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When you think of awards, the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes probably come to mind, but you probably might not think about advertising agency awards. But for a business like ours, we have been asked to submit and participate, to be in the running for these industry awards, time and time again. Let’s examine what these awards are and if they really mean anything to clients.

We’ll start off with the fact that “awards” in our industry, as with most, are big business. Awards are given out by media marketing platforms like The Drum and Digiday, as well as through industry associations like, The Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals with their ‘MarComm Awards’ and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences with their ‘Webby Awards’ just to name a few.

There are awards for:

  • Digital Media
  • Print Media
  • Creative Design
  • Strategic Communications
  • Content Marketing
  • Audio / Video
  • Industry Leaders
  • Technology
  • Strategy
  • Distribution
  • Editorial
  • And more!

For a media planning and buying agency, like ours there are awards for:

  • Best Media Plan
  • Best Use of Emergent Media
  • Most Diverse Spending
  • Best Brand Integration into Gaming/Sports
  • Best Brand Integration into Traditional Media
  • And more!

With more than eight thousand businesses in the advertising industry (Statista 2019), it’s easy to see why this became big business and how there would be so many opportunities to “win”. But how do any of these companies get nominated. Who gets to choose where the entries come from? In many cases, it’s the businesses themselves vying for a chance to get recognized by the companies promoting the awards. And many of these opportunities come at a very high cost.

According to an interview with an ‘agency CEO’ done by Forbes, the CEO had to “defend his decision to spend $250,000 on entry fees”, because “winning awards is how he benchmarks his agency.” That doesn’t seem right. In that same article, the writer noted that the actual “usefulness as any type of industry benchmarking regarding who is doing outstanding work is predicated on the quality and robustness of the judging process.” So, the question is, who are they to judge? Could the winners based on the amount of investment spent to win awards and agencies willing to spend it? That may be why the larger, popular, and wealthier agencies are the ones “highlighting” all their winning awards.

It isn’t that winning an award for something should be overlooked. Our agency won an award for our Out of Home Strategy for “Best Alcohol Advertising and Promotions”. Yes, believe it or not, there are awards that get that specific.

And of course, as a media agency, we were very proud to win, but we didn’t nominate ourselves and we don’t hang our hat on those kinds of things. It means more to us when our own clients tell us they appreciate what we do for them. Getting them the best media placements and unique opportunities, while saving them money. No award necessary.

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Regional Buying on a Budget

Your agency better be prepared to keep a watchful eye! It’s easier to blanket areas than it is to break them apart. There are many ways to carve out and divvy up your media spend. Maybe you want to focus your spend on your top performing markets? Maybe you want to focus your spend on the least performing markets? Maybe you are opening new location(s) and you want to spend a portion of your dollars in those areas? Is your agency prepared to execute this type of buying? Is your agency prepared to watch over that campaign and treat your money like it’s their own? Will your agency watch over the buy to make sure that those portions stay in those areas? This takes an enormous amount of planning, reporting and time. If left unattended, your money could end up in areas you did not want to focus on and possibly in another time zone. And yes, that happens more often than you may think.  

Here are a few items to task your agency to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Negotiate with your Vendor

Your company’s media budget seems to be cut from last year, and of course everyone wants more of everything than the last campaign. How are you going to get that done with less money? Does your agency negotiate with their vendors? Or do they just buy close to rate card and commit? This should be your first question to your agency. Let’s be honest, the easiest thing for the agency would be not to negotiate on rate. They bill off your total spend!

Check Impression Delivery and Pacing for your Digital Campaigns

Is your agency checking that the impressions placed are delivered in the scheduled territories? Or are they just checking to see if the number of impressions were delivered so they can bill you for them. This is the top area where you can get some added value for sure.

On a recent campaign we requested delivery by zip code and found that roughly 20% of their spend delivered into unapproved zip codes. That is not good news for anyone, but it periodically happens.  Those of us in the reconciliation department know this means “Free Ads”. That incorrectly placed 20% will be coming back to the client and back into the approved areas. That 20% is voided from the invoice becomes added value impression.

