In the 14 years Nichole Baccala has worked in advertising, little has changed in the questions that arise with each new client or campaign.
"It really is figuring out who you're talking to, who you need to talk to and where they are spending their time — and delivering your message in the medium that they value," said Baccala, co-president along with Howe Burch of the Baltimore advertising firm TBC.
Finding answers has become easier in some ways, more complicated in others. The digital age offers a wealth of information on consumer behavior, but it also created an explosion of ways to reach audiences. Long gone are days when messages were spread mainly on TV and radio, in print and on billboards.
"It's never been more important to say the right thing at the right time in the right place," Baccala said. "Every second there's a new technology that's being developed, and a problem solved for people that often becomes an opportunity for a brand to connect with the target audience."
The 90-person agency, started in 1974 by Allan Charles and Tom Burden, is wrapping up a record year of new business with clients such McCormick & Co., Monumental Sports Network, ZIPS Dry Cleaners and Eggspectation restaurants, representing annual billings growth of more than $15 million. Baccala sees that milestone as evidence the agency has evolved as clients increasingly look for one place to go for help developing a strategy and message as well as delivering it.
"Clients are looking for agencies to be more than just advertising experts," she said. "They want them to be real partners in their business."
The Baltimore native never intended to go into advertising. While working at a health care think tank in Washington after college, she discovered marketing.
She was hired at TBC in 2002 and within months was plunged into work with a major client, Dow Jones & Co. and its Wall Street Journal. The agency helped increase the number of online readers from 40,000 to 1.5 million when paying for an online subscription was an unproven strategy. TBC's campaign highlighted stories most people didn't associate with the newspaper, such as lifestyle, travel and real estate news.
Baccala has served as a TBC account executive, account director, vice president and director of digital marketing and senior vice president. She has been president for two years. Clients over the years have included MinuteClinic, Smart Balance spreads and Haribo, launching the gummy candy maker's first U.S. branding campaign and helping boost sales by 30 percent.
Baccala currently oversees rebranding work for Sears Canada. The retailer, separate from Sears in the United States, is trying to turn itself around and expand. A TBC campaign uses the tagline "WTS?," which stands for What The Sears?
"The point of the campaign is to call out the shock Canadians will have when they see Sears is selling the stuff they want at prices they want to pay," she said.
McCormick is among the new business won this year. TBC, based in Fells Point, will handle some corporate branding and social media, an area the spice company has emphasized as a way to connect with millennials who cook from scratch and share food information on social media. That reflects the way today's consumer interacts with brands, Baccala said.
"Consumers … want to hear from brands, but they want to hear from them in the way they want to hear from them," she said.
Title: President, TBC Inc.
Previous job: Senior vice president, TBC
Education: B.A. in political science, Dickinson College
Family: Husband, Bill Ward; daughter, Taylor, 6
Hobbies/interests: Travel. Whether it is a local restaurant opening or discovering a new place, Nichole believes that food, as well as fashion, architecture, and language can tell a story about a city and its people.