6 Quick Questions with The Ad Club of Boston


The Ad Club, Boston’s 100-year old start-up.

the ad clubIn addition to a vibrant history and a devoted community of sports fans, Bostonians can also brag about The Ad Club. Established in 1913, the club’s membership includes 28,000 New England professionals in marketing, branding, and advertising. The club brings this community together to enjoy an array of events, learning opportunities and prestigious awards.

We sat down with president Kathy Kiely to dig deeper into what makes this organization a valuable Boston asset.

1. What is The Ad Club and why should Boston marketing professionals join?

We like to refer to The Ad Club as a 100-year old start-up. Technically we’re a trade association with membership across The Ad Clubmarketing, branding and advertising, at any level, in New England. We see ourselves at the intersection of branding and technology.

Our mission is three-pronged: to educate, to connect and to celebrate. And by celebrate, I don’t mean Friday night martinis. I mean celebrating best practices. We celebrate those practices with our awards, Hatch, Maven, and Rosoff, and we celebrate the next generation with our scholarships and internships.

Why join The Ad Club? The better question to ask is, “Who is The Ad Club?” In addition to individuals, our membership includes some of the biggest brands in the country: John Hancock, Liberty Mutual, Microsoft, Yahoo. Our membership crosses a diverse set of disciplines and industries, bringing together some of the best minds in marketing. It’s about being in the company of industry leaders.

2. Tell us about some notable moments from the first 100 years.

The Ad Club

The Ad Club sprung from a baseball game between New York media sales reps and their Boston counterparts on Columbus Ave in 1904. While New York won, the game launched the idea for The Ad Club, then known as the Ad Men’s Club.

The Club received its official charter from Massachusetts in 1913, becoming officially know as The Advertising Club of Boston in 1924. Woman were accepted as members in 1921—a big deal for the time. Let’s fast forward to 1961 and the birth of the Hatch Awards at a BBDO party. The first awards went out to 5 or 6 winners. Fifty-four years later, it’s one of the largest award shows in the country with over 1200 entries.

Another great era was the launch of The Ad Club Foundation in 1987. The president at the time, Elizabeth Graham Cook, worked with the board of directors of the Boston Foundation to create our charitable arm. By 1993, the Foundation had raised $1 million, which continues to fund scholarships and internships in the Boston area.

3. What’s up with the Big Orange Couch and how did it come to be?

I thought it was important to start publishing really good content from some of the most prominent marketers in New England. At the same time, we were moving offices and when I visited Ikea, the first thing I saw was this enormous, bright-orange leather couch. I decided we were going to decorate the whole office around this couch, and that’s what were going to call our interview series. It just came to me, and I liked the sound of it. Thank you Ikea!

4. How does the Boston marketing scene compare with other large markets?

Boston is unique, in part due to the number of universities. There are just so many smart people per capita between Boston and Cambridge. It’s the perfect environment for what’s referred to as the “bump factor.” You have education bumping into science, science bumping into marketing, marketing bumping into media. It’s the size of the city and the proximity of all these areas of expertise bumping into one another.

Another mission of The Ad Club is to promote Boston as a great place to build a brand. Because it is! It’s easy to say the grass is greener in San Francisco or New York. But in fact, Boston is a city full of industry leaders. It kills me when brands don’t include Boston agencies in their agency reviews. Those brands are missing out on great talent…and a state tax credit! For those reasons, The Ad Club is devoted to keeping the spotlight on the Greater Boston area.

5. Name one challenge you see marketers facing today.

The Ad Club

I think one of the biggest challenges for marketers is the speed at which the industry is changing. This is where The Ad Club fits into their lives. Marketers have to surround themselves with people who can get them up to speed really fast. We help them sort through all the change they’re inundated with and keep them focused on the areas that will help grow their business. As marketers, you and your staff must be able to learn quickly and start executing even quicker. Our goal is to keep our members right on the cutting edge of the industry.

6. What’s on the horizon for The Ad Club in the next decade?

The Ad ClubOn a basic level, we have barely scratched the surface on our membership numbers. I see big membership drives in our future, with the goal of doubling the size of The Ad Club to over 50,000.

I see our educational content going more multichannel. I want to deliver more content on mobile platforms, make it available at home and less event-centric. We have fantastic partnerships with CBS, Microsoft, Yahoo and Bloomberg Radio, and those partnerships all have potential for growth. And we want to focus on the next generation and get 20-somethings to be Ad Club enthusiasts and evangelists. It’s all about the kids!

Going big, the idea of franchising The Ad Club is also on the horizon. We have all the marketing and all the programming, we just need to connect with cities that want to start a club from scratch or boost an existing one. From there, we’ll set our sights on total global domination!

Thanks for chatting with us, Kathy!

For more Boston goodness, head over to Agency Spotter’s Boston Hub for agency features, video interviews, and thought-provoking articles.


About Claire Wallace

Claire writes about strategy, insight, and advice to help inspire smart and savvy marketers. She completed her MBA at UMass-Amherst and has been a team member at City Sports, MIT, and an organic farm in Maine. A former student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin, Claire now runs marathons, for fun! On her bucket list is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, dining at Per Se, and running the beautiful trails in New Zealand.