To know where you are going, it’s helpful to know where you’ve been.
The Gunter Agency started in a house in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 1990s. Randy Gunter had just left his position as the Creative Director of another Madison agency. He had one project lined up, the website for musician Peter Buffett. Quite simplistic by today’s standards, at the time that website was extremely innovative; the inclusion of video and audio files were not common in websites at that point. (Remember, this was back in the day of AOL and dial-up.)
On the first day after leaving his previous agency, Randy called Madison-based Rayovac where he found out they just had a production artist leave and needed some help. He met with their graphics team the next day and by the following day was working with them on location. This was the start of a relationship that grew over many years, quickly moving from production work to graphic design, advertising, and even product design projects.
The agency grew, adding staff and moving into new offices, building a reputation for quality creative work with strong computer knowledge. It wasn’t long before the company started working with a number of top brands, working on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business (Spectrum), Deere & Company, Firestone, Fiskars, General Casualty Insurance (QBE), Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, TDS Telecom, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin), and others.
We’ve had the opportunity to work on national and international projects for some venerable brands over the years. Can you guess which one of these brands is the oldest? How about which one is the youngest? Hint: the youngest one is the only one of these brands that currently is not over 100 years old. (Answers at the bottom of the page.)
The agency picked up numerous creative awards on the local, regional and national levels, including multiple Best of Shows, Judges Choice and Best of Category awards. Beyond the creative recognitions, the agency has also won a Best of Show NAMA award for Public Relations and Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year Award. Work can be found in top industry publications and websites (Adweek, Print, Communication Arts, How) and numerous “best of” books.
In the 2000s, the agency showed it wasn’t invulnerable to market conditions and changes on the client side, losing a large client that was a disproportionate part of their income. The agency needed to downsize and regroup.
One of the agency client’s during this time was Furst-McNess Company, an international agricultural firm that was also restructuring their business. Furst-McNess worked with the Gunter Agency to rebrand their company, showcase new products, and saw exponential growth from these efforts. The company also had a home products division that wasn’t necessarily a high priority. Eventually they considered dropping the home products division when Randy and Cindy Gunter made an offer that was accepted to acquire the line.
With that licensing agreement, the Sugar River Trading Company was born and now is the largest client for The Gunter Agency. And yes, when the ad agency is literally situated above their largest client’s offices, and the ownership of both the client and the agency is the same, it is hard to distinguish whether the agency is a separate entity or simply an in-house marketing/creative department.
But the agency still does work for other clients. But with these other clients, they have adopted the same attitude and approach, it’s like being their client’s in-house marketing/creative department. Ask us about a P4P program (pay for performance); it really blurs the lines between in-house and agency work.
Today the agency is growing again, but prefers to work with clients that they can share in the profits or ones where they have an ownership stake.
Answers to the oldest and youngest company question above…
Deere & Company 1837
Joseph Huber Brewing Company 1845
Kimberly Clark Corporation 1872
Oshkosh B’Gosh 1895
Royal Neighbors of America 1895
Furst-McNess Company 1908
National Guardian Life 1910
General Casualty Insurance 1925