by Debra Malinics
After 40 years in business, the time had come to consider selling my award-winning agency, my baby, my life dream. Debra Malinics Advertising (DMA) is located in Center City. Yes, 40 years is a long time in any business, but in marketing and communications, it has been a lifetime.
Two employees were interested in buying — Laura Jacoby, my senior creative director, and Sal Trovato, my senior designer. The two had handled firm clients for many years, ensuring a smooth business transition with creativity and client relationships continuing as usual, so a deal was struck with me being involved in the new firm as Director of Business Development. The new name, 701 Creative, represents the location where it all began, and the new business will remain at that site.
When I began the business 40 years ago, I didn’t know how long it would survive; 40 years is an eternity in any business, and to survive as a small business in a very competitive, constantly changing business environment for four decades is quite remarkable. When I began, the advertising environment was very different; there were no computers and no internet!
We were one of the first agencies in Philadelphia to begin integrating digital features into our work. It was a time of transitions, and what was then familiar became quickly outdated and/or eliminated. There were new ways of creating, new ways of thinking and new ways of implementing what you created. When the computer first gained footing in the creative world, clients believed the computer, rather than the individual, did all the work. Clients would say, “I guess you won’t charge a creative fee because the computer does all the work!!!”
As the digital emphasis expanded, firms like typesetters and linotype houses went out of business, literally overnight. These were firms where copy was set according to agency specifications for font, size and style to later be placed in a mechanical, which printers used to make films used to print the project. Paragraphs of copy were created with molten lead that, when cooled, would be printed onto sheets of paper and sent to the agency to fit into the mechanical.
Many applauded the arrival of the computer, which they hoped would eliminate these tedious, time-consuming tasks and their accompanying headaches. The computer brought with it a different type of headache, however, more like a migraine. Yes, computers were cleaner, easier, safer and faster, but compatibility was a major issue.
Designers lived in Mac World, and the rest of the world lived with PCs, and the two had compatibility issues with different operating systems and program approaches. It was hard getting Macs and PCs to like each other. There were upgrades, new expenses, a learning curve and program compatibility issues. Files froze, got corrupted, systems failed, and headaches thrived.
In spite of the changes, new techniques and learning curves, design and marketing has always been an exciting business. I still love what I do, even after 40 years. Many clients have been with the firm for decades, and strong friendships have formed. I have had the opportunity to work with companies around the world and be involved in some of the most recognized campaigns and projects in the region.
Over its 40 years, DMA achieved a multitude of accolades; the firm was named “One of the Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses in Pennsylvania,” and DMA received the Mass Mutual, Outstanding Achievement Award. I was recognized with a Brava! Award for business leadership and named a “Woman of Distinction,” a “Woman of Achievement” and “Advertising Woman of the Year,” among others. All made me so very proud.
With a reduced work schedule, I hope to travel often and see more of the world, as well as give back to the community. As an avid equestrian, I’ve traveled throughout Europe on horseback — crossing the Pyrenees and exploring France, Italy, Ireland and Iceland from the back of a horse. I would like to speak five languages and am now working on my third — Italian — and hope to spend a semester in Italy next year.
There is mentoring with the Forum of Executive Women and lecturing and writing. I am a volunteer and advisor with the Community Partnership School in North Philadelphia.
My dog, Carmen, is a certified therapy dog, and together we go to student wellness events at local colleges and universities. The first 40 years of my life were filled with deep love, wonderful friends, professional recognitions and much success, and there is every reason to believe the second 40 will be just as wonderful. And that’s a nice thing to believe at any time in your life.
Ed. note: Debra Malinics is a long-time resident of Chestnut Hill.