If you ask Jeff Heiniger to describe what his company does, he might tell you Ad Lab writes and produces TV and radio commercials – or he might say that it designs print ads or handles media buys or coordinates events or provides promotional items. In fact, Ad Lab will tackle anything for a client – and the team will do it well.
“We’re the everything agency,” says Heiniger, who owns the company. “We produce, write, place, support; we handle everything our clients need, from start to finish. People often don’t realize just how much we do.”
That may sound like a tall order for a company with just five employees, but Heiniger and his team have mastered the challenge.
“Having a small group like this makes us a lot more agile,” says Turner Watson, Ad Lab’s creative services director. “The communication is just so much easier.”
Although each person at Ad Lab has a specific job assignment, they possess enough collective experience to step in anywhere when there is a need. They’re a close group, and everyone on the team stays equally informed about and involved with each client’s needs.
“It’s like a soccer team,” explains Watson. “Everyone has a job to do, but anyone can step in and kick the ball when necessary.”
On top of that, they’re fast. “We pride ourselves on providing quality work, with a quick turnaround,” adds Rick Porfilio, Ad Lab’s art director.
Ad Lab’s process starts with a creative needs analysis, usually performed by Heiniger himself. He listens to understand what each client wants, what he or she is trying to accomplish, and what budget resources are available. He then pulls his team together to discuss possibilities, finally making recommendations based on needs, intended audience, and budget. Every plan is unique to the client.
“Every approach is different,” says Heiniger. “It all comes down to listening to the client and finding the right solution. And when we talk about what we think is the best course of action, it’s because we actually have on-the-ground experience. We’ve all been on the other side of the desk.”
When the time comes to execute the plan, Ad Lab does nearly all the work in-house. From idea generation to graphic design to video production to media placement, the team handles everything itself.
“We’ve invested in the right people, software, and equipment,” says Heiniger. “We’ve really expanded what we can do internally so we don’t need to use third party vendors.”
To ensure Ad Lab is doing the best work in the most efficient manner for its clients, every project is considered from a broad perspective, regardless of its immediate intent. The team anticipates other ways it might be used in the future: how brochure messaging might work in a TV spot, how a print ad might translate into a radio commercial, how any of this might work in a digital promotion. Even if the client is not ready to pursue it at the time, the work can be easily transformed to another medium when the time is right.
“We view everything as a campaign,” says Heiniger. “We want all we do for our clients to complete the look and feel of their brand.”
The team moves to delivery once the creative side has been executed. A particular area of strength for Ad Lab is media buying, especially TV, radio and digital placement. According to Heiniger, it is rare to see or hear a local commercial break that doesn’t have an Ad Lab client in it. He credits the company’s prowess in this area to two things: producing the right creative and putting it in the right place at the right price.
“It all boils down to putting the right creative on the air, and our creative process is second to none,” says Heiniger. “But our buying power in the market is what really sets us apart.”
In particular, when Ad Lab negotiates rates, it uses the aggregate spend for the agency, not a client-specific basis. This allows the company to offer the best rates to all clients, regardless of size or media budget. In addition, Ad Lab partners with a large national firm for digital placement, giving the company access to a much broader range of resources than would normally be available locally.
“There are definitely agencies that are bigger than us,” says Heiniger, “but we think we’re the top volume media placer in the area. That allows us to get bonus spots or promotions for our clients on nearly every media buy.”
Timing is important, too. Knowing when to buy and when to place can help a client get the most out of its media spend. It’s a skill the Ad Lab team has strategically honed.
“A lot of times people assume our clients are spending a lot of money because they seem to be on all the time,” says Heiniger. “In reality that’s just a great example of putting the ad in the right place at the right time.”
In addition to viewers’ perceptions, Heiniger and his team measure a successful ad placement by the numbers. They follow up with media outlets to track proof of performance, ensuring that their clients receive the audience exposure they were promised. In cases where they don’t, Ad Lab works to get them compensatory spots.
“We don’t just place the schedule and move on,” explains Heiniger. “We make sure people are getting what they paid for. Nobody’s going to work harder for people than we do”
The real measure of success for Heiniger and his team, however, is the relationships they build. In addition to the working relationships, many clients and vendors alike have become friends along the way.
“I’m big on loyalty,” says Heiniger. “I’ve built my whole career on building relationships with people. We’re all in with you; it’s like you’re part of our family.”
Address: 6116 Constitution Drive Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804
Phone: (260) 482-3725