The Cincinnatians who work in advertising and marketing know what they have here: an exceptional base of creative, hard-working, sharp professionals who can match talent with peers in any other major media marketplace.

To give Cincinnati business owners a grasp of the talent and resources available to them, Cincy Business asked some members of the Advertising Club of Cincinnati to assess the current state of advertising and marketing here.

Questions were posed to: Elena Hlebiczki, an account manager at Freedman, Gibson & White, Inc., and co-chair of conmmunications for the Advertising Club; Steve Kissing, vice president and creative director at Barefoot; April L. Rainbolt, President, Creatives On Call; and Matt Schuster, an account manager at Stevenson, The Color Co.

Let's say I own or operate a small to medium-sized business in Cincinnati, and I meet you at a party. I've done virtually no marketing or advertising, but I know it's time to enter those waters. I have dreams of building strong business locally, then maybe expanding to regional, national, perhaps even global sales. My business could sell anything"”products, services"”it doesn't matter. Can I find the help I need to create and execute an effective marketing-ad plan here in the greater Cincinnati area? Convince me.

Hlebiczki: "You definitely can find the adequate resources to launch and implement an effective marketing plan. Cincinnati has a large number of large, small and medium advertising/marketing agencies and vendors to help you with all of your needs.

"Just because Cincinnati is not as large as some of the other ad "hubs," there is a great amount of talent and resources available in this midwest city. Cincinnati agencies and vendors have had the expertise for years to work with/for international, national, regional and local businesses. The Cincinnati area colleges and universities continue to turn out skilled and creative designers and art directors, as well as business-minded, strategic account executives and managers. By choosing local businesses to help launch and grow your business, you are in good hands."

Kissing: "A company looking to create and implement a national or even international advertising program can find the strategic, creative and project management skills right here in Cincinnati. Our town's advertising community has some exceptionally talented people who can give the best in the nation a run for their money.

"Our town might not have such people in the concentration (or in the cutting-edge fashions) that you'd find them in New York, Minneapolis or San Francisco, but smart thinking and creative innovation are possible anywhere. Even here."

Rainbolt: "The resources of this city are remarkable. How could a powerhouse company like Procter & Gamble sustain the level of marketing genius that they are so well known for if they didn't have brilliant people right here in their corporate headquarters? They couldn't. P&G has had more of an impact on the advertising marketing industry than any other single company in the world. And to Cincinnati's benefit they have cultivated a mindset of branding and marketing that has infiltrated every agency in this town.

"You just can't find an agency, large or small, in this town that hasn't been groomed into total marketing consciousness."

Schuster: "The resources to create and execute a local, regional and national marketing campaign are here in Cincinnati. There are myriad companies that have an expertise in market research, creative, thorough implementation. These same companies have experience partnering with local companies and international firms alike. Why stray from such a strong local resource?

In the same vein, what are some specific advantages of working with local ad-marketing people, instead of taking some or all of that business to other cities?

Schuster: "Working with a local firm means that they understand the local market. Cincinnati is a peculiar city for advertisers to target. There is a strong cultural difference between Cincinnati and its surrounding markets (Columbus, Cleveland, Lexington, Louisville).

"It is important to find a partner that first understands your local market, allowing you to get your feet under you. It is an added bonus that your local partner has the experience to help you run to an international stage with those same feet."

Rainbolt: "I think the proximity promotes a stronger personal trust relationship. Any company can work telephonically or via the web, but nothing in my mind (as a small business owner) compares to a sincere handshake and the personal interaction that you can get from a vendor who is sitting right next to you in the proverbial 'trenches of business survival' in this city."

Kissing: "There is the obvious convenience factor, and perhaps some dollars saved from reduced travel, shipping costs, etc. But I would advise any Cincinnati company looking for an agency not to choose a local firm simply for convenience or to save a few bucks. In much the same way that when we pitch companies around the country, we encourage them to go with the firm that offers the smartest thinking, the best ideas and the right chemistry."

Hlebiczki: "By working with local people, you build a closer relationship and help keep business in Cincinnati. This can in turn aid in the growth of the advertising/marketing industry in Cincinnati. Another advantage is that jobs can be turned around quicker since there is not that distance, and because a close relationship can be built between agencies and their clients and agencies and vendors.

