Mary-Ellen Willard has been an active member of IABC since February 2007 and is a proud owner and partner of adHOME Creative, a leading advertising agency in London, Ontario. “Becoming the owner of my own agency was a significant achievement in my career, and then being able to rebrand the agency to reflect our unique personality and culture was very rewarding,” she says. Along with her adHOME team, some of the projects she has lead include the rebrand of the Western Fair District, Western Area Youth Services (WAYS) and Steelway Building Systems.
Willard can attest to the networking and educational opportunities an IABC membership can offer. “From the social events to the seminars, I have always made an effort to get involved and have encouraged our staff to do the same,” she says. For many years, adHOME has participated in the Virtuoso Awards and considers it to be an excellent opportunity to showcase great creative work and judge it against international standards. Willard has served on IABC committees and began as Co-Director of the Virtuoso Awards and Director of Communications.
Willard has two roles at adHOME. The first includes developing new business which means responding to RFPs, pitching new clients and identifying new prospects. Her second role, and the one she is most passionate about, is leading the creative strategy and branding efforts of their clients. Willard and her team are results-driven and seek to work with their clients to come up with creative solutions to business challenges.
Through her experience, Willard has learned the answer isn’t always a marketing solution; ”sometimes it’s an operational change or a customer service shift or some other unique insight that we’ve uncovered. It’s the magic that happens when that idea is born and you know you are going to make a difference. That is what keeps my passion for this business alive.”
She emphasizes how critical it is to get the branding right at every interaction with your customer. Specifically, she highlights “when you have a clear understanding of your brand, it makes all other communications decisions so much easier.” The Brand Blueprint process, developed by the adHOME team, helps take the guesswork out of branding and leads their clients to a clearly defined brand promise they can confidently make to their customer.
Through adHOME’s Blue Door Initiative, the company gives back to the London community in more ways than one. Among their multiple projects, they are committed to working with a not-for-profit organization. In the past, adHOME has hosted the “Breast Garage Sale Ever” to raise funds for Breast Cancer, and has developed branding for the Ontario Senior Games. They are currently developing the creative as lead sponsor for “On Stage for WAYS”, a fundraiser for Youth Mental Health.
Willard hopes to convey to future communicators and students the importance of keeping an open mind about the direction of their careers. “Keep as many options open as possible. If you really want a career in advertising, you will eventually find the right set of circumstances to fit your ambitions. When that happens, the sky will be the limit,” she says.
You can reach Mary-Ellen Willard on LinkedIn here.