Firm Handled Several National Accounts
One of the quieter forces in the local marketing industry, Kenneth C. Smith Advertising will be closing this month.
Kenneth Smith, who brought the firm to San Diego in 1975, said the unexpected announcement was prompted by his own health.
Smith was diagnosed with leukemia about four months ago and will now focus on relaxing and taking care of himself, he said.
Despite a low profile, the 23-member agency drew local and national attention, having had clients such as Taco Bell, Imperial Savings & Loan and its subsidiaries, and, until last year, locally based Mail Boxes, Etc.
For small-business support franchise Mail Boxes, Smith Advertising gained particular acclaim. The campaign, especially the contests that led into its Super Bowl television commercials, garnered national press and several awards for the agency.
Smith Advertising designed a contest for small-business owners to win a Super Bowl television ad. Mail Boxes footed the bill and introduced the winning business owner in the spot.
According to Sheila Fox, a local marketing consultant, Smith Advertising was a regular presence at pitches for new accounts.
“They’ve always been a player,” said Fox, who had been president of local ad firm Chapman/Warwick Advertising for 12 years. “You could never count them out.”
Smith declined to name many of his current accounts (“a limited number of fairly large accounts,” he said), almost all of which will be let go.
The sole exception is Sharp HealthCare, which will be continued by Smith Advertising media director Kay Davis and creative director Rich Badami, for the “foreseeable future,” Smith said.
“We have an arrangement worked out with them to make sure there’s no interruption of services there,” he said.
Along with closing the 23-employee agency, Smith plans to sell its offices, a 15,000-square-foot historic building along La Jolla’s Prospect Street.
The structure stands out in the mind of Beverly Oster, president of Oster & Associates, a local ad firm.
“They’ve always been the epitome of the real, beautiful advertising office,” Oster said.
“They were definitely an agency that came in and made quite an impact on the town,” she said.
Smith started the firm in Rockford, Ill., in 1971, he said. He moved it to San Diego from there in 1975, for lifestyle and market reasons.
He had previously worked for the CBS Television network, the Katz Agency in New York, Westinghouse Broadcasting and a group of radio and television stations in the Midwest, Smith said.
The problem-solving work of marketing always intrigued him. When he was once asked about his work, his answer was surprising.
“I said I thought I was in the transportation business ‘we help people get from here to there,’ ” he said. “Getting around the rocks in the road,’ as I like to call it, is fun.”