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Empower Media is entering a new era of ownership and leadership, as Ashlee Clarke becomes the majority shareholder and CEO of the independent agency, based in Cincinnati. Clarke is the founder, CEO and CCO of creative and media agency NitroC, and the two agencies are now tied together by the acquisition.
With the new leadership structure, Empower Media will continue to service its media clients, including Bush Brothers, Zaxby’s, Brooks Running, American Standard, Wendy’s and Rust-Oleum, while NitroC will service creative clients, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Jockey and FreshPet.
Clarke has had success in the entertainment, creative and business worlds and is bringing that collective experience to Empower. Aside from leading NitroC, she has also received accolades as a Broadway producer and winner of multiple Tony Awards for American Buffalo and the adaptation of Tootsie for Broadway.
A legacy of empowerment
Empower, founded in 1985 by Mary Beth Price, was purchased in 2018 by her son Jim Price, who has run the company as CEO since 2009. Empower doubled in size over the last four years and achieved 30% revenue growth since 2020. Jim Price will remain with Empower for one year as non-executive chairman.
“It was time for Empower to enter a new era. We found the perfect partners who will maintain our values and strong independent position that will help Empower thrive for decades to come,” Price said in a statement.
Though it has touted its growth, Empower recently laid off 15% of its staff, which Price attributed to hiring “too many people” after predicting continued growth of at least 30% year over year.
“With all of the signs pointing to a possible economic downturn, we simply do not see the same 30%-plus growth and as such we needed to right-size our team,” Price said.
It was important to Price to build upon Empower’s woman-owned legacy, and adding Clarke at the top solidifies Empower as the largest woman-owned media agency in the U.S., according to Empower.
“What’s really exciting is we are inheriting quite the legacy that the Price family has built. The strides they have made for women in leadership and their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion has been a key driver of their growth,” Clarke said in a statement.
Clarke added that she plans to continue to build on Empower’s diversity momentum—17% of the staff is diverse, and 64% of senior level positions are now held by women, with women making up 70% of the overall team based out of its offices in Cincinnati, Chicago and Atlanta.
Chris Clarke joins Empower Media as executive chairman to oversee the strategic growth of both Empower’s clients and the Empower agency. An accomplished advertising industry veteran known for his thought leadership, Chris Clarke co-founded SapientNitro and guided it as executive chairman and CCO before selling to Publicis.
With the addition of the Clarkes and the NitroC team, Empower will add New York, Palm Beach, Fla., and Houston offices as well as additional creative capabilities to grow the agency.