Big Agencies and Freelance.
In '85, after 7 years working for some of the biggest and best agencies in the US like FCB/Chicago and DDB/NY, Follis began a NY freelance collaboration that started his entrepreneurial career. With fellow admen Jon Bond and Richard Kirshenbaum, Follis helped win a half-dozen accounts laying the foundation for Kirshenbaum & Bond which splashed onto the NY ad scene in '88 and grew into a 450-million dollar agency.
While freelancing with Jon and Richard, John helped conceive, write and design a dozen attention-getting ads for the then-unknown shoe designer Kenneth Cole that helped it become the iconic worldwide brand it is today. Additionally, Follis' work for his own clients was getting national press making him one of the hottest hired guns on Mad Ave.
Follis & Verdi: The Hot New Agency on Mad Ave.
In '88, John's reputation attracted an entrepreneurial account guy with a nose for new business. After 5-months of collaboration Follis & Verdi splashed onto the scene with a hot, new account and press worthy TV campaign. John's edgy campaign 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 34, 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, freelance creative Sal DeVito was brought in and, 16-months later, made a partner. In '93 the growing agency reached another pinnacle when The NY 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 NY Ad Club.
The same year that FDV reached its professional peak Follis did something that stunned the ad world. He left. It was '93 and Follis's attention was now on something called "The Information Super Highway". Sensing a seismic shift in the media landscape Follis left to open Follis Inc. with a 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 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." 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 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.
"The Marketing Show"podcast included interviews with top thought leaders from around the world. 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 has enhanced the image of small business through service to their customers."
Additionally, John became a featured blogger AOL/ADWEEK's "Fuel the Future" 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 in New York, 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 to help businesses and organizations add high-impact video to their websites and online messaging. This included Explainer and Whiteboard style videos as well as more traditional TV commercial 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 8-part series has 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 33K 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.