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Local marketing firm acquired by Indiana company, expands footprint into 25 states

By Caitlin Cook, Staff writer
Linda Arnold, Founder and CEO of the Arnold Agency.
Courtesy Photo Linda Arnold and Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle have had a marketing relationship since 1999 when they worked together on his first speaking tour.

Local marketing firm Arnold Agency is being acquired by an Indiana company, a move the local firm’s founder says will add resources for clients and expand the company’s footprint.

The Arnold Agency, which has offices in West Virginia, Washington D.C. and Montana, is being acquired by the Asher Agency, said founder, chairman and CEO Linda Arnold.

As of this week, the Arnold Agency has been rebranded as the West Virginia office of the Asher Agency. As the Asher Agency, Arnold will join other marketing and media firms under the umbrella of Eastport Holdings.

“I think people in our industry need to look beyond the most immediate markets,” Arnold said. “Rather than establishing additional offices and following that model, it seemed to make more sense to keep centralized in West Virginia but have the depth of experience so we could bring in an expert where it’s needed.”

With the move, the Asher Agency will do business in 25 states.

“These are people who are looking very much at this as being an equal partnership and mutual respect,” Arnold said. “Our roots are here [in West Virginia] and we’ve expanded, but I think it’s very important to have the chemistry and to have the responsiveness with Asher.”

Arnold added the move is a “good cultural fit.”

“Lack of chemistry is one of the major reasons mergers don’t work,” Arnold said. “The same thing goes for client relationships. With Arnold and Asher, we’re confident we have a good fit.”

Tom Borne, founder of Asher, said the acquisition started with casual talks.

“We’ve known the Arnold team for a while,” Borne said, “whether we were competing or at conventions together.”

Both Asher and Arnold work with Subway restaurants. Borne said there are about 19 firms working with Subway and everyone kind of gets to know each other.

The first time Jared Fogle, who’s known for shedding hundreds of pounds by eating Subway and exercising, went on a speaking engagement tour, it was with the Arnold Agency back in 1999, Fogle said.

Asher is Fogle’s hometown marketing firm. He’s worked with both firms extensively and couldn’t be happier about the two teaming up, he said.

“The personalities are very similar,” Fogle said. “More importantly to me they are nice decent people, which is something you don’t always find in marketing.”

He said both firms are very market savvy without having the big city vibe.

“We continue to grow in the Subway world,” Borne said. “And with Arnold, we will have 60 markets (or about 5,000 Subway restaurants) across the country.”

When inquiring about companies, Borne said he looks for a strong management team.

“Sometimes you also buy the expertise [when acquiring a company],” Borne said. “That’s one the primary reasons we looked at Arnold.”

Borne was also impressed with the Arnold Agency’s ability to go into states like Montana and Hawaii and secure major contracts.

He said a few of the employees at Arnold have really become experts in the health care arena.

“They are very strong in the health care world,” Borne said. “And that’s a world we like.”

Asher also does business in D.C. but never had an office presence in the area.

“We have to take advantage of the opportunities,” Borne said. “We’re looking forward to continued growth and expansion.”

With acquisition of the Arnold Agency, Asher will have 61 employees. Arnold said the agency worked with Asher on a three-year business plan. Right now, the Asher Agency will maintain employee numbers but may need to expand in the future.

The plan included signing a three-year lease on the downtown Charleston building the Arnold Agency calls home.

“Some of the things we were having to subcontract out for will be available in our tool box to our clients here,” Arnold said.

The new dynamic provides more tools for the local agency, Arnold added.

Previously, Arnold used just two main research tools to help clients — Nielsen and Arbitron — but they have 20 additional media research tools to “evaluate and measure audience segmentation, and most importantly, return on investments for clients,” Arnold said.

Arnold will also be working with Mindstream Interactive — a digital delivery company in Ohio and California.

“Companies are demanding more and we need to provide more,” Arnold said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Steve Morrison will head the Charleston office. Arnold will be available as a consultant to Asher, and will continue writing her “Live Life Fully” column, which appears in the Sunday Gazette-Mail.

“Twenty-five years after founding the Arnold Agency, I’m happy to leave the legacy [to] continue under this new structure,” Arnold said. “It gives me the opportunity to pursue my passion for writing.”

Reach Caitlin Cook at 304-348-5113

or caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com.


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