Big Agencies and Freelance.
In 1985, after 7 years working for some of the biggest and best agencies in the country like FCB/Chicago and DDB/NY, Follis began a freelance collaboration that started his entrepreneurial career. With fellow admen Jon Bond and Richard Kirshenbaum, Follis helped win a half-dozen accounts for his young freelancing partners. A year later Kirshenbaum & Bond splashed onto the scene as the hot, new Mad Ave agency eventually becoming a 450 million dollar agency.
While freelancing with Jon and Richard, John helped design and write a dozen attention-getting ads for a young, then-unknown, shoe designer named Kenneth Cole. That landmark campaign helped establish the designer as the iconic worldwide brand it is today. Additionally, Follis' project work for his own clients was getting national press making him one of the hottest hired guns on Mad Ave.
Follis & Verdi: Hot New Agency on Mad Ave.
In addition to attracting project work from clients and freelance gigs at the best agencies on Mad Ave John's hot reputation attracted an eager entrepreneurial account guy with a nose for new business. After just a few months of collaboration Follis & Verdi splashed onto the scene with a hot, new account and a press worthy TV campaign. John's edgy campaign for tiny Sorrell Ridge Fruit Spreads was so successful it was featured in Forbes, ADWEEK, CNBC and a Harvard Business School case study.
New accounts and projects (No Excuses Jeans, The American Stock Exchange, Solgar Vitamins, and French Toast Clothes) soon followed. So did creative awards and more press in USAToday, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. And, in 1991, the duo were honored at The White House for Follis's award-winning national TV campaign against child abuse on which John was both writer and art director. Six-months later, John received another very special honor for another public service ad. John was invited to the UN where he was honored with the first ever United Nations Public Service Award. (The wild story behind the campaign is humorously told in this short film.)
Follis & Verdi was barely two years old and the 34-year old adman found himself the creative force behind one of the hottest creative agencies in the country.
F&V adds a D
To assist with the growing client roster and workload, freelance creative Sal DeVito was brought in and, after a 16-month trial, was hired and made a partner. In 1993 the growing agency reached another peak when The New York ADDY Awards acknowledged Follis/DeVito/Verdi as the second most awarded agency in New York, just four years after its founding. That same year, John was named "One of New York's 12 Best" by The New York Ad Club.
The same year that Follis/DeVito/Verdi reached its professional peak Follis did something that stunned the ad world. He left. The year was 1993 and Follis's attention was now on something called "The Information Super Highway". Sensing a seismic shift in the media landscape Follis left FDV to open Follis Inc. with a new focus on the digital future. Soon after, Follis Inc. became one of the first agencies in the country with an award-winning website.
Throughout the 90's the agency continued its results-focused, award-winning work for clients in all media, including digital. That included a groundbreaking campaign for an unlikely client. The campaign got national press in The New York Times, USAToday, TIME, and ADWEEK, and was featured as a successful case study in a nationally distributed Prentice-Hall marketing textbook, "Principles of Marketing". TIME described the campaign as "in your face" while ADWEEK called it "smart and effective." In a world where the average client-agency relationship lasts 1.5 years, that relationship lasted 14.
With the new millennium came another evolved business model, Follis Marketing Therapy which addressed the growing needs of a 100 billion dollar market: entrepreneurial businesses. In the process the Follis brand was expanded to a worldwide market.
In '05, John Follis coined the term G-Cred, for Google credibility, which came to national attention in his ADWEEK column. Staying on the leading edge of marketing and social media Follis added two more web properties in early '06: a blog, The Follis Report and podcast The Marketing Show with John Follis.
Follis and his team continued helping clients around the country in all media. "The Marketing Show", with interviews with top marketing thought leaders from around the world, got syndicated on iTunes. And, Marketing Therapy continued serving business owners across the US. In 2012, Follis Inc was acknowledged by the U.S. Commerce Association with an award recognizing it as a business that "has achieved exceptional success and enhanced the image of small business through service to their customers."
Additionally, John became a featured blogger for two high-profile blogs: AOL/ADWEEK's "Fuel the Future" and Small Business Trends. As a respected thought leader he continued to receive speaking requests at such venues as The Social Media Conference in Chicago, The World Business Academy in New York, the 2012 New York Business Expo, and The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
2013 to Present: New 'Big Idea' and Direction
In 2013, Follis created yet another new business model this time focusing on the exploding online video market: Big Idea Video. BIV was created to help any business, product, service, or organization to more effectively inform, excite, and sell their goods and services online via short, high-impact videos. BIV also creates animated Explainer and Whiteboard style videos. In this TV interview with CH8 news anchor, Ann Nyberg, Follis discusses Big Idea Video and a recent BIV public service project.
In 2015, John began a short video series entitled True Stories in Advertising which takes a humorous and insightful look at Madison Ave from John's own experiences. The shorts have been honored at 7 film festivals including ones in LA, New York, and Montreal.
And, in 2017, John wrote, directed and produced his first documentary "Leaving God" which received a "Best First-time Filmmaker" award at the Hollywood International Documentary Film Festival. Now featured on TopDocumentaryFilms.com it's been seen by over 30,000 people in 98 countries.