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Minneapolis Ad Agency Thrives by Adjusting to the Digital Era

Smaller shop Clarity Coverdale Fury can celebrate 30 years by adjusting to industry changes.

Minneapolis Ad Agency Thrives by Adjusting to the Digital Era

Thirty percent of our work now is interactive,” Tim Clarity says. “Ten years ago, it was zero.”

That nimble response to changing marketing trends may point to why Clarity’s Minneapolis ad agency, Clarity Coverdale Fury, has been around for 30 years. The shop, whose revenues were $9.6 million last year (up from $7.4 million in 2006), currently has 55 employees. Four new positions were added last year. All were in the agency’s interactive practice.

But categories between “new” and “old” media are becoming more and more fluid. Traditional ad creatives working on print, TV, and radio campaigns may find themselves shoulder to shoulder with event coordinators or freelance design specialists.

“We can organize an entire team around a client,” Clarity says. “We all work under that tent, and when the event or promotion is over, we just fold up the tent. We’ve got a cadre of freelancers we work with who are working out of their own virtual offices.”

In an increasingly complex business climate, clients are looking for help in social networking and electronic connection to their customers, Clarity notes. Thirty years ago, clients were looking for “more bang for the buck.” Today, they want their product or brand to “go viral.”

That’s what happened with Clarity Coverdale Fury’s campaign for the Indiana-based Red Gold brand of canned tomatoes. A billboard installed in cities including Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, featured a tomato vine that seemed to grow larger every day, eventually sprouting two enormous Red Gold cans as well as three “tomatoes” that measured 5 by 13 feet each.

Bloggers first picked up on the evolving 3-D billboards; they later made local television news programs. Today, if you start to Google “Red Gold,” “Red Gold Tomato Billboard” pops up on the top of the option list. The agency also linked press releases informing local media that the “cans” could hold “more than 100,000 normal store cans of diced tomatoes.” (What’s more, Red Gold donated 10,000 pounds of tomatoes to both of the cities’ food shelves.) In addition, the billboard directed viewers to the Red Gold Web site, whose new features included meal-planning tips, recipes, coupons, and offers for free tote bags.

“Thirty years ago, some of our clients just wanted business cards,” partner Jerry Fury says. “Now they may come to us and say, ‘How do we reach our base?’ Today it could be a matchbook, or it could be Facebook.”

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