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.”
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.”