THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Study in success
Ologie gets, keeps ad clients with ‘dive deep’ approach
By Tim Feran |
TOM DODGE DISPATCH Marketing company Ologie, led by senior partner Bill Faust and founder Bev Bethge, strives to be fluent in all media.
In less than a month, Ologie will bust through another wall. It’s the third time in the past decade that the Columbus-based marketing firm has expanded its E. Main Street offices, and it’s part of a 25-year pattern of shattering barriers structurally and professionally.
It all began when Bev Bethge, then newly graduated from the Columbus College of Art & Design, decided to start her own firm, one that has grown to be the fifth-largest advertising agency in town, with $10.5 million in sales and a staff of 70 and growing.
The young artist did face daunting odds for her business, originally dubbed Bethge Design, but was smart and determined, said Donn Vickers, who was then the head of the Jefferson Center for Learning and the Arts and first met her as a student.
“We were used to having CCAD students around,” Vickers said. “But when Bev showed up, she was different. She was bold enough to ask if we had some space there that she could utilize as a studio.”
Bethge ended up renting space from Vickers, and Vickers ended up making introductions to area nonprofits. And that led not only to work for her fledgling business but to interaction with those groups’ board members, many of them in the local corporate world.
Connection followed connection and an ever-more-important list of clients began piling up. Then, in the late 1990s, the company began working with Limited Brands.
“That’s where we cut our teeth in retail,” Bethge said. “We did a lot of work for Tween, Victoria’s Secret,” on such things as training manuals, annual reports and window designs for stores.
By 2000, the company needed more space and moved from Park Street near the North Market to the current location, the former service department of a car dealer.
“It was a raw space, but it screams ‘studio,’” Bethge said.
The renovated building had plenty of room for growth, and the company has knocked down walls with regularity, expanding from 3,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet, with another expansion coming soon.
Along with the physical move, the company also made several image changes, dropping the name Bethge Design in favor of Method Integrated.
“Bethge was awful,” she said. “I always had to spell it, and I didn’t want it to be about me.”
Another name change occurred in 2006, when a company in San Francisco turned up with the name Method, too. To avoid confusion, the Columbus firm became Ologie.
- “Ologie is all about the study of things, and that’s what we do — we study, we dive deep,” she said.
That “dive deep” approach proved key about six years ago, when Ologie made two decisions that seemed relatively insignificant at the time but grow larger every year.
One was to hire a multimedia team to photograph, shoot video, build websites and create animated graphics. The idea was in part to make it easier for Ologie staffers to work — they could walk down the hall rather than drive over to another company to get those tasks accomplished.
Today, marketing companies are expected to have such capabilities, said senior partner Bill Faust, helping companies seek to connect with customers across various media — online, on social media, on mobile phones, as well as on traditional media such as television, radio and print.
“We want to be fluent in all media,” Faust said. “Now when we take on a project, we can do everything.”
The other important decision came when CCAD approached Ologie for help in refreshing its public image. While Ologie staffers initially thought they were just agreeing to do some friends a favor, their meticulous work drew raves, which led to a specialty in work for educational institutions.
The specialty developed almost by accident, even after the CCAD project was followed by work for Wellington School.
When a call came from Ohio Wesleyan University, a surprised Faust told university officials that Ologie really didn’t specialize in schools. “And they said, ‘That’s why we want to talk to you.’”
Other firms that the school had worked with were “very conservative,” Bethge said. “Everything looked the same.” Ologie’s approach was fresh and specific to each school, helping to target potential students with great success.
Today, Ologie serves more than two dozen educational institutions, including Capital University, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Purdue, the University of California-Berkeley and Smith College. What had never been part of the business has turned into a key driver of profit.
- And thanks to such a booming business, “we chose not to participate” in the recession, Bethge said, smiling broadly.
But just as rewarding as the cash is the fact that working with universities has “deep meaning,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Faust said. “There’s nothing wrong with selling bras and panties. But we do like to get behind something that has a purpose.”
The client list continues to grow in all areas, which Ologie groups under the titles health, wealth, retail, education and community.
And for Bethge, that community includes her own employees.
“My job is to create an environment where people can do great work,” she said. “A culture, a space, an environment where you walk in and take a deep breath and get energy from it. When someone leaves after working here for four or five years, they can be very successful, whether as a freelancer or starting their own firms.”