We require weekly reports that shows us delivery by the hour. Pacing is extremely important for all our campaigns. Are your impressions being delivered while people are awake? Are the relevant times to sales cycles or just wasteful placements?

Out of Home Billboards

You might think, what is there to watch? The billboard goes up, then it comes down. That would be terribly naive. There are many things that you should be watching for. Typically, there is an acceptable window “posting period” that as the agency along with the vendor agree upon. Meaning, they typically have a few days from the proposed start date to post the board. Expecting them to post possibly hundreds of boards on a Monday because that is when it supposed to start is not possible. Over a few days, yes. If we come across, that every board posted 5 days late and you have 50 boards, that is 250 days of lost advertising time. Which equates to nearly 9 months of lost exposure! This is unacceptable and we either get that lost time reinserted on the back end or take credits.

Multiple Creatives Pieces

Frequently in out of home and digital there could be multiple creative pieces that are running at the same time, and you scheduled equal rotation for each. When the digital play report comes in you find that one of the creatives ran 80% and the other 2 ran at an equal 10%. Again, not something the client or us want to hear. On the other hand, for those of us in the accounting department, we know this means “Free Ads” or “Added Value” to our client. That mistake is removed from the invoice, and you get those additional ads for no cost and the contract is reloaded until fulfilled.

At A3 Media, we do everything possible to always ensure that there are no mistakes made on all our campaigns. It’s this detail that you want to make sure you’re getting from your agency. Are they watching these things? Honestly, it would be easier and less time for the agency not to get so granular, but then the client is really the only one who loses!

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U.S. Ad Spending: According to Magna Global, the U.S. ad market will rebound in 2021 with ad dollars growing year-over-year by an estimated 25%, totaling $284.3 billion.

What is Data-Driven Advertising?

Data-driven advertising helps brands understand the customer journey and provides insights that allow for a “personalized” experience. It helps brands reach the right audience on the channels they use.

Data-driven advertising isn’t new, but it is increasingly the deciding factor in advertising planning as well as the measurement of a successful campaign.

Does data provide valuable insight into a potential consumer? Sure.

Does data allow an advertiser to follow the consumer across multiple touchpoints, across multiple devices, bordering on creepy? It does.

Does data driven advertising have a place in the strategy of your media campaign? It absolutely does. Should it be the only factor in your media strategy and determining a campaigns success? Not a chance.

One facet of the work we do at A3 Media is constantly vetting new companies. Is every company we vet a perfect fit for our client’s needs? No! However, we have found and established invaluable relationships and implemented many new and unique tools through the process. This process helps enable us to be more versatile and better informed, which, in turn, allows us to provide better service to clients.

Enter Converged TV – the blending of linear, connected and addressable TV.

Converged TV measurement is a blended measurement of the effectiveness of linear and digital TV.

Linear TV

Linear TV has been measured historically by rating points, the percentage of viewers of the total possible audience. More recently there has been a shift to view linear TV by impressions (putting it on a more equal scale to digital properties). Linear TV, ratings or impressions, at best represent an estimate of the audience.  If this isn’t murky enough add to the equation, the leading source of TV ratings is also establishing the statistics for TV households as well as the potential audience size.

Reviewing the intricacies of linear TV measurement could lead to an ongoing series, the topic at hand is converged TV measurement. To make a long story short, an analysis of predictive modeling based on estimated ratings, or impressions, for linear TV should be viewed as marginally accurate. If this isn’t convoluted enough, add the manual steps and time delay necessary to secure the final modeling. These additional steps can require enormous man-hours and can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to complete.

Does this “data” allow for optimization of your linear TV schedule with all these obstacles? Next, add the associated costs for this service – six figures a year.

Connected and Addressable TV

Connected and addressable delivery and engagement truly is much more measurable using household and device data, delivery and conversion measurement capabilities. This, almost, real-time analysis does lend itself to campaign optimization. The fees for this type of data are typically calculated as a percentage of the media cost.

The final blended summation is still at the heart of the issue.

