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Manhattan-based ad agency DeVito/Verdi builds big presence in Boston — and may open a new office there

Most busi­ness devel­op­ment man­agers would feel delight­ed if their ad agency had been so suc­cess­ful in dri­ving online adver­tis­ing sales for clients in a neigh­bor­ing state that it was con­sid­er­ing open­ing a new office there. And DeVito/Verdi, the edgy online adver­tis­ing agency from New York, is con­sid­er­ing doing just that in Boston, fol­low­ing a series of cam­paigns which have seen it work its way into sev­er­al cor­ners of the city’s economy.

Break­ing into Boston

Co-found­ed in 1991 by Ellis Ver­di and Sal DeVi­to, Ver­di says that the agency didn’t make a “con­cert­ed effort” to grow its pres­ence in Boston, but since that growth has hap­pened any­way, a new office seems a worth­while con­sid­er­a­tion. The firm’s suc­cess­ful and often humor­ous cam­paigns for Boston busi­ness­es have on occa­sion court­ed con­tro­ver­sy. Like its 2008 work for Legal Sea Foods, which fea­tured insult-spout­ing fresh fish trav­el­ling on Boston’s famous Green Line light rail sys­tem shout­ing things like “Hey lady, I’ve seen small­er noses on a sword­fish” and “This con­duc­tor has a face like a hal­ibut.” The trol­ley con­duc­tors object­ed to be likened to halibuts.

Recent­ly, it’s been com­mis­sioned by Boston’s Suf­folk Uni­ver­si­ty, health-insur­er Fal­lon Health and by the Boston car deal­er Herb Cham­bers, devel­op­ments which any busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er could tell you sug­gests that this agency is catch­ing on in Bean Town. But it hasn’t been easy, as Ver­di con­cedes: Boston clients tend to have more entrenched rela­tion­ships with their agen­cies than is the norm in New York.

He said, “It’s been tough to make inroads into Boston. Boston is a lit­tle bit insu­lar, as a busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. … But it’s a very smart community.”

Emo­tion­al con­nec­tions 

The intrigued busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er might be won­der­ing: how did a New York agency get so many gigs in Boston, a city awash with local ad shops?

Suf­folk University’s Vice Pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing, Greg Gatlin, gives a clue. He liked the agency’s uncon­ven­tion­al approach and was impressed with its clear track record of mak­ing ads that fos­ter emo­tion­al con­nec­tions with view­ers. In par­tic­u­lar, he loved a one-sen­tence phrase the agency used in an ad for New York’s Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal (watch out, it could bring a tear to your eye as well as make you laugh):

“We turned a child who couldn’t hear into a typ­i­cal 2 year old who doesn’t listen.”

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