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The Evolution of Media Link – Part I

Twenty years ago, PalmPilot in hand, I was bringing Gendron Advertising to life in the Union Arcade building downtown Davenport.

It was a month after 9/11, and commercials were not airing because of the 24-hour news coverage of the aftermath. Saturday Night Live was pushed back for about three weeks, because they could not pull together a show after this kind of tragedy. Even the Emmys were postponed for about a month because no one felt good about celebrating during this time. Businesses felt unsteady about advertising and about what this meant for their business and our community.

Everything was chaotic and everyone was essentially waiting for the other shoe to drop. Needless to say, this was not the best time to start an advertising agency, but my personal circumstances dictated that this was the right time for me to try.

 

In 2001, digital advertising was not a thing, and having a website was a bonus, not an absolute.

My Nielsen and Arbitron ratings were contained in a literal book, and the newest advancement in the field was that cable was starting to pick up ratings. This meant the duopoly, Strata and SmartPlus, needed to figure out how to handle cable programming in their software.

At the time, I was licensed with SmartPlus, so I had to look up the ratings by program. This made it difficult to see which shows had good ratings, because you could not look at the big picture. In addition, a module did not exist for publications, phone books or outdoor, so those buys needed to be produced by hand in Excel. Yes, I said phone books! Back then, most businesses dedicated part of their budget to phone books, because they were the only tool you could use to find phone numbers for people and businesses.

Blackberries and Palm Pilots were the modes you used to get in touch with people and stay organized. If you needed to call someone, you used your landline.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, our first office got its start in the Union Arcade building with a corner spot on the fifth floor. The space had an individual office for me, an area for my assistant, a place to meet with customers and an alcove for storage. It was a great setting for our first place, with lots of windows, which is a big deal to me.  We could open them to let in fresh air, so long as we were mindful of the pigeons threatening to fly through the office.

The staff was so welcoming and there was something uplifting about working in an area with so much activity.  Unfortunately, there were also parking meters.  This forced folks to continuously look at the clock to make sure they did not get a ticket when they were meeting with us at our office.

 

In May 2006, Gendron Advertising became Media Link.

I wanted this business to grow.  I also wanted to make sure anyone who worked with me could take ownership in their work, which can be hard to do with someone else’s name on the business. We also took advantage of the many older homes we are lucky to have in this area and moved our business our current location at 1902 17th Street in Rock Island.

Our move gave us the freedom to make the building our own, but it took a lot of work. The home we purchased was built in 1874, so we had to update the plumbing and electrical while reimagining the space as a true office.

This space has transformed over the years.  We still have some updates to make, but we have no parking meters, everyone can see their cars, everyone can see outside and it is a home.  So, it is truly a comfortable place to work.

 

It is crazy to think about how much has changed over the past twenty years within the field of marketing and in how we communicate.

This evolution is far from over.  Our crew continues to learn as each new technology and communications company emerges.  Who knows what the next 20 years will bring?

Intern Spotlight: Joshua Richardson

*Written by Joshua Richardson

Since my first day at Media Link, I only had my background in Sociology to add to the team. I was not familiar with marketing; I knew what it looked like, a few tricks that would work for influencers, but I knew nothing about how to make it as a business. I honestly did not have much to add to the team aside from my understanding from the individual versus the market. Marketing felt like a foreign language to me when I first came into the office, now it feels like something I should have been speaking my entire life.

Now, I have gotten the chance to expand what I know and what I can do with my major in the real world. I even had the chance to expand my understanding of small businesses and how they can all connect in a single city for an agency versus a corporation. I want to acknowledge the great opportunity they still gave me, even while a pandemic was ravaging the planet. That taught me a valuable lesson in organization and crunch time.  When I finally was able to return, we had plenty of work to do since the pandemic started. This taught me to stay cool under pressure and look to my senior staff for guidance. It also taught me to always ask questions. I am only twenty years old, so there is no way I have all the answers. Plus, the people in my office all come from different backgrounds and may have different strategies that can work in situations where I was stumped. Getting to work through this has also shown me what it can look like for an agency when the rest of the economy has fallen into a deep recession and how it can affect small town living and business. I believe this experience has helped me develop genuinely as an adult, but it also was a great chance to improve my skill set in terms of marketing, organizing, and branding for businesses and individuals.

