Published on Orange County Business Journal, March 9, 2015
Written by Mediha DiMartino
DGWB Advertising and Communications in Santa Ana wants more.
Co-owners Mike Weisman and Jon Gothold recently bought out longtime partner Mandi Dossin, clearing the way for the 27-year-old ad shop to invest in Amusement Park.
The newly formed full-service agency looks to do “less shouting from the rooftop and more relationship-building and engagement with people in a much more immersive manner,” such as product placements in video games, movies, apps, online videos and beyond.
Weisman and Gothold also added two partners for the new venture: Jimmy Smith, founder and chief executive of Los Angeles-based Amusement Park Entertainment; and Ed Collins, a onetime DGWB chief marketing officer who returns after a stint as director of automotive marketing for NCC Media in New York.
“We are creating something rather unique,” Weisman said. “It’s not just bolting a traditional ad agency onto an entertainment company—it’s these two entities coming together to form something completely different, which is this media-agnostic communications organization that can create social currency for clients beyond giving them sales, which is obviously the lifeblood of any business.”
Smith was previously executive vice president and executive creative director at BBDO and group creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day. He is credited with groundbreaking ads and sponsored entertainment for brands such as Nike Inc. and Gatorade Inc.
Smith brings an A list of contacts and broad creative experience to Amusement Park. DGWB will provide the infrastructure for the new entity, including office space in Santa Ana, strategic planning, media buying, public relations and account management. The agency, founded in 1988, will remain independent, as will Smith’s Amusement Park Entertainment, which is partially backed by New York-based The Interpublic Group of Cos.
Smith’s venture retains an equity stake in branded entertainment properties it creates for its clients, such as Oreo Skies, an app he created for the Nokia Lumia phone and Nabisco’s Oreo product line. A similar revenue model will be implemented at Amusement Park, Weisman said.
“We’re out to redefine full-service,” said Smith who will be chairman and chief creative officer of Amusement Park, with Gothold serving as executive creative director and Weisman in the chief executive’s role.
Collins, who has taken on the role of the president, was the catalyst who introduced the idea of the two companies coming together, Weisman said.
“The more time we spent together, the more sense this thing made. We felt a strong sense of alignment with each other,” he said. “Jimmy has already had a positive effect on the energy certainly for the creative people here, because he has such an amazing pedigree on a national level with Chiat and some of the other great agencies.
“And he’s responsible for some of the most iconic advertising in the last 15 to 20 years. So to have him jump on board with us is a certainly a major vote of confidence in terms of where the agency stands right now and the value that he sees in that, and conversely we couldn’t be more happy to have somebody with his national presence attaching himself to what we are doing together. It has been a great marriage thus far—we are in our honeymoon stage.”
The deal provides an “enormous opportunity” for DGWB employees to further their careers and work on bigger national accounts. Amusement Park now has 90 employees, about 15 of whom came from Smith’s shop and the rest from DGWB. They will work from both offices—the former City Hall building in Santa Ana that DGWB owns, and Amusement Park Entertainment’s location in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.
The new firm has already been invited to participate in several pitches, including content development and branding assignments. Weisman declined to offer details.
“We are working on a very large piece of ... branded content that has a global (company) attached to it as a sponsor,” Weisman said.
He said Amusement Park is looking at “pretty dramatic growth” in personnel over the next six months to a year, enough to “fill up” the former City Hall. The building can hold another 50 or 60 staffers, he said, adding, “I’m confident we’ll be there.”
Current DGWB clients include Hilton Garden Inn, Toshiba, Dole, the California Avocado Commission, Chicken of the Sea, Yogurtland and Wienerschnitzel, among others.
They’ve been supportive of the change, Weisman said.