It started in a basement in 1986 and literally climbed to the top of a mountain. Oxford Communications, launched by President John Martorana and Chief Creative Officer and Principal Chuck Whitmore, has now grown to include a staff of more than 40 account managers, artists, and communication planners.
The “mountain” they climbed was the location of the old Lambertville Music Circus, operated from 1949-1970. When Oxford outgrew two buildings, the agency made the move. In 2002 Martorana and Whitmore decided to move the agency up to the mountain, where, they say, “brilliance and genius are quite literally in the soil.”
U.S. 1 asked the founders how they did it:
1.) What was the “a-ha” moment that led to the creation of your company?
Chuck Whitmore: John and I had a shared vision of what we could accomplish. Our “a-ha” moment was the realization that we needed to control our own destiny to make that vision a reality.
2.) Is there an untold story about your company that people might find surprising?
John Martorana: Built on a foundation of creative and artistic genius, Oxford Communications’ office was once home to some of America’s greatest actors and musicians, including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, when the Lambertville Music Circus resided here from 1949-1970. Created and produced in 1949 by theater impresario, Broadway actor and former carnival barker St. John “Sinjin” Terrell, the Lambertville Music Circus was the country’s first commercial arena-type theater under a tent.
3.) Who are your role models, sources of inspiration, or heroes?
Whitmore: Well, Steve Jobs is the obvious answer, isn’t it? But we were an Apple agency from day one, and I don’t think we’d be where we are today without the spirit of empowerment, self-sufficiency and innovation made possible by the Mac. Steve Jobs’ technology and artistic vision truly empowered small creative shops like ours to form and flourish.
4.) What advice would you give to new business owners?
Martorana: This one’s easy — find what you are passionate about and give it everything you have. Once you do that, the rest will come naturally.
5.) If you could do it over again, what might you do differently?
Whitmore: I think our understanding of how agencies worked was limited to our own employer. We might have benefited from a broader perspective, although there’s something to be said for hands-on learning.
6.) What goals have you set for your company in the next five or ten years?
Whitmore: We’ve embraced a vision to be a strategy-first, integrated agency. It’s not a goal where you wake up one day and say “we did it.” Because marketing and technology are constantly evolving, our entire agency has made a commitment to hit an ever-moving target. It’s a huge challenge, but a necessary one, one that will keep us fresh, relevant and invaluable to the clients who entrust their brands to us.