Northern Arizonans traveling to far away destinations like Hearst Castle, Niagara Falls or the San Antonio River Walk this summer will notice dramatic, full-color billboards, banners and advertising pieces designed by a small Flagstaff ad agency. WM. McElfresh Advertising Inc. develops and produces all promotional materials for Destination Cinema, a partner of the National Geographic Society.
Destination Cinema, Inc. (DCI) operates the Grand Canyon’s National Geographic Visitor Center and IMAX Theatre as well as other IMAX theatres at high-profile destinations around Canada and the United States. McElfresh Advertising, a hometown agency, creates billboards, Internet advertising, magazine ads, rack cards, signage and vehicle wraps displayed internationally by the company.
How does a small town ad agency like Flagstaff’s McElfresh Advertising snag large accounts like National Geographic Society’s Destination Cinema? The story goes back a few years to a time before the Internet, texting and even cell phones.
McElfresh Advertising was founded by Bill McElfresh in 1977. “We spent 30 years on Fourth Street,” bragged Jamie Mowbray, vice president and artist. “Some of our clients have been with us since I started 25 years ago.
“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with the IMAX at Grand Canyon since 1986. We started working with other DCI sites in 2004,” the design artist said. That’s when Murray Mold, Destination Cinema’s vice president of sales and marketing, came on board. “He was looking to hire individual ad agencies from each destination. But then he saw what we were doing for the Grand Canyon IMAX theatre here – and once we got to know each other, he could see that we were capable to do the work for all the locations.”
In 2003, when Bill McElfresh passed away, his wife, Donna, and Mowbray decide to keep the business open. “Bill was very service-oriented,” said Mowbray. “I learned a lot from him.” Building personal relationships and maintaining high levels of service is what, according to Mowbray, makes the small town ad agency so successful with capturing international clients.
“Service-oriented businesses are a thing of the past. Everyone wants to just text each other,” laughed Joel Kramer, McElfresh Advertising’s media buyer. “But we find that accessibility is so important to our success. We are accessible to our clients. And that is where technology is so great.”
Mowbray explained, “In the advertising business, you can’t always plan ahead. I might get a call from a client who says, ‘I need this printed in four days.’ We do our best to accommodate them.”
“It doesn’t matter if they are a big or small account,” added Kramer, who consults with clients on both online and print advertising. While the people at McElfresh Advertising tend to rely on more traditional communication methods to keep in touch with their clients, they use modern technologies to turn the work around faster.
“Technology makes it quick and convenient to get proofs. I can email a .pdf of a proof and get a client’s request for change almost immediately. I can make the change and get them another proof fast,” said Mowbray, who handles all aspects of advertising: concept, design, production and distribution. She was even on hand for a media event that kicked off Grand Canyon’s National Geographic Visitor Center and IMAX Theatre’s new Grand Canyon Condor Encounter live bird show.
“There’s always something new, and we are continually keeping up with the new technologies. For instance, by the end of this year, 50 percent of U.S. cell phone users will have smart phones. That means that businesses really need to have their websites formatted for the smart phones’ smaller screen size.”
Sometimes companies with such a deep history find it hard to change. But McElfresh Advertising has successfully adapted strategies for the “New Media.”
“Through experience, we know where the best exposure will be,” said Kramer. “We’ve seen the changes and we’re staying on top of [them] for our clients.”
The firm creates QR codes, online ads, websites, sets up Facebook and other social media accounts and recently bought advertising on TripAdvisor for one of their accounts. The firm also provides press releases and copywriting services. “Relative content is a big thing for getting your business up there in the search engine rankings,” explained Kramer about their website content services. “It’s worth your time to contact a full-service ad agency like us. We’ll take care of anything, from a small advertising plan to layout advice or just consulting. It doesn’t cost anything to give me a call.”
How has McElfresh Advertising kept clients like DCI, Meteor Crater, Flagstaff Public Library, Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn and Stevens Engineering coming back for more? According to the experts at McElfresh Advertising, they use technology to expedite the process and get results, but use personal contact to maintain customer service and professionalism. FBN
WM. McElfresh Advertising Inc.
617 N. Humphreys St., Suite 102, Flagstaff