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Ad agency Carton Donofrio to close

Baltimore ad agency Carton Donofrio Partners is closing after nearly 50 years, blaming industry changes and family matters affecting the majority owner.

Founded in 1964 as Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, the firm's clients over the years included a number of the region's blue-chip names, such as T. Rowe Price and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The company said it would "honor all obligations" to clients and vendors, and would close after a weeks-long transition so projects can be moved to other firms and its 24 employees can find new jobs.

CEO Ellen R. Moore said the Donofrio family — the majority owner — decided to close the firm in part because the industry's shift to specialization ran counter to its preference to do a range of marketing work rather than just one type. She said the family is also caring for Chuck Donofrio, who stepped down as CEO in 2010 after he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

"The combination of those things is really what caused them to make the decision to focus on their family right now," Moore said. "Chuck, this morning, he was present with the employees, and he said, 'Sometimes you've just got to know when it's time to move on.'"

The agency has about a dozen clients, Moore said. Among them is the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Hank Boyd, associate chairman of the school's marketing department, said the "tumultuous" ad industry is morphing as the ways to reach people change. Some companies still want a newspaper ad or a television commercial, he said, but many now look to social media.

Moore said the firm enjoyed working on digital-media projects — it was an early Internet adopter — but was perhaps best known for a billboard ad. "VIRGIN: Teach your kid it's not a dirty word" launched in the 1980s and can be found in the region still, she said.

The company created that message for Campaign For Our Children, an organization started by Carton Donofrio founder Hal Donofrio.

"We think that it's the longest-running billboard in ad history, unchanged," Moore said. "The contender would be the Marlboro Man."

jhopkins@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jsmithhopkins

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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