  • Is it data? Yes.
  • Does it contain a substantial amount of inference? Absolutely!
  • Is this the type of data you want to hang your hat on to dictate your media plans? Uhm…..no.
  • Is this a sound foundation to determine the course and success of your media campaign? Not completely.

There may never be an end to the search for more and better data but until something better comes along, this is it. So, in the rush for data always ask for a clear explanation of the source, calculations and accuracy of the information presented – all data is not created equal!

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Did you ever wonder, if Times New Roman is the standard font that everyone uses, what on earth are all these other fonts for? Imagine what a bland world it would be with just one standard font. Take the Netflix logo for example. If it was just in Times New Roman typeface in black, it wouldn’t be memorable, would it? That’s where Typography comes in! Typography is important in everyday life. Without it we wouldn’t be able to communicate messages effectively!

So, what is Typography? “Typography is the strategic arrangement of type in order to make written language readable and visually appealing.” Some may think typeface and font are the same thing but they’re not. Typeface consists of a family of fonts that express different styles for that typeface. Some styles are bold, italic, regular, etc. Using features like Contrast, Hierarchy, Color, Alignment, and Consistency, we see elements of typeface design. With Contrast, a designer will change or work with various typeface styles and color to make the design stand out.

With Hierarchy, Graphic Designers arrange typefaces and use font sizes to create dynamic designs that grab the viewer’s attention. Color helps establish the tone of the message and helps it pop. Alignment helps make sure there is the same amount of space between fonts and images to create a neat design. Consistency between your typefaces ensures a clean and messy-free design and helps create a visual pattern for viewers.

In Typography we use typefaces to convey different ideas, feelings and emotions. For example, the Serif family of typefaces conveys respectability and reliability, the Sans Serif family conveys stability and clarity, the Script family conveys elegance and creativity, the Modern family conveys strength, and the Display family conveys friendliness and expressiveness. Picking your typeface is an important part of the design in creating your message.

Typography is important for Media and Marketing whose primary function is to communicate, advertise and sell to consumers. It helps to build brand recognition, show personality, deliver an effective message, and make an impact. Helping to build brand recognition is a vital component of Typography. Using the appropriate typeface helps to convey a mood or tone for that brand that is memorable and conveys what the brand is about. As a consumer you are attracted to a brand without realizing what got your attention. Consistent use of a typeface in logo design helps to reinforce brand identity. “The Coca-Cola typeface script for example is instantly recognizable because they have been so consistent in applying it for so many years.” If you consider the Disney logo, it’s memorable because it’s playful and friendly. They want to appeal to young children and adults alike. That’s the power of Typography!  

There is more to typography than just choosing a font. Typography teaches us how to arrange type in order to make written language readable and appealing. With all the tools available to us today, we have the ability to create messages that create an emotional connection to the consumer to make the consumer interested. Typography is essential to Media and Marketing because it helps build a brand. Without Typography building brand recognition with a clear, concise message would be very challenging.

Written by:
Shavonne Stellato
Development & Graphics Team Member

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Employees heading up and down stairs showing replacement

Today in an age of large masses of people coming and going from job to job or retiring, it’s hard on those of us who remain in place just trying to do our jobs.

There has been a lot of turnover lately, people leaving jobs, moving to other positions, many companies are understaffed and the staff they do have in many cases are pulling double duty. This is happening in most every sector. The overall turnover rate for 2021 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 57%. Their used to be a time that job hopping was NOT something you wanted on your resume or something you ever wanted to see reviewing an applicant. Times sure have changed!

Fortunately, we are not one of those companies experiencing these problems of in and out. However, we are feeling the effects of this new norm. We work very closely with our outside vendors (some now for decades) and over the last 6 months, it seems we are getting notified weekly of an Account Executive change. 

This constant changing of the guard affects us in many ways, everything from getting reports to receiving our invoices in a timely manner. We have deadlines and are responsible for gathering and submitting campaign data back to our clients. On top of these obvious items there are numerous details about how we do business, intricacies on each one of our buys. Through time, we have developed a nice working relationship with our Account Executives, and they know our procedures and the level of detail we require prior to clearing invoices. We have a signed written agreement with all AE’s that is called “The Procedure letter” that has in detail how we work and what will be required prior to payment. I had previously discussed this letter in detail, so, we’ll stick to the topic.

