LEADING QUESTIONS: Ad exec boils down rules for success

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Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk about the habits that lead to success.

Indianapolis native Bruce Bryant, 58, leapt into the advertising game and a role as solo entrepreneur in 1983 by founding his own firm, Promotus Advertising. Although its footprint in the local ad community has remained relatively modest, Promotus has landed major accolades and big-name clients, including the Hoosier Lottery, Indiana Pacers and NCAA. The Indiana Federation of Advertising Agencies named Bryant its “Ad Person of the Year” in 1998-1999 and 2002-2003.

Bryant has carved out an identity for Promotus as a scrappy, urban firm that specializes in sports, events, and public-health marketing. For example, in 2010 it landed a $1.6 million account with the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency.

“We’ve been effective in cause marketing—any issue that is involved with people taking action because of their beliefs and attitudes, be it stopping smoking, going to the doctor, or reducing calories in the case of obesity,” Bryant said.

“If you’re looking for an agency that can bring some guerrilla marketing; to push the envelope creatively; someone who can leverage your dollars because you might not be the biggest marketer in your category; we’re hard to beat,” he said.

One challenge of running lean and keeping staff in the single digits (Promotus currently has seven employees) is maintaining an effective internal support structure. Bryant serves as president and creative director, and struggles with shifting gears between the left- and right-brained functions.

“I’m a poor manager,” he said. “I’m pretty much in the creative frame of mind most of the time, and that frame of mind doesn’t work well with management tasks. It’s a very hard marriage.”

In the video at top, Bryant discusses the challenge of providing employees with the support they need, as well as a potential solution for better defining his roles. He also recounts his early days in the industry and the value of finding mentors to guide him. Some of the most valuable advice: Be honest, communicate with the client, work hard, and don’t worry about the things you can’t change.

Over nearly three decades at the helm of his own firm, Bryant also has regularly studied biblical scripture to find principles that can guide his business. In the video below, he isolates two tenets related to sowing seed and trusting a higher power. In addition, he runs through three rules he has established for himself to maintain a strong business.

“You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. You have to be knowledgeable and know your craft. And third, you gotta spend less than you make,” he said.

“Most people probably spend at least all that they make, if not more than they make. And when they do that, especially in business, the pressure is tremendous. You’re going to be pressured to make some deals that probably violate rule number one—integrity.”


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