Holt, Hughes & Stamell To Close; Partners, Clients Abandon Shop

BOSTON–The impending demise of Holt, Hughes & Stamell, a fixture in Maine advertising for a decade and one of the few northern New England agencies to regularly service national and international accounts, is already generating changes in the state’s small, closely knit advertising community.
Partner George Hughes starts this week as chief creative officer at Swardlick Marketing Group in Portland, Maine, said agency president David Swardlick.
Partner Jonathan Stamell will finish up projects for Holt, Hughes & Stamell’s clients over the next three to six months and then the shop “will wind down and no longer exist,” he said.
The agency has been stressed in recent years by the expense and pressure of handling far-flung projects that included improving the image of the Chilean government and promoting Norwegian seafood in the United States.
Offered one agency source: “They were always on planes . . . flying to foreign countries. The money to maintain that kind of [account service] is enormous. It took a toll on all [the partners’] lives. For the first few years, they were having fun.”
Hughes and Stamell founded the shop in 1989 with John Holt, who left last year amid disagreements with his partners over the agency’s direction. Holt now serves as new projects director in the office of Maine Governor Angus King.
The Chinet Co. in Waterville, Maine, long the agency’s creative showcase, is now working with Crank, a Portland, Maine, boutique formed last summer by Chris Kast and David Nestor, the creative team that had overseen Chinet campaigns at Holt, Hughes & Stamell.
The departures of Holt, Kast and Nestor, as well as the loss of the Sebago shoe account to Balet & Albert in New York last November, had industry observers predicting that the agency’s end was near.
Just two years ago, the shop claimed about $30 million in overall billings and employed a staff of 30, making it one of the largest advertising agencies in Maine.