Pearson ad agency closing after more than three decades

One of the oldest advertising agencies in Indianapolis, Pearson Partners Inc., is closing after 33 years in business.

President and CEO Ron Pearson, 62, announced the decision in a July 2 e-mail, attributing the closure to difficult economic conditions.

“We’ve struggled through this recession with budgets being cut or eliminated,” he wrote. “These were tough decisions, I’m certain, and I understand.”

Pearson said in his e-mail that a “skeleton crew” of three will stay on for another week or two to finalize details and to pay creditors what it can.

“We do not anticipate, unfortunately, that enough accounts receivable will come in to pay everything,” he said.

The agency has 30-plus clients and roughly a dozen employees remaining, he said. Pearson is referring many of those clients to local advertising and public relations agency Hetrick. Some employees have been interviewing with Hetrick as well, Pearson said.

“It always looked like there were good things ahead and around the corner,” Pearson said Tuesday morning. “But the corner was much farther away than we anticipated.”

Pearson took a huge blow in April 2007, when local electronics and appliance retailer HHGregg decided to switch its $20-million-plus advertising account to Florida-based Zimmerman Advertising.

Profit margins had become so tight that it wasn’t worth trying to compete when HHGregg put the account up for bid early in 2007, Pearson told IBJ. Pearson had handled Gregg’s advertising account for 24 years.

As a result, Pearson lost 15 of 44 employees, including three of five active partners. Two of those, Executive Vice President Larry Fletcher and Chief Financial Officer Terri Brown, retired.

Pearson was ranked as the 11th-largest advertising agency in the city in 2008, according to the most recent IBJ statistics. The firm listed local billings of $26 million, down from $48 million in 2006. Until losing the HHGregg account, the firm regularly ranked among the city's top five or six agencies
The agency, located at 3755 E. 82nd St., listed Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Mike’s Car Wash and Damar Services Inc. among its recent clients.

Pearson founded the agency in 1977 as Pearson Group. The agency changed names over the years to reflect partnership changes, including stints as Pearson Crahan & Fletcher, Pearson Crahan Fletcher England, and Pearson McMahon Fletcher England. The agency became Pearson Partners in 2007.

Pearson said he still wants to be involved in the advertising business but likely not in a full-time capacity.


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