I am excited to see what my work will look like a year from now with the skills I have gotten since working here at Media Link. I am planning to use the experience I received here in marketing to move in a direction towards talent acquisition. It might seem strange to go this direction with direct contracts with hiring staff for temporary jobs or full-time jobs, but the purpose of this strategy is to achieve my end goal of being a Producer.  When I say I want to produce, I mean I want to be that chance for someone to put their creative vision out in the world. I hope when I am working for myself, I can produce Video/Film for Music artists, Movie/Film writers, and market individual clients or groups creative such as graphic designers, animators, and painters. The recruiting background will help me find staff or temporary workers for whatever I need to produce, such as camera operators for films and mixers for musicians. I have already dived headfirst into learning as much as I can about the area of Film and Media during quarantine and I have even added a minor to help me learn at my college before I graduate. One day I dream that I can own my own studio, so I can do all of these things in one place. I would then take my team to some of the worst-off places in the States to give those kids an opportunity to be successful.

I recommend future interns pay close attention to smaller businesses, because a lot is happening and you will have an opportunity to prove yourself in many ways. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, even if this is your first internship. This is how you get better at your job. Finally, ask questions. Everyone in the office is here to make you a better advertiser for the future. Do not be afraid to use the resources and people that are here for you to learn.

Congratulations Adrian!!

We are proud to announce our own, Adrian Vander Wille, has received his second master’s degree from the University of Oregon this past month.  This second Master’s degree is in Sustainable Business Practices .

So, what is an MBA in Sustainable Business Practices you ask?? We are excited to have Adrian help fill us in on this exciting adventure he underwent over these past two years.

Adrian says, “I had already received an MA in Economic Development and International Studies and a BA in Economics, Business, and Middle Eastern Studies. These interdisciplinary programs play towards my passion for economic development and how businesses operate in a variety of institutional environments around the globe.

So, it came to no surprise for me to find there is no all-size-fits-all approach. I realized long-term economic development requires both a quantitative and qualitative approach which needs to be adjusted over time. The same applies to businesses of all sorts.

As many young economics graduates, I appreciate the University’s focus on behavioral economics and interdisciplinary studies. Some majors primarily focus on the environmental and social impacts. It made sense to embed my passions in the broader framework of sustainability.

Broadly speaking, the term sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It turns out to be a surprisingly complex concept when applying it to businesses which is why I encourage you to check out Bob Willard’s resources at https://sustainabilityadvantage.com/.

Sustainability means innovation since it requires changes to business models and how global economies and societies operate. I took classes like Clean Energy Finance, Greening Sports and Events, Industrial Economy, Supply Chain Management, and Strategic Cost Management. I had the opportunity to take a trip to Asia trip and  tour businesses in Thailand, Vietnam, and China committed to creating a better world.  We were able to discuss their successes and struggles. We also met with a number of business leaders and toured headquarters like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and Tillamook.

My MBA projects included creating a feasibility study for LO3 Energy leadership to assess the viability of entering the German market with the intent to decentralize the energy market with a unique software enabling owners of photovoltaic installations to sell their excess energy to community members supporting renewable energy. In another project, I worked with the Portland Trailblazers to create a marketing plan to promote their efforts to reduce scope 3 emissions.  I also had an opportunity to work with Orchid Health, a rural health clinic, to develop a marketing plan to increase awareness and improve their brand equity.

This focus fits perfectly to the current Zeitgeist and my years of experience marketing products and services. I help clients conduct their business in a sustainable manner considering emerging demands for economic and environmental justice, as well as associated issues like greenwashing. I make sure corporate communications reflects their efforts in an authentic manner making them believable and appealing to consumers.

The goal is to align social, economic, and environmental matters through a truly sustainable business strategy and corporate vision. In times of uncertainty and division, sustainable business practices are not a cost center anymore. They become the key to guaranteeing a firm’s long-term success.”

We are excited to incorporate Adrian’s experience into what we do for our customers at Media Link.  We know in this field of media and advertising, there is always more to learn and explore.  Our field continues to evolve and reflect the changes within our society.  Please reach out to Adrian (adrian@medialinkinc.com) and congratulate him when you get a chance.  This was an incredible undertaking and we are so happy he had this opportunity to build onto his already impressive portfolio.