While it may not be expected in the current economic climate, over the past year Ervin and Smith has grown both in terms of revenue, client goals and among its 30-employee-strong team, all within the timelessly high-turnover, high-burnout field of advertising. Its recently named new President, Leanne Prewitt, has resolved to continue momentum that can be traced back to well before COVID-19 was a household name.
“In the past five years, we’ve added to our core offerings to allow us to be truly full service for our clients,” Prewitt said. “We don’t do this randomly; we add services that our clients need to remain competitive in their industries.
“Media strategy and buying, data analysis, video and content creation … We continue to fine-tune our offerings so that we can grow along with the clients we serve.”
The firm, headquartered in Aksarben Village in Omaha and founded in 1983 by Doug Smith, announced that Prewitt was succeeding former President and CEO Heidi Mausbach in late August. Prewitt joined the firm as creative director in 2016.
“I had just returned to Omaha (my hometown) after five years working in large and small advertising agencies in New York City, followed by five months of sabbatical when I traveled literally around the globe with my husband,” she recalled. “I was looking for an agency that could really benefit from all of that experience, while also challenging me to develop as a leader and creative director.”
Ervin and Smith, Prewitt said, has a reputation for smart work.
“But there was an opportunity to put the company on the map for great creative,” she said. “With a mission to ‘create things that matter,’ and a mostly female leadership team to grow with and learn from, I knew it was a match.” Since that time, Prewitt led a team of writers and designers in creating award-winning content for clients such as Creighton University, Borsheims, Scoular, TD Ameritrade and Vehicle Service Group.
Additionally, Mausbach and former Chief Marketing Officer Katie Kemerling also stepped down from their roles “to pursue their own business consultancy company,” an Aug. 24 announcement said.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint one ‘best’ achievement when my value as a creative professional has always been tied to achieving things for clients,” Prewitt said. “Every time my or my team’s work is launched into the world, whether it’s seeing a video played (and applauded) in front of a crowd, flipping through a magazine to see an ad we created, or watching as a client partner receives praise and recognition for work that we helped them make, there’s a huge swell of pride. It’s very rewarding work.”
More recently, Prewitt also spotlighted the staff ’s personal growth, as individuals and teams, since the pandemic.
“These 18-plus months have certainly been challenging, but we succeeded by putting our relationships first and foremost,” she said. “That’s the trick — connecting to clients and team members on a personal level. It would have been impossible to get through the year without the amount of trust we all have in each other.”
Prewitt also noted how they identified ways to connect for emotional support (and a few laughs), and helped clients shift strategic focuses to meet the need of the changing world.
“It was a wild ride, and I honestly think we’re all better for it,” she said. Prewitt noted the firm’s tagline: “Never settle.”
“We don’t stand still,” she added. “We are constantly pushing forward to find and solve for what’s next.”
On the horizon, the team is slated to hire and onboard several team members — designers and video creatives, an experienced copywriter, marketing strategist and a media buyer. At the time of this writing, the agency is also forming the rest of its executive leadership team and welcoming new clients and project launches in the coming months.
“Our company values are candor, happiness, innovation and accountability,” she said, summing it up as a “very powerful combination.”
She noted how that approach helps growth-minded professionals thrive. “We also operate with a coaching-driven development philosophy, meaning we practice and teach leadership development with every single team member,” Prewitt said. “We coach on how to have difficult conversations, how to embrace risk and failure, and how to focus on the one thing completely in your control: your mindset.”
Its mission to “create things that matter,” also resonates with a certain type of individual, she indicated.
“Our mission … attracts people who want to give back to their communities both in work and in life,” Prewitt said. “That means that many of our team members have areas of passion outside of work and are actively engaged in supporting those causes through serving as board members, volunteering [and so on]. And as an agency, we dedicate time and resources to many organizations that make a difference in Omaha.”
Pre-pandemic, Prewitt said they held quarterly Creative Academy Days to connect, create and give back as a team.
“We’ve previously dedicated our time and resources to organizations like the Stephen Center, Completely Kids, Habitat for Humanity and The Union for Contemporary Arts,” she said. “And we’re looking forward to resuming those activities very soon.”
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