The past decade marked a turbulent time for the advertising industry in Chicago. The challenging economy took its toll on many agencies large and small. No one was immune as brands such as Lowe Lintas, JWT, Element 79, Tatham and others closed. But for HY Connect, a quintessential mid-sized independent agency with offices in Chicago and Milwaukee, the decade marked a time of remarkable growth.
Since joining what was a small Chicago based creative boutique called Tom Reilly Advertising with then Milwaukee based Hoffman York in 2002 (the agency was renamed HY Connect later) the agency has had a remarkable run of new business, particularly with noteworthy Chicago based brands such as Museum of Science & Industry, Advocate Health Care, Arlington Park, Turtle Wax, Peapod and just last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
“We have understood from the beginning that if you can’t win in your own backyard as a mid-sized firm you will never get any traction outside the market,” said David Sheehan, President of HY Connect. “Winning significant brands locally helps to establish your agency with other prospects and more importantly with potential employees. That is how we have grown.” Sheehan is based in Chicago while his Executive Team Partner and Agency CEO, Troy Peterson is based in Milwaukee.
“The Chicago-Milwaukee connection works terrifically,” says Peterson. “There is tremendous collaboration between our two offices and we share common values and beliefs on how to work with clients and treat our people.”
In the past four years alone, HYC has nearly doubled in income and more than tripled its number of employees in Chicago. Last year the agency underwent a major remodel of its space and added a second floor to accommodate the growing staff. Now with a full time staff of over 80 and double digit open positions the agency is poised for another growth spurt fueled by more new business.
Sheehan credits the agency’s growth to several factors: “Our integrated service model for one, which fits with what many clients want today from an agency – not separate profit centers. Secondly it is all about the caliber of people you can attract and recruit and we have done that exceptionally well the past five years and now we are finding lots of talented people are seeking us out. Lastly, our independent status has been critically important. While agencies that are part of holding companies have to satisfy outside shareholders we work only to serve our clients and our employees. Our profits go to keeping our people and to adding resources and capabilities that our clients want and need. Those are our only priorities.”
In addition to the many Chicago brands, HYC also is the agency for IU Health, the largest health care system in Indiana, First Tennessee Bank, one of the leading regional banks in the country, Yamaha Outboard Motors, Wahl Clippers, The University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, Churchill Downs and others.