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Earle Palmer Brown/Philadelphia. 15 Years Gone.

Liberty-place In 1989 I came down to Philadelphia as President of an agency called Earle Palmer Brown & Spiro. It was formed by acquisitions of two local Philly ad agencies–Kalish & Rice and Spiro & Associates– earlier in the 80s.  We moved in mid 1989 to the new  (at that time) One Liberty Place. I joined the agency from BBDO/New York where I had been a senior account guy. I was very “New York-centric” in my view of the ad world and sports (The latter still applies, I say proudly). But having no history with either of the agency’s acquisitions, the Philadelphia market in general or the Earle Palmer Brown (EPB) corporate parent was an advantage, as I had no baggage. The Philadelphia office of Earle Palmer Brown (and the entire EPB network) is long gone, with its demise 15 years ago in 2002. The following is a chronology of key events in the agency’s 18-year Philly run. There were so many talented people who worked at the agency not mentioned, not because of their lack of importance but because I know I would leave out someone important. It was clearly a good agency before I came as well as after I left.

Chronology of some of the key Earle Palmer Brown events in Philadelphia

1984—First EPB acquisition in Philadelphia (or anywhere). Kalish & Rice acquired

1985—Turmoil. Allan Kalish of acquired Kalish & Rice leaves.

1987—Spiro & Associates acquired at year-end

1988—Agency rebranded Earle Palmer Brown & Spiro

1989—I joined the agency as President in March. The agency moved to One Liberty Place, as one of its initial tenants, mid-year

1992—EPB/Philadelphia celebrates 10th anniversary in marketplace

1994—Ketchum/Philadelphia office acquired. EPB/Philadelphia wins 27 of all 36 local ADDYs in local creative competition, as well as national recogntion.

1995—Agency becomes largest in market (and largest in EPB network of agencies). Excellent new business year. Wins include Dollar Rent a Car, Comcast, Pizza Hut coops, Calico Corners, Summit Laser Vision Centers, others.

1996—I left in February. Staff size up to 125.

1997—Walter Spiro, Chairman, dies.

1998—2 local agencies, Riemel Carter and Silberman, acquired but all their clients leave within year.

1998—First round of major layoffs

2000—Major layoffs continue. Move to smaller center city office on Broad Street. Staff down to 60.

2001—3/4 of staff fired. Remaining 12 employees move to Manayunk.

2002—staff down to 5. Remaining accounts “sold” to Dudnyk. EPB “celebrates” its 18th anniversary in Philly by dying, as does entire EPB network

Earle Palmer Brown/Philadelphia was a good agency bordering on great. In hindsight, where we are all brilliant, we could have been even better than we were. While I’d like to think I deserve some credit for its success in the early 90s, I think as its leader I probably deserve even more blame that weren’t even more successful given our talent and our client roster. There was too much staff instability and some client churn. But during its hey day EPB’s cornerstone accounts were CoreStates, Comcast, Dollar Rent a Car, Independence Blue Cross, Honda Dealers, Wawa, Pizza Hut, DuPont, and many others. Not too shabby, and our work was very good.

I welcome perspectives of any former EPBer during its 18-year Philadelphia run. The good thing about looking back is that the pain of stressful client and people issues fade, but the positive feelings remain. That’s the benefit of the “fog of history”.

EPB RIP.




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5 Comments

  1. An Scott says:

    I spent 10 years at EPB (first as part of Spiro & Assoc, then EPB&S) managing Human Resources and Administration (office infrastructure, etc) from 1986 to 1996. I consider it the pinnacle of my long career. It was 10 years of long days, lots of stress, interesting challenges, good times, bad times, sad times. Working at EPB contributed in so many ways to my becoming the strong woman I am today. I have lots of wonderful memories. I am so glad I was part of it.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      There were more good days than bad, but it was not easy. I was glad to be part as well. Wish I had said thank you more to all in the past. But it’s not too late–thank you.

  2. Trish Bradley Lockett says:

    I was a marketing research college intern the spring/summer of 1990. What an amazing experience it was! Learned a lot about agency life – the quick pace, the high of getting a new account, and the drag of losing one! I moved over the non-profit world years ago, but I always have a soft spot for agency people, thanks to my time at EPB&S.

  3. Kent Murray says:

    I moved from Madison Ave to Weightman — and its history is eerily similar with acquisitions leading to client exits leading to decimation. Like you I left before things really went south. Tough business.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Thanks for the feedback. Not an easy business. But sometimes difficulties agencies face are self inflicted as well.

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