

Edelstein, Art

The advertising industry in Vermont has changed dramatically, says Yoram Samets managing partner at Kelliher Samets Volk, a Burlington advertising agency in its 29th year in business. This, he believes, is a reflection of the general business climate in the state.

Samets sees an ongoing merging of corporations and the flight of businesses out of the state, which has a direct effect on firms like his. “Look at the number of Vermont based banks, and local cell phone companies,” he said, “there are none.”

As a result, says Samets, “What we see here in Vermont has happened elsewhere. There are fewer companies like ours, and they are usually bigger although we are midsized. The big ones have gotten bigger, in the middle we are getting bought out, or our clients are disappearing.”

KSV employs 55 and has annual sales in the $30 million range with a dozen clients.

Samets points to a dramatic shift in his income flow, where five years ago 80 percent of KSV business was in-state and today that figure is less than 40 percent.

“Our growth is no longer coming from Vermont companies, but from a regional positioning. And we are going for the Northeast which is why we bought the New York company,” he explained.

KSV purchased Platinum Design located in Manhattan in 2005 for its talent including five full time employees. Platinum Design is a strategic design firm, which works with clients such as McDonald’s, Harper Collins and Saks Fifth Avenue. Samets said that purchase “will enhance our design capabilities in advertising, packaging, corporate identity, and will give a larger door for new business for KSV.”

KSV, said Samets, now finds it has growing opportunities in the New York marketplace.

“We can be anywhere, but there is the reality of perception and our perception is enhanced with a New York office. Put New York in the picture and things are different. It’s an opportunity for us.”

KSV had been looking for a New York address to purchase for 18 months. In the past it had satellite offices in Boston and Montreal. The Canadian connection was lost in the Anglophone/Francophone wars and dollar devaluation. In the early 1990s KSV did a quarter of its business there.

The Boston office was opened on September 9, 2001 and succumbed to the post 9/11 economic downfall. “We’ve always relied on service offices and an urban area to feed what we do in Burlington,” notes Samets.

KSV is growing, for as Samets explained, “the world isn’t stagnant.” The current client base, he said, is fluid. “They come and go. You have to continue to grow your firm to have the revenue to employ people. You have to create an environment that is highly creative and thriving to attract talent.”

Talent in this business means the young who are looking for experience and a vibrant workplace. “They are not looking to work for insurance companies,” he quipped.

According to Samets, the advertising industry “is an attractive Place to enter.” But beyond the early 30s talent is lost “to other more stable industries.”

Advertising is a service business, Samets explained. “We must be in a proactive mode 24/7 for our clients and it burns a lot of people out.” Communications is driven by youth, contends Samets. He said the young “set the communications standards. Youth creates the aspiration. It’s our youthful agenda that drives a huge sector of the economy.” Thus at KSV, 85 percent of its employees are under 40. Samets himself is 57.

KSV uses “inside out branding.” As he explains it, “unless you are Coca Cola, the way you are going to be successful is by using all the contacts you can make between you and your customer. Advertising is part of the mix to make connections to customers. It’s our experience in understanding the mix but it starts with your own employees.”

KSV clients include Green Mountain Power, Chittenden Bank, the State of Vermont’s anti smoking account, Dunkin Donuts and New Balance Footwear.

He says he works in a highly competitive business. “The day you get a client is the day you begin to lose a client. Our job is to produce ideas.”

Today’s trends in advertising are such that, according to Samets, “the only thing that matters today in communication is what happens in computer and Internet technology.” As he sees it, television, radio, and print advertising “are last century stuff.”

Samets said the youth of this country get their news and entertainment off the Internet. “Their life is multi-tasking off this little machine they sit in front of Print and TV are fragmenting themselves into oblivion. Satellite radio is changing the nature of radio and advertising.”

“From my point of view, the cycle of change is accelerating more so than before.”

Copyright Boutin-McQuiston, Inc. Feb 01, 2006

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