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Agency Profile: The Neiman Group

Posted on December 13, 2010 and read 6,644 times

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ignaciocreditpic Agency Profile: The Neiman GroupIgnacio Oreamuno

Admittedly, when it comes to US cities known for their advertising communities, Philadelphia isn’t one that springs to mind immediately. In fact, beyond cheesesteak sandwiches and the Rocky Balboa steps, I knew very little about the city. This all changed about a year ago, when the Philly Ad Club approached us at ihaveanidea about becoming a host city for Portfolio Night 8. Fast forward to last May, and PN8 Philadelphia ends up being one of the sleeper hits of the global event. This certainly put the City of Brotherly Love on my advertising radar, and when I had the opportunity to visit for a few days, I was anxious to pop my head into some of the city’s shops.

The Neiman Group is “headquartered” in what was once the old NBC Studios, near Rittenhouse Square in the Center City district of Philadelphia. You’ll have to imagine those quotation marks around “headquartered” as air-quotes, as the agency hasn’t quite put a finger on which of its two 30+ staff offices — the one here in Philly or the other in Harrisburg, PA — is the actual headquarters. “We share accounts, and people flock back and forth between the two offices all the time,” says Hutson Kovanda, Neiman Group VP and ECD. “I don’t know which is the main office and which is the satellite anymore.”

I’ve visited countless agencies over the years, and I believe I’ve developed a sense where one can tell how an agency is doing just by breathing in the air at the reception desk and feeling the vibes that flow from within. I definitely picked up positive vibrations here at the Neiman Group; there was a feeling of energy, that things were changing very quickly, perhaps even faster than the ad industry itself is changing.

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If you look at the North American advertising industry over the past decade or so, you’ll note that one of the biggest changes has been the importance of planning. Before long, every shop ran out and got a planner, but few really integrated them into their agency models. The Neiman Group, on the other hand, did, and brought in Amy Muntz as VP of Strategy and Insights to implement it. Currently the agency has seven planners, a rather large amount for an agency of that size, all working closely with a creative team that has grown to trust this new breed of “suit”.

The creatives at the Neiman Group, well, like most agencies, you won’t find too many of them in at the crack of dawn. “How can we ask people to come in at 9 AM if they probably worked until 3 AM?” says Hudson. “I don’t care if they work at Starbuck’s or at home as long as the job gets done.” When they are in the office (most everybody is in by 10 AM) the creatives are a productive bunch, and not the type to worry about a rigid hierarchy. This is why you find Hudson not squirreled away in a corner office like other ECDs, but rather in a standard work station, surrounded by the rest of his troops.

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All work and no play makes Jack Nicholson kill people, and not wanting any of that mess, the Neiman Group tries to keep things lively by implementing a mandatory “closed laptop” happy hour every Friday afternoon. Beyond the office, the crew often goes out for a little fun with weapons, exercising a little Second Amendment action by target shooting. On days when their trigger fingers are less itchy, a friendly bowling outing does the trick.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a bit of a neophyte when it comes to Philadelphia and its advertising industry, so I asked Hudson to provide a little more insight. “One thing I can say is that everybody who lives here is very passionate about the city… and especially the Phillies!” he says. “The industry has a lot of talented people, both local and those who came from other cities. It is a bit tough to compete with New York when it comes to younger talent, but the ones who do discover that it’s a big city with a lot going for it. The quality of life is definitely higher than the cost of living!”

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The Neiman Group in particular wants to make Philadelphia a city where young advertising people can grow professionally. The agency invests heavily in development, so a junior might find themselves off to a conference on planning or on social media. “We know that the only way we can grow as an agency is to attract more young talent, those who understand emerging creative technologies,” says Hudson.

I learned quite a bit about the city of Philly and the Neiman Group on my short trip, and as someone who sees countless ad school grads who feel they “must” start their career as a cog in a Big Apple firm, I have to say that there’s a world of opportunities just down I-95, waiting for young creatives to explore.

Thanks to Hudson Kovanda and the rest of the Neiman Group for their time.

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