When a change occurs, there is obviously a learning curve. These new employees need to learn their new roll, get acquainted with everyone as well as the clients they just inherited. They might need to take some training courses and learn their companies’ procedures. All of this could take weeks and, in some cases, months. It takes time to build the right team, even when we all don’t work for the same companies. In many cases, the person coming in and taking over our account is not really focused on our buy and more likely trying to get acclimated.

Shouldn’t we have in place a better system when an important cog is missing? I only think we have two choices; we develop a new position called the “understudy” to help keep up with the everyday details or we all start to cross train people. Here at A3 Media this is always on our mind as we continue to grow and service our current clients. We always need to have a backup for every job mainly due to our workloads change almost daily. We have systems in place and communicate internally about every detail on our buys with all members of our team to ensure that if someone is busy working on another project, someone can step in and take care of our most important asset, our clients.

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In April 2021 Apple came out with an update that introduced ATT or App Tracking Transparency. The purpose of which was to return some control back to iPhone users, and give people a choice, to allow or not allow apps to track your activity across other companies’ websites. Apple’s company line is that they are doing this to improve privacy of the iPhone users and give them greater control over what apps were using to market products or services to them.

Built into the Apple operating system was a tracker called IDFA, (Identifier for Advertisers) which tracks your activity between applications. As more companies accessed that data, it became concerning to many about the access the apps had to this personal data.

As consumers became tired of seeing pop up Privacy Agreements at the bottom of the screens, forcing them to accept that the app used cookies to optimize your experience, Apple felt it should be at least a choice for the user and not a decision dictated to them. The ATT was initiated and delivered a choice to either let the App Track user’s activity or ask it not to track their activity. They even went as far as allowing users to go into the privacy settings and opt-out of tracking. This was good news for users, but bad news for advertisers trying to target their ads.

One example of the impact of this change was demonstrated when one store had been spending $27 in advertising on Facebook for every new customer they acquired. Since the elimination of activity tracking, they will be forced to spend $270 for every new customer added. What provides protections for consumers, drives the costs up for businesses to properly reach and add the same types of consumers, they reach before the change.

Apples new approach of ATT is important, when one considers the end to third party cookies in Chrome starts in January 2022. These actions on top of the governmental privacy regulations such as GDPR & CCPA, and as of November 2021 layered with Facebooks changes in ad targeting, will make for a more challenging ask of advertisers and agencies attempting to reach the correct potential consumers.

As part of the rebrand of Facebook with “Metathe company is removing targeting options like health, race, ethnicity, political affiliations, religious or sexual orientation beginning January 19th, 2022. It will take effect on all three platforms they control, Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. In 2018, it removed 5,000 ad-targeting classifications to keep advertisers from excluding certain users. This effort to prevent discrimination, prevent ad targeting abuse and attempt to improve privacy has substantially restricted legitimate ad targeting methods. While the reasons behind the changes may be admirable, this leaves Digital and Mobile advertisers scrambling to find new ways to segment their ad delivery and provide the right ads for the right products and services reaching the right people.

So How Will Advertisers and Agencies Find the Right Path to Potential Consumers?

Apple’s introduction of ATT will make ads substantially less relevant for consumers, except ads delivered through Apple’s own personalized ad system. Apple Search Ads has displaced Facebook as the best ad network for mobile marketers on iPhone and iPad. Apple is introducing a measurement solution called SKAdNetwork (SKAN), which makes performance data available at the campaign level. SKAN is considered “differential privacy” which is the approach of using statistical methods for marketing measurement which make it impossible to infer and individual user’s behavior.