"There can be much more face-to-face contact when the two parties are close to each other. In this day and age of phone and e-mail communication, it is all the more important to have some actual face time. This all helps build stronger relationships. One more thing to consider is that you can get fantastic creative for, most likely, a lower amount because we are not in New York, Chicago, LA or another larger city."

What's hot now in advertising and marketing ideas, products and services for Cincinnati companies, of all sizes? What are the most dynamic and adventurous ones doing? If you sell advertising-marketing services, what are you trying to convince clients and prospects to try?

Hlebiczki: "Viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing, creating 'buzz,' are getting to be even more popular now that consumers are so bombarded by a plethora of messages coming at them from every direction and advertising vehicle. Because there are such a large amount of messages out there, advertising agencies need to do something that really stands out.

What are the most dynamic and adventurous ones doing? If you sell advertising-marketing services, what are you trying to convince clients and prospects to try? If you purchase ad-marketing services, what are you thinking about trying that you haven't done before?"

Schuster: "I cannot answer that question. I'm a vendor to the advertisers."

Kissing: "What's hot now in advertising is not advertising. What I mean is advertising in the traditional sense. We continue to ride the wave caused by the fact that media options and "touch points" are multiplying faster than Tribbles on Star Trek. As such, we must be ever more diligent with finding approaches, unexpected approaches, to reach our target audiences, be that a TV spot, a website, the backseat of a cab or the ceiling above a bed in a hotel room."

In what ways is the Advertising Club of Cincinnati beneficial to you and your company?

Schuster: "The Advertising Club provides a great network for me personally, and exposure for my company within Cincinnati."

Rainbolt: "The connections with the club have made an impact on our business that I never expected. I had always expected an opportunity to network but what I didn't expect was that with every committee and event that I volunteered for I was given a chance to see how others operate.

"This insight is how I found my single most effective employee. And that has made my work load lighter and company stronger. On a personal side, I've made some fabulous friends that just happen to talk shop as much as I do!"

Kissing: "The Ad Club helps instill a sense of community among those in the industry. And it provides forums for inspiring new insights and ideas. And that's what makes or breaks those of us in this wild and whacky biz."

Hlebiczki: "Through the Ad Club I have developed many friendships and a great amount of contacts that have helped me in my advertising career in one way or another. I actually obtained my first job through the Advertising Club of Cincinnati. I was a student intern for the Ad Club and met someone who helped me land my first job.

"Every time I go to an Ad Club event I leave feeling refueled and excited about our industry. To create this feeling alone for people whose jobs are deadline-to-deadline and often times stressful is such an excellent thing. Whether it is a fantastic speaker or an Ad Club happy hour, I am always glad I came. I have learned so much through the Ad Club and look to it as a great resource to help me become better at what I do each day.

"I like the fact that the Ad Club offers both educational and social events. It is beneficial to hear someone speak about the great national campaign that they worked on and the results; however, it is also of great benefit to talk one-on-one with a person who works in advertising in Cincinnati as I do and share ideas and advice to help each other in our advertising pursuits. I know the Ad Club has helped me grow professionally as well as personally."By having the chance to be on the Board of Directors, I have been a part of many wonderful Ad Club initiatives, including the 2004 Centennial year. I have been able to stretch my imagination and abilities to help build the communications program, and help figure out new ways to reach perspective members and local students.

"Being less than a handful of years out of college, I have taken it upon myself to reach out to students and recent graduates to offer them support and encouragement in finding their first job, as well as educating and inspiring students when I present to class. The advertising business is extremely competitive, and I like to give any edge I can give a student help break into advertising.

"The Ad Club helps local agencies and creatives gain the recognition they deserve by having the Addys awards. This helps us show local businesses and other advertising markets that we have, here in Cincinnati, great ideas...and we are producing quality advertising. The Ad Club also has given great support to students and continues to come up with new ways to help students make connections in the advertising business, and hopefully help them in the hunt for their first job. The Ad Club has Scholastic Career Day, Student Addys and is now working on an Ad 2 (a new organization within the Advertising Club of Cincinnati, specifically for advertising professionals 32 and under)."