The recent closure of two venerable Baltimore advertising agencies – each after more than 30 years in business — sent shockwaves through the Baltimore ad community and beyond.

The news noted largely economic reasons for the shutdowns, begging questions about the future of advertising in Baltimore and what it takes to succeed in this ever-changing industry. Read the three answers to those challenges in the Baltimore Business Journal article below.


Last week’s closure of two venerable Baltimore advertising agencies, Siquis Ltd. and the Leffler Agency — each after more than 30 years in business — sent shockwaves through the Baltimore ad community and beyond.

The news noted largely economic reasons for the shutdowns, begging questions about the future of advertising in Baltimore and what it takes to succeed in this ever-changing industry. Here are three answers to those challenges.

1. Baltimore’s advertising scene is far from faltering. It just requires a broader definition of “advertising.”

Charm City’s agencies work not only with notable brands headquartered in Baltimore like Under Armour, Stanley Black & Decker, Pandora, and McCormick & Co., but also with out-of-market global brands like Kimberly-Clark/Kleenex, Sprint, Lacoste, Microsoft, and Hershey’s, among others.

Providing more than just tactical support, Baltimore’s firms lead innovative, industry-changing marketing campaigns that drive the bottom line. The most successful agencies have realized the need to connect traditional advertising tactics like print, radio, and TV to the total customer experience. Successful campaigns reach consumers across a much wider and more diverse marketing landscape, tailoring the right story about the right product to the right person at the right time. Rather than interruptive advertising, we now find unique ways to create “branded utility” that provides uncommon value and invites consumers to engage with clients’ offerings on their time, in the ways they prefer.

2. Baltimore’s industrial economy is a sleeping giant.

A thriving port city, Baltimore was one of the early drivers of American commerce. Today, the industries have evolved, but Baltimore is still rich with prosperous companies and economic opportunity.

According to the Economic Alliance of Baltimore, the Washington-Baltimore region has a larger base and higher concentration of IT professionals than Silicon Valley or Boston, is considered the epicenter of cybersecurity both nationally and internationally, and boasts $1.16 billion in BioHealth venture capital funding.

“That Baltimore is on the rise is evidenced not only by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s $5.5 billion investment in the development of Port Covington — the commitment of major companies like FedEx and Harley Davidson to the creation of an estimated 17,000 jobs in Sparrows Point is a key indication of a city on an upswing.”

Planit recently invested $4 million to keep our office downtown by converting an iconic “old industry” factory, the King Syrup plant, into a “new industry” hub for innovation and collaboration that inspires our 100 employees. There’s a reason companies seeking to leverage the growing creative class stay in Baltimore.

3. We have to help businesses realize it’s time to disrupt themselves.

Most industries and businesses in need of a paradigm shift don’t even realize they’ve lost their edge. That’s where smart marketing firms come in. In order to solve business problems like a consultant instead of just executing ads, the modern marketer looks for data that yields rich insights about customer sentiment and brand stagnation. At Planit, we help turn time-tested, successful, sometimes tired organizations that can be slow to evolve — what we call “battleship brands” — into spaces where they can ride a new wave.

For example, Kleenex selected Planit to more nimbly, expediently, and cost-effectively drive leads through the purchase funnel. The catch? The product is available exclusively online. So the workhorses of the conventional media mix have been replaced with a steady diet of digital connection points: curated social channel content, segmented email marketing, innovatively targeted display ads, and the like.

Many of the world’s most successful companies, and in turn the most successful ad strategies, are truly disruptive. Today’s agencies need to embrace the notion that marketing and advertising is not linear; it’s a multi-faceted, total customer lifecycle approach, and it requires a readiness to boldly integrate a wider variety of channels than ever before. Nothing should be done without first considering how it will be measured, add value, and strengthen the brand. When we keep those ideals intact, we become an indispensable embodiment of Baltimore’s culture and restless innovative spirit.

Matt Doud and Ed Callahan are co-founders of Planit, a Baltimore-based advertising and marketing agency established in 1994.