What can Advertisers and Agencies Do to Persevere Through These Challenges?
  • Deepen your understanding of your audience. Products that suffer most due to these identifier-based targeting methods are those with niche products. By building a broader appeal for your product or service, the more people that will be receptive to it and less targeted you must be in your ad segmentation.
  • Get more creative. The focus to develop new, engaging, and attractive ads can help minimize efficiency loss due to removal of the identifiers. As your ads reach the most important members of your audience, your products will break through the generic and non-descript advertising from competitors.
  • Increase Opt-In retargeting. Not all digital ads reach the right potential consumers, but by utilizing the reduced targeting categories of FB, Instagram or Messenger for your initial digital ad campaigns, while increasing the frequency of retargeting to those that have engaged or opted in with emails, you have limited your ad waste, and increased your chances of success since retargeting can lift ad engagement rates up to 400%. The average click-through rate (CTR) for display ads is 0.07%, while the average CTR for retargeted ads is about 0.7%. Those that engage with your re-targeted ads have a far greater likelihood of becoming future customers.

It’s imperative that every agency and company who uses digital ads understands the changes coming and the ways to succeed despite the changes.

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Steps on a wall with the words "Follow These Easy Steps"

If I had a nickel every time, I have heard that…

Let me explain. After every buy placed here at A3 Media, our traffic and reconciliation department sends out a brief (one sheeter) “Procedure Letter” to each vendor. This procedure letter details the items we will need from the vendor to help us review and then ultimately approve invoices for payment in a timely manner. Receiving this information is important for us, but it’s also important to the vendor as they all want to get paid.

The most important item on this procedure letter is where and how invoices are to be submitted. In addition, each advertising medium has unique requirements specific to the medium. For example: for out of home, we require proof of posting, for TV/Cable we require programming information, radio we need to see dayparts, etc. We remind the vendor, if there is Added Value on our campaign and it does not run, we will take credits. The point here is that all these requirements are listed and then sent to our vendors for signature prior to the start of all our campaigns. I will also add that our team schedule’s introduction calls with all our new vendors to introduce ourselves and go over these details that are listed on this “Procedure Letter.”

It’s now 6 weeks after this correspondence and the start of the campaign (solely with new vendors) when things can go a little sideways. At this point we have received our first invoice and now our team is looking for the information we had requested in our “Procedure Letter” to reconcile the invoice. We need to make sure that what was contracted, was in fact delivered. We need that information to approve invoices for payment as well as serve as supporting documentation to our clients that what they paid for was received. This might sound weird, but we prefer to pay promptly and not necessarily sit on invoices until the last minute. If we have the information that we need to approve payment, then it gets moved to final processing.

Often after we reach out to these new vendors, we get a response of “What Procedure Letter.” This usually sets off a few emails back and forth of some funny responses like “I didn’t sign any Procedure Letter” or my personal favorite is “O yeah, I remember that, but I didn’t read it.” It’s the ones that don’t read the letter, sign it, and send back that we have growing pains with. This letter is to help them as much as it’s helps us and our client. We have had several cases when a vendor would sign the procedure letter and agree to the terms just to get the buy.

We here at A3 Media have had the privilege of collaborating with some incredible people and vendors through the years. We are always adjusting our procedures to ensure that there are no surprises for both parties. We value our partnerships and want to work together to ensure smooth sailing ahead.

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Anyone who has spent time scrolling through a social media platform is familiar with the image below of “Side-Eyeing Chloe” Clem. Her “unimpressed” image went viral and was meme fodder for everything from celebrities to suspect political promises. Well Chloe and the Clem family will finally get the last laugh as they have sold the original image at auction to a Dubai-based 3F music production company for $75,000 thousand dollars! The image was offered as a NFT or “Non-Fungible Token”, which is a way of owning an original digital image.

What is a Non-Fungible Token?

NFTs are “one-of-a-kind” assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property, but which have no tangible form of their own. The digital tokens can be thought of as verified certificates of ownership for virtual or physical assets. Non-Fungible basically means “something unique, which can’t be replaced by something else that is the same” NFTs can really be anything digital (such as drawings, music, videos) but much of the excitement is surrounding the buying and selling of digital art.

What’s the point?

Why would someone want to buy or sell digital assets this way? Well, that depends on if you are, a buyer, a seller or a speculative investor. If a buyer, it’s a way you can support artists financially. It also brings you some usage rights, along with the bragging rights and a blockchain validation. Although, depending on the art and how its established, some NFTs will automatically pay out royalties to their creators when they’re sold. This is still a developing concept but it’s one of the most powerful. Original owners of EulerBeats Originals earn an 8% royalty every time the NFT is sold.

