Since Mad MenA personal account of advertising agency life by Debra Sheridan, President of IVY Marketing Group on its 20th Anniversary
For those of you who watch Mad Men on AMC, you are probably stunned by the antics of the early 1960’s advertising agency creatives and partners. Well, when I entered the large advertising agency scene in the early 1970’s, things weren’t much better. I had to lie about being able to type over 90 words per minute so that I could get into the creative department rather than the secretarial pool. Oh, and yes, I was asked to be my boss’ “friend” with the assurance that doing so would bring me great career advancements, on more than one occasion. After a particularly trying large agency experience, I found that better-behaved creative and business people could be found in smaller agencies (perhaps there were just fewer place to hide, people to blame). But as anyone who works in this business knows, once it gets into your blood — you’re hooked.
As a writer and account executive, there was a great deal of freedom to work from home. A perfect solution for my husband and three children. As always, all things come to an end and the agency where I was working, decided to close in early 1990. To keep my flexibility and serve my five clients as promised, I started IVY Integrated Marketing, our original name until one of our receptionists changed it to IVY Marketing because she thought it was entirely too difficult to say. We made that official in 1997 with IVY Marketing Group. IVY is named for my parents, Ruth and Paul Ivy. Since the name ends with them, I wanted to give them a legacy that would be a tribute to their intelligence, integrity and creativity.
Business in 1990 was very different then, than it is now. For starters, I only needed a computer for word processing and a laser printer. The big question was “should I buy an Apple or an IBM computer?” Apple offered the Apple II or the Mac but there was also the PC, a far more affordable option. A printer, calculator, our brand new logo foil stamped and embossed on business cards, stationery and envelopes resided on newly-purchased used furniture. A postage meter was not in the budget; neither was a fax machine which was now popular in the business world but priced in the thousands of dollars range. The only vestige from the first days is an HP laser printer which remains faithful by my side, kicking out every page I ask of it. We’ve been through scads of printers and computers since our opening day. I will take it as a sign that I should retire if my little printer ever gives up.
I was fortunate to pioneer the cellular phone for AT&T. It was installed in my car requiring several hours of technical know-how but had a feature that allowed it to be disconnected so it was portable. While I don’t remember its weight, it was about the size of two reams of paper when in its case.
On August 17, 1990, IVY Integrated Marketing was incorporated. With me was my wonderful graphic designer and now dear friend, Noreen Mancini. She comfortably worked at her drafting table, with a razor blade usually resting between her teeth, hot wax gun in hand and Letraset, sheets of dry transferrable lettering, at the ready. I had my PC computer, my little printer and collection of supplies. Getting Noreen off the drafting board and onto a computer was very challenging. I bought her the nicest Mac we could afford and sent her to class. It took years before I heard her whisper that she loved the computer.
We grew the company to serve many clients and 18 employees in 3 short years. Our business expanded to include senior housing, residential developments, retail and office asset management companies along with state and local governments. We were surrounded by electronic gadgets like scanners, copiers, printers, cameras along with our computers and printers.
Agency life got sweeter when we started using email and the internet. After years of rifling through books and periodicals at the library, I could find information at my desk via my state-of-the-art one-gigabyte computer. We loaded up on fancy software, even an expensive accounting system so we could bill not just by the hour but by the copy, the fax or the postage amount. We could even cut down the time to complete projects and better communicate with clients with e-mail — wow!
But, I was about to get my own professional jolt in 2005, when the world of marketing, advertising and public relations was reinventing itself. With a foundation in public relations, our concern grew when paper and magazine pages dwindled and public service announcements were only at 2 a.m. That meant IVY Marketing Group needed to change with the technology. Today, we have sharpened our skills to include anything online — social media, blogs, public relations and advertising.
It’s still a mad, mad world, but we love it. And, so today, 20 years later, we are excited about the amazing people we’ve worked with and for… the plethora of communications opportunities available to our clients… and what we will learn and implement tomorrow.