From moe. to mannequins, advertising agency looks for right fit with clients

CLINTON — With a degree in political science from Union College in Schenectady, Joseph Romanelli headed to Albany after his 1989 graduation and became involved in the political scene.

But after a few years of working on political campaigns, he was ready to return to the Mohawk Valley, and join the advertising agency started by his father Donald in 1973.

“We did kind of grow up in the business,” Romanelli says of himself and his sister, Beth Romanelli-Hapanowicz. “Whenever they needed a child in a photo shoot, we were the guinea pigs.”

Since joining the company in the early 1990s, Romanelli has helped steer the agency through an expansion of its offerings — along with the ever-changing world of technology.

“We’ve been able to expand quite a bit since then,” he notes. Along with adding more staff — the agency now employs nine — the company has also grown its client base as well as revenue. Romanelli declined to disclose revenue totals.

In the early years, the company was a basic TV/radio/billboard/print advertising agency under his father’s tenure, Romanelli says.

But, in order to thrive, that formula had to change since he took over as president in 2002 when his father retired.

One of the first things Romanelli did was to start capitalizing on his political experience by accepting campaign work at the firm.

“That’s been a huge growth industry,” he says. “The spending on media that goes on in politics is amazing.”

The company also focuses a lot more these days on technology with the ever-expanding Internet. “We’re doing much more with Web sites,” Romanelli says. “That’s become such a huge part of what we do everyday, and I only see that growing.”

Romanelli even uses technology to keep things running smoothly at the company, since he currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., where his wife, former WKTV news anchor Susan Tran, has an on-air job with an ABC affiliate.

“We do an online video conference every morning,” he says. He also spends about one week a month in Clinton.

One of the most notable ad campaigns in recent years is Romanelli’s work with JAY-K Independent Lumber. “We got a lot of attention for their advertising,” Romanelli recalls. The campaign features a mannequin stationed on various JAY-K billboards using products sold by the lumber and hardware store. When the campaign first started, people were calling 911 to report a man stuck on the billboard in a snowstorm. “That was a fun campaign,” Romanelli says with a laugh.

The company is also helping its clients use new technology to further expand traditional advertising methods, he says.

One regular client, Matt Brewing Co., posts Romanelli-produced ads on YouTube.com. One commercial for Saranac beer featuring the band “moe.” has logged nearly 7,000 views.

Romanelli expects to use those types of enhanced offerings to continue to grow the company, which currently has about 20 regular clients in addition to an array of one-time-only projects like the political campaigns.

“We’re not looking to get 20 new clients each year,” he says. He’s happy with growth of just one to two new clients each year. That way, he says, the firm can take the time to make sure the client is the right fit, because a relationship with an ad firm is really a personal thing. Not all firms and companies are good matches.

“It really is all about the chemistry,” he says.

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