From Big Agencies to Freelance.
In '85, after 7 years working for some of the biggest and best agencies in the US, Follis began a NY freelance collaboration that started his entrepreneurial career.
With partners Jon Bond and Richard Kirshenbaum, Follis helped win a half-dozen accounts laying the foundation for Kirshenbaum & Bond which opened
in '88 and became a 450M agency.
With Jon and Richard, John conceived, wrote and designed a dozen press-worthy ads for the then unknown shoe designer Kenneth Cole that helped
Cole become the iconic worldwide brand it is today.
Additionally, Follis' work for his own clients was getting press and making him a top hired gun on Mad Ave.
Follis & Verdi Opens with a Splash
In 1988, John's reputation attracted an account guy
with a nose for new business. After a brief collaboration
Follis & Verdi splashed onto the scene with a hot,
new account and a press-worthy TV campaign.
His breakthrough creative work for obscure Sorrell Ridge Fruit Spreads was so successful it was featured in Forbes, ADWEEK, CNBC and a Harvard Business School case study.
New accounts (No Excuses Jeans, The American Stock Exchange, Solgar Vitamins,) soon followed. So did creative awards and more press in USAToday, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
In '91, the duo were honored at The White House for Follis's award-winning national TV campaign against child abuse. And, 6-months later, John was honored at The UN with a UN Public Service Award. (The story behind the campaign is told in this short film.)
At 35, just two years into Follis & Verdi, Follis found himself the creative force behind one of the hottest, young creative agencies in the country.
F&V adds a D
To assist with the growing workload, freelancer Sal DeVito was brought in and 16-months later added as
In '93 the growing agency reached another pinnacle when The NY ADDY Awards acknowledged it as New York's second most awarded agency just 4 years after its founding. And, John was named "One of New York's 12 Best" by The NY Ad Club.
The same year that FDV reached its peak Follis did something that stunned a few people. He left. His attention was now on something called, "The Information Super Highway."
Sensing the coming shift in the media landscape he left to open Follis Inc. with a focus on the digital future. And, in '96, Follis Inc. became one of the first agencies in the country with an award-winning website.
Throughout the 90's the new agency continued helping clients in all media. 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."
And, in a world where the average client-agency relationship lasts 1.5 years, that relationship lasted 14.
With the new millennium came a new business model, Follis Marketing Therapy one of the first online consulting business models. Via Skype, FMT addressed the growing needs of a 100 billion dollar market: entrepreneurial businesses. In the process the Follis brand expanded to a worldwide market.
In '05, John 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 he added two more web properties in early '06: a blog: The Follis Report and podcast: "The Marketing Show"with John Follis.
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 has enhanced the image of small business through service to their customers."
Additionally, John became a featured blogger for ADWEEK and Small Business Trends.
As a thought leader he also continued to receive speaking requests at such venues as The Social Media Conference in Chicago, The World Business Academy, the 2012 New York Business Expo, and The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
2013: Adding a Big Idea
With the exploding online video market, Follis created Big Idea Video which included Explainer and Whiteboard style videos.
In this TV interview with CH8-TV news anchor, Ann Nyberg, John discusses Big Idea Video and a recent public service project.
Recent Independent Film Projects
In 2015 John began a narrative video series entitled True Stories in Advertising which takes a humorous, inside look at Madison Ave based on his career. Completed in 2020, the 9-part series has been honored at 7 film festivals including ones in LA and NYC.
And, in 2017, John wrote, directed and produced his
first film "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 38K people in 98 countries. In this interview John discusses the film and the motivation behind making it.
When not immersed in projects John devotes his time
to public service and inspiring the next generation of ad students and filmmakers.