MERRILLVILLE | From typesetting to technology, the marketing and communications industry has seen many evolutions since Via Marketing launched in 1987.
“I like to point out that when we started we had to go for a loan to pay for a typesetting machine. Does anyone even know what I am talking about?” aksed Via Marketing President Julie Olthoff. “That shows you right there how it has changed. There have been changes all the time in the industry. The truth is that in any industry, you have to stay current and keep moving.”
Today, Via Marketing’s services include brand identity, public relations, digital, sales support, research and planning, signage and traditional marketing services.
“We evolved from a traditional ad agency to marketing and communications. The creative ideas have not changed -- businesses still come to us to help them stand out from the competition,” Olthoff said. “We have always been a full-service firm -- it’s just that the services have increased over the last 25 years.”
Olthoff said the agency is celebrating its anniversary with a new look that extends from the Web to the walls.
“We are undergoing a facelift. We painted the office and got a new floor. We are introducing a brand new logo that will be unveiled at a Nov. 8 business after-hours Chamber event,” she said. “We are introducing a state-of-the-art website in the future with Paralex scrolling.
“We thought (the anniversary) would be just a couple weeks’ distraction, but it has turned into a cleaning. You can imagine how much paper has accumulated over 25 years. We don’t work like that anymore. We are throwing out a lot of stuff, and it has revived us from the past recession.”
Via Marketing has its beginnings in Olthoff’s art background. She met former business partner Ann Peters at her first job out of college.
“It’s difficult to make a living as a fine artist so with my graphic artist background, I started at an agency in the area, Adcom. I was there nine years and ended up being the art director in charge of staff,” Olthoff said. “I never thought: when I grow up, I will have an ad agency.”
Peters moved on after four years, leaving Olthoff as the sole owner. Over the years, the company has expanded and developed including the addition of Carle Communications and Studio1.
Olthoff has found success in gravitating toward a niche client and riding out economic challenges.
“We work with businesses that are too small to have their own marketing department but not too small that they don’t have a marketing budget,” she said.
“It’s no surprise that our biggest challenge was five years ago with the economy. We had to take a smart look at expenses and sharpen our efficiencies. Now, for the last year and a half, businesses are more confident than they used to be.”
She said clients continue to seek help with their websites as well as planning.
“Clients say: ‘I have this much (money), what do I do?’ There is so much to choose from these days it is really difficult for business owners to hone in on what is the most important one.”
Olthoff credits her personal and professional teams as she looks toward the future.
“It really is a team effort. It’s more than just this team -- it’s my own support team as well, including my husband. My parents instilled in me a good work ethic,” she said. “We really do work hard at offering all of our services and doing them well. We all bring something different to the table. Our clients benefit from that hugely.
“I think we are in a good place to handle what the future is going to hold and, hopefully, that is growth. We have a positive outlook and the energy that goes with it.”