Philadelphia-based branding agency 160over90 was already thinking about opening an office in Atlanta, Orlando or Miami to serve its Southern clients when talks with the University of Florida brought Gainesville into the mix.
With a large client in UF, the agency chose Gainesville for its central location from which to serve other Florida cities and existing clients such as the Miami Dolphins and Gainesville's Dragonfly Sushi.
In September 2013, 160over90 started moving into Randy Batista's former photo gallery and studio next to the Hippodrome Theatre in downtown Gainesville before officially opening on Oct. 15.
Large glass windows reveal the first 11 employees of a planned 35 hires over three years, working together around a table in what employees jokingly refer to as the fish bowl.
In an adjoining room, a roll-up garage door opens to Second Place from the conference room that used to be Batista's photo studio and before that the garage for a gas station and a Pontiac dealership.
Before hiring local graphic designers, copy writers, project supervisors and creative directors, four transfers from Philadelphia opened the office, with Maggie Slomiany, 29, tapped to lead the account team and Greg Ash, 33, over the creative team.
“Having an opportunity to run something ourselves and make a name for ourselves in Gainesville I think is really cool,” Slomiany said.
Prior to joining the company in December 2012, she spent three years working for Evoke Interaction in Philadelphia developing advertising campaigns, marketing materials, websites and video for Pfizer. She came to 160over90 as account supervisor, working with clients such as colleges, a pharmaceutical startup, the New York Jets and Notre Dame.
Ash had worked as senior designer for the company for a few years before leaving to start his own design firm in Philadelphia in 2009. He came back in August 2012 as associate creative director, which allowed him to work under all the creative directors on numerous big projects that needed extra attention.
160over90 takes its name from the reaction it hopes to elicit to its work — heightened blood pressure. The 12-year-old company has about 100 employees at its three offices, which also includes Newport Beach, Calif.
The Gainesville office is handling several clients at UF, including the Athletic Association, the UF Foundation and individual colleges. Other clients handled locally include AAA and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Slomiany said that branding encompasses more than advertising.
“It's really about developing a story that our clients can tell in whatever channel they're telling it,” she said.
Ash said a brand campaign has a three- to five-year shelf life as the framework for an ad campaign, which is seasonal.
Slomiany's team starts strategy development with clients, spending time learning about clients to find a “fundamental truth.”
“My favorite part is when you go into an organization that'll be sometimes as large as UF or something more local like the Chamber and you spend so much time getting to know them and develop work for them that the reaction that you have is, 'Wow, you guys get us. And these are all the things we have been trying to say but we haven't figured out how to say it.' ”
With a strategy in hand, the project goes to Ash's team to design logos, advertising campaigns, websites and videos. A producer from the Philadelphia office comes to Gainesville for video work, and the home office gives final approval to all projects. Freelancers are used for copy writing, graphic design, video or photo work by the project.
For Ash, the satisfaction comes when the audience reacts to their work, “for those people to be like, 'Yeah, that's awesome and that fits them.' ”
With the UF campaign to launch in August, Slomiany and Ash said they are building on the “Gator Nation” and “It's Great” campaigns. One of their projects is to create a virtual online tour of campus.
“How do we turn that Gator Nation into something that people can understand and want to be a part of? It's elevating the previous campaign and putting more emotion behind it,” Slomiany said.
Ash said alumni of other universities will tell you where they went, while UF alumni will say “I'm a Gator” in the present tense.
“It's very active and alive. We tried to channel that with athletics and also the institution,” he said.
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