2008 Movers and Shakers
The standouts of the 2008 Top 250 list.
(page 3 of 6)
Anthology Marketing Group Inc.
’06 Gross Sales $25.1 million
’07 Gross Sales $42.1 million
Anthology Marketing Group is making the risky business of corporate acquisitions look easy.
The company just celebrated its first birthday as the parent company of McNeil Wilson Communications, Laird Christianson Advertising, QMark Research and Starr Tech Interactive. This synthesis of collective marketing disciplines came after McNeil Wilson and its sister company, Laird Christianson, acquired PR and advertising veteran Starr Seigle Communications last year. While the Starr Seigle brand is gone, Anthology kept the company’s QMark Research and Starr Tech Interactive divisions going.
The result? In 2007, the McNeil Wilson and Laird Christianson duo was ranked No. 234 on our Top 250 list, with $25.1 million in total sales. This year, Anthology — the largest integrated marketing firm in the state — reported $42.1 million, a 68 percent gain, boosting it up to No. 184.
Dennis Christianson, President and CEO of Anthology, says the acquisition of Starr Seigle was not based upon short-term survival. Unlike some other national companies, it was a strategy to build for the future. “The marketplace and our clients sort of sent us in this direction,” says Christianson. Anthology’s goal is to provide a wider range of public relations services to its clients, such as Hawaiian Airlines, Marriott, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and American Savings Bank.
About half of the company’s clients represent the tourism industry, so much of Anthology’s success relies on the health of Hawaii’s tourist economy, but not in the way you may think.
“We watch tourism very closely because our livelihood is attached to it,” says David McNeil, chariman of Anthology. “When times get tight, as they’re starting to get now, there are usually two reactions: one is to cut [marketing] budgets and the other is to increase budgets. I think we’ve been seeing overall more of an increase in budgets because people know that if the pie is shrinking and they want to continue to get the same size slice … they have to spend a little more money on marketing.”
Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the HVCB, Anthology’s client, says they are taking the latter approach. “We are not cutting back, but we are trying to be more focused,” he says. In early June, HVCB launched a $3 million marketing campaign aimed at convincing North America residents that Hawaii is still the best summer vacation destination.
As veterans of the industry, Christianson and McNeil say they’ve endured every economic landscape imaginable over the past two decades, from recessions to the bursting of the Japanese bubble, and, most recently, the aftermath of Sept. 11. Through it all, their business principles have remained unchanged: hard work, flexibility, diversification and employing good people. They also attribute much of their success to luck. Anthology’s long conference-room table is made out of wood, and the two literally knock on it constantly while they’re talking. “We don’t want to bachi ourselves for what lies ahead,” says McNeil.
“This whole company has come of age during tough times,” Christianson adds.
The two agree the most challenging aspect of the Starr Seigle acquisition was the physical integration of all four divisions and 135 employees under one roof. From a client’s standpoint, Talwar says the transition was seamless. “We’ve continued to be satisfied over the years and we think they’re the best around,” he says.
Over the past 26 years, McNeil Wilson’s Bishop Square office space has grown with the business. Anthology now occupies all of the ninth floor of Pauahi Tower and 75 percent of the eighth floor. “We thought big, we dreamed, we had a vision, and that certainly grew,” says McNeil, who says without business partners David Wilson and Buck Laird, none of this success would be possible.
Christianson suspects the company’s client-centric focus is what’s kept it ahead of the pack. “We always know we can do better … If ever we feel we might come up short, we work harder.”
As for 2008? Christianson says, “The year so far is tracking as we’ve projected and we’re very optimistic. We will get through these tough economic times.”
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