UPDATED — One of the state’s oldest — and at one time largest — advertising agencies has closed.
It was a quiet end for Associated Integrated Marketing via a recorded phone message at its Old Town office.
“We’re sorry,” says an unidentified male voice. “As of 5 p.m. Aug. 6, 2018, Associated Integrated Marketing has ceased operation and is now closed. If you’re calling about an outstanding invoice, a representative will be contacting you within the next 30 days with more information. Thank you.”
In a Wednesday morning e-mail, vice president and executive creative director Dave Stewart confirmed that the agency “has closed its doors permanently. “
“The agency has faced ongoing financial hardships after the loss of several major clients over the past four years, and has determined that continuing operation at this time is not possible,” Stewart wrote.
He said the agency’s assets are to be liquidated.
“A small group of employees have remained on a contract basis to help distribute client files, migrate client websites and ensure that its client assets are preserved intact. Letters to the agency’s ESOP shareholders will be mailed shortly to inform them of the closing and outline next steps.”
It looks like the employee stock ownership plan became something of an issue for the agency through the years as it struggled with accounts and had to continue to make payments to former employees.
Clyde “Sully” Sullivan started the agency in 1942 as Associated Advertising, and it incorporated in 1946.
That’s the same year recent college graduate Pres Huston was hired as a “general office boy” for $50 a month, according to his daughter, Kathy Wiebe.
Huston became the face of the agency as he led it from its headquarters at 4601 E. Douglas in a Colonial building that looked more like a large estate than an office. Clients included firms such as the Coleman Co., the Grasshopper Co., Chance Industries and Intrust Bank.
Huston started the ESOP in 1975.
“That was actually out of the generousness of my dad,” says Wiebe, who also worked at the agency for a time.
“He wanted the employees to feel a sense of ownership and loyalty.”
Huston retired from Associated in 2003 at the age of 78 and died in 2007.
In the last decade and a half, the agency has gone through a number of leadership changes and a couple of address changes, too.
The agency moved to 330 N. Mead where The Wichita Eagle is today. Prior to The Eagle’s move in 2017, the agency had downsized to much-smaller space just east of Old Chicago along Second Street in Old Town Square.
For a time, the agency won new business with companies such as Cargill, Cox Communications and Via Christi Health, but it then lost clients and employees, too.
Wiebe says her father would have been saddened and upset at Associated’s closure.
“It was truly his legacy,” she says.
“If he were still alive, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Wiebe says. “He would probably have worked with them to figure out what to do because they had seen hard times before, and they came through them.”
In his e-mail, Stewart said he doesn’t want to comment beyond his e-mailed statement until everything is settled at the agency.
“The decision to close was a difficult one for all involved, and employees ask that the press and other interested parties respect their privacy as they wind down operations.”