Globe correspondent Emily Overholt recently spoke with Steve Connelly, president of Connelly Partners, an integrated marketing agency in the South End. Here’s what she found out:
1Connelly Partners is growing, and quickly. Competing against big Boston advertising firms such as Hill Holliday and Arnold Worldwide, the agency has expanded to more than 100 employees from about 60 since the beginning of the year. That growth included the acquisition of ISM, a marketing firm specializing in campaigns for the travel and leisure industry, and Pod Design, a small company specializing in viral marketing and designing apps and mobile games. Connelly’s goal: having an employee for every job imaginable in marketing, while still keeping the small-shop mentality.
“I think we’ll be big enough to do anything and small enough to do it quickly, and that’s hard to do in advertizing.”
2Despite the industry’s reputation for long hours, Connelly Partners emphasizes the life side of a work-life balance. Connelly said his people are always working for him because they are out observing the world. By leaving work to watch their kids’ soccer games, his employees might gain insights for ads directed at soccer moms and others at the game.
“I always thought it was a false badge of honor that you work so many hours in advertizing. If you’re good at your job, get it done. Get it great and get out the door.”
3To Connelly, a good ad is about making a connection. While jokes aimed at provoking laughter are favored by many agencies, Connelly believes in a more subtle approach.
“I go for smiles over laughs any day because smiles are the beginning of a relationship, and laughs are an immediate response with an end.”
4Connelly will jump in as a copywriter when a campaign calls for it. He said writing keeps him grounded, a return to the roots of his craft.
“Writing helps me stay connected to the pursuit of relevance and I enjoy it.”
5Connelly draws inspiration from Bill Cosby, who showed in his comedy that it’s not always about the punchline, it’s about relating.
“Bill Cosby was a guy that just sat on a stool, and he told you what he saw today, and he didn’t have to swear, and he didn’t have to yell, and he didn’t have to point out that he was ethnically diverse, and he didn’t have to contort his body, and he didn’t have to do anything. He just told you what he saw.”
6Of course, Connelly watches AMC’s popular drama, “Mad Men,” about the advertising world, right? No, he doesn’t. He isn’t into the drinking, smoking, and women chasing. He prefers a 1960s sitcom that depicted the lives of advertising men.
“From my way of thinking, I don’t need that. Yuck. I watch Bewitched.”
7That said, in the middle of Connelly Partners’ South End headquarters is a fully stocked bar. The conference room is set up a like a living room. The office is built around the idea of conversation and collaboration, and the bar is one part of that aesthetic. PowerPoint presentations are not the basis of his client connections.
“Where are the best conversations that happen? They happen around dining room tables, kitchen tables. They happen in living rooms without conference tables and they happen at bars.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect title for Steve Connelly.