Allen & Gerritsen Spreads Equity

Fast-Growing Watertown Agency Awards Stakes To 5 Key Players
BOSTON–Recognizing staffers who helped take the agency from $15 million to $50 million in billings in three years, the founders of Allen & Gerritsen last week gave equity to five top managers.
Receiving an undisclosed amount of shares in the privately held agency were co-creative directors Doug Chapman and Mick O’Brien, vice president of manufacturing John Kiley, vice president of marketing Andrew Graff and vice president of finance and operations Kim Christie.
Reward and retention were two reasons cited by chairman Paul Allen for giving stakes to these employees. “I’d say 40 percent was reward and 60 percent was [aimed at] building a platform for the future. . . . We think the [agency] marketplace is ready for a midsized player that has a distinct approach and personality. . . . Each of these employees represents a discipline of our business and has made an important contribution to getting us to where we are today. They’ve helped define the culture.”
Moreover, Allen said, clients today are looking for continuity. Turnover can disrupt relationships, and making employees “stakeholders” increases the likelihood they’ll stay put, he said.
The shop’s sole shareholders had been Allen, executive vice president Peter Gerritsen and vice president Mary Ruddington.
Allen & Gerritsen has some unusual twists to the delivery of ad services: It doesn’t employ account executives; it has marketers. “We look for people who are marketing intelligent and process oriented. . . . We want individuals who can contribute intellectually, not just execute.” Graff, who joined Allen & Gerritsen four years ago from what was then Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot, runs marketing services, including media and research.
The Watertown, Mass., shop also refers to production as manufacturing to promote the idea that what the agency does is create product. Manufacturing is run by “Jake” Kiley, who joined the shop three years ago from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston to oversee the production, traffic and MIS departments.
“Great communications emerge from great marketing,” Allen said. “When I first got into the business, there was one line that really bugged me: ‘Go meet with the client and sell him something.’ I hated that. We like to the think that what we as an agency should do for a client is help crystallize its brand and make it real.”