Mark Shanks was pursuing an architecture degree at Ball State University when he heard a voice saying, “Build it and they will come.” It wasn’t the first time Mark had heard voices, but that’s a story for another Web site. And it wasn’t until many, many, many years later that he realized that what he would build was an advertising agency.
During those many years, Mark served several gigs as head honcho, executive creative director for major agencies in Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne, and a ten-year stint operating a design firm in Florida. And then, in 2002, the prodigal designer came home to brand a local mayoral candidate—er, brand his campaign, that is. The victory of his candidate and client was all Mark needed to launch his new business. Well, that and a portfolio of high interest small business loans. (To see who came, click on “clients” in the handy drop down menu).
His dream was to help retail, business-to-business, not-for-profits and other companies lift their message above the noise of the marketplace—and become filthy rich in the process. (Except, of course, for the not-for-profits.) To accomplish this, says Mark, CFD (that’s agency code that only Mark and his minions can use) has to get close to the client and the clients’ customers. It goes without saying (a rule our copywriters frequently break) that Mark and staff will use the client’s products or services, tour company facilities, observe product manufacturing and study customer demographics, psychographics and geographics before developing any branding graphics.
“This way, we can develop a meaningful message that begins to build that all-important brand identity in their marketplace,” says Mark, who some people describe as amiable, congenial and personable. Some people. “We like to think of our client relationship as a partnership. Their success is our success.” (That means your Addy award will look great in our lobby.)
In other words, Mark likes to build more than a business relationship. “Honestly, most of our clients turn out to be wonderful friends as well,” he says, noting that his favorite clients are the ones that take him to lunch and tell him he’s a genius over peanut butter pie and a mocha frappuccino.
During his nearly 25 years in the field of marketing communications, Mark has contributed to the success of international accounts such as The Marriott, Zimmer, Domino’s Pizza, Nautique's Boats and eBay.
Mark knows the importance of effective advertising in today’s global village. He’s criss-crossed Europe, visiting Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, London, parts of Switzerland and almost all of Gas City. Although he enjoys trotting the globe, Mark continues to drop his roots deep into central Indiana and his hometown of Marion. He serves as president of the Marion Urban Enterprise Association and is a board member of Grant County CASA, Inc. He is a current board member and past chair for the United Way of Grant County, Inc., and past president of the Chamber's Sales & Marketing Association, Mark is a Walkway of Lights board member and on the Tucker School Advisory Committee. He was once an active member of the Book of the Month Club.
For all his success in advertising, Mark is just as proud of his two parenting “projects”—teenagers Zach and Briana. “Zach and Briana are my world,” says Mark, who is totally serious this time.
And when it’s time for a wound up Mark to unwind, Clint Eastwood movies “make his day,” as do classic comedy acts such as Red Skelton and Bill Cosby. One of Mark’s newfound loves is pocket billiards, known to the less knowledgeable as “pool.” He thinks pocket billiards is like advertising because you have to “stay one carom ahead of the competition.” He really said that. Mark is also a fan of motorsports and the Indianapolis Colts. “Former coach Tony Dungy is the quintessential American hero,” he says. Mark loves the game of golf and his last name describes his favorite shot.
Lucky for his clients, the voice he heard back in college also told him to change his major and pursue a career in advertising. Now, he builds fires to brand with.