Keys to success come from past experience
Roger Keys started his company, Marketing Keys after a 20 year career in radio sales. | Jackie Pilossoph~for Sun-Times Media
150 N. Michigan Ave. Ste. 2800
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:36AM
NORTHBROOK — In 20 years of selling radio advertising, Roger Keys estimates that he has worked with more than 600 businesses. That’s why his decision to start his own advertising agency six years ago was a no-brainer for him.
“I worked with ad agencies all those years and I learned a lot about how agencies negotiate media and how they get the best prices, and the strategies they use,” said Keys, who holds a BS in journalism from the University of Kansas, and who spent most of his career at WLS radio in Chicago, “I also had so much experience cold calling on direct businesses and developing new business, which is what an agency needs to do.”
Marketing Keys is a full-service advertising agency that targets small- to medium-size businesses whose budgets range from $75,000 to $2,000,000 per year. Keyes develops a personalized media strategy for each individual client that can involve radio, television, print, online, direct mail, outdoor advertising and other new media outlets, such as social media.
Keys, who started his business out of his Northbrook home in 2007, brought with him two clients he’d been working with for years at WLS, but said he still had to generate new business. So, he spent the first few months cold calling, setting up appointments and networking. Four months into his venture, he landed a national account, Sittercity.com, the first and largest parent babysitter matchmaking website.
“I’ve got a lot of market knowledge and so many great relationships that I’ve built over the years by being in the business,” he said, “In my first full year, I generated over seven figures for the company, which was surprising, but it also validated that I went in the right direction with this business.”
Unlike larger agencies that charge hourly fees and retainers, Marketing Keys doesn’t charge any direct fees to clients for media buys. Instead, the company makes money from the media companies who give a standard agency discount. There are some client fees associated with creative production, but Keys outsources the creative part of the business to individuals he’s had relationships with for years.
Harold Wimmer is the President and CEO of the American Lung Association and a client of Keys. He said his needs are twofold, one to let the public know the work of the Association, and two, to let people know why they should donate and support the organization.
“Roger knows the industry and has strong relationships in the advertising arena,” said Wimmer, “He helped us increase our quit line call volume from 10,000 calls per year to 50,000 calls per year.”
“We’ve asked Marketing Keys to negotiate media buying for us, and Roger brings things to the table for us, good advertising streams,” said Mike Gordon, president of the Glenview-based Chicago Wolves. “Roger spends the time to really understand our business and what we’re asking him to do.”
Keys, who lives in Northbrook with his wife and three daughters, has two employees who work with him. He opened an office in Northbrook in 2010, but last November, Keys moved Marketing Keys downtown.
“I’m passionate about everything with this business,” he said, “I love helping businesses come up with a campaign that generates sales and at the end of the day turns into a big success.”
“When you are a Chicago-based brand, you have to continue to tell your story in the marketplace,” said Gordon, “Roger makes us feel like we are one of his top clients, whether we are or we’re not.”