Why do NFTs matter?

Much like the speculative nature of fine art or even the value at any given time of cryptocurrency, it’s a way to invest or speculate what the value of a digital art piece or item is. Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from, say, an ETH coin.

The NFT tokens are used to represent ownership of unique items. They let us “tokenize” things like art, collectibles, even real estate. They can only have one official owner at a time, and they’re secured by the Ethereum blockchain

Once someone has purchased a NFT token, that token value can go up or down based upon the perceived value of that item or art. Unlike cryptocurrency, it cannot be split up or divided currently. Depending on the perceived value of the token, some platforms are splitting ownership into owners’ shares, to deal with higher values. This has not become commonplace yet but is on the rise.  

Advertising Value

This is where the Advertising value comes in. Businesses can buy and leverage these tokens as rewards for visiting sites or buying a company’s products. They can use them in contests as reinforcement of a brands name by providing the items within online or VR games.

Companies like State Farm want to ride the wave of incorporating buzzy NFT’s into their marketing strategies. Their virtual football treasure hunt allowed for virtual footballs to be redeemed for custom prizes like Autographed merchandise. Bacardi used NFT’s to hold an auction to raise money and grow awareness for aspiring musical artists with a custom NFT Mix tape. McDonald’s is giving away McRib NFTs to 10 lucky winners in a new Twitter sweepstakes that begins on Nov. 1.

NFTs have seen a lot of interest from game developers. NFTs can provide records of ownership for in-game items, fuel in-game economies, and bring a host of benefits to the players.

In each case the companies are trying to leverage this uniquely Millennial-centric platform to encourage, reward and strengthen their company’s ties with the community and demographics they each aspire to reach. This is done to engender loyalty and brand awareness for their products and services. 

Creative agencies should be looking for new ways to leverage NFTs for their clients, especially ones with a younger more cutting-edge demographic consumer.

Will it work? That remains to be seen. It’s certainly grabbing attention and exciting people that are fans of bitcoin and speculative art investments. Companies are constantly seeking new ways to leverage the latest technology and remain on the cutting edge of what is new and exciting to its potential targeted consumer bases.

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Businessmen Shaking Hands

Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be …my neighbor? For those reading this under the age of 40, that was a verse in the opening scene of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  Google it and watch the (:60) video after you read this blog about Partnerships.

A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. The partners in a partnership may be individuals, businesses, interest-based organizations, schools, governments, etc.

As an adult you are reading this and reflecting on partnerships you have with friends, spouses, co-workers, clients, associates, club members, etc.….

The beautiful thing about partnerships is we all began to learn about them when we were born. The first partnerships we had was with our mom / caregivers and ourselves. The relationship was created so we can both excel and have the satisfaction of being together. It then evolved into crawling on the floor with play dates or siblings and learning to share and partner so both parties can benefit from the relationship.

Let’s fast forward to those of us reading this today. You are reading this on a blog in a social media channel that you are a member of to form partnerships.

There are some key components that are essential for a good partnership. First there should be an understanding how each party can benefit from being partners, so they have the chance to make 1 + 1 = 3. 

Key components to partnerships are CCA – cooperation, collaboration, and alliance. In a partnership you are working together because two sides have something different to give with the goal that they will build something better than they could have done alone. 1+1=3 (Not 2). (If you are an in-house agency, you are just 1)

Why am I writing about Partnerships? I am a new employee of A3 Media. I am here for one reason; A3 Media was my client for 20 years while I was at Comcast. Over those 20 years, even though I was a seller, and they were a buyer, there was one goal, do what’s right for the client and we together as partners will grow the business for Comcast (1) + Agency (1) = Client (that’s 3).

Being a good partner is like being a good neighbor. Be kind, be respectful, be courteous, cooperate, collaborate, and align for a common cause.

Reach out to us we would love the chance to be your Neighbor and Partner.

Written by:
Harvey Shapiro
Director of Retail Relationships