Fifty Year Milestone Marks Beginning of New Chapter for Swanson Russell
June 22, 2012
Swanson Russell, Nebraska’s largest advertising agency, will celebrate its 50-year anniversary in June. The agency is regarded as one of the premier firms in the country, bringing nationally recognized clients to Lincoln and Omaha.
Swanson Russell is among an elite group of advertising agencies in the United States that has weathered 50 or more years in business. According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), less than 10 percent of all advertising agencies nationwide are 50 years or older.
“This can be a very stressful and demanding business and the fact that we have not only lasted that long, but experienced sustained growth, is a testament to our employees,” said Dave Hansen, partner/chief executive officer. “Our decision to have specific areas of focus and to solicit national and global companies is certainly an important key to our longevity and success.”
Being a full-service marketing communications agency has also been a key contributor to the success. In addition to traditional advertising services, the company offers public relations, database marketing and interactive services.
The agency, founded in 1962 as Swanson, Sinkey, Ellis by W.M. “Gus” Swanson, still relies on local talent to thrive.
“We are still very much a home-grown agency,” said Brian Boesche, partner/chief creative officer. “While we have attracted top talent from all over the country, the majority of our employees are native Nebraskans.”
Since being founded, Swanson Russell has provided more than 1,100 jobs in Lincoln and Omaha. Over the years the agency has experienced steady growth, currently employing 140 people and reaching annual billings of nearly $95 million.
“I think a key to attracting top advertising people is the opportunity for them to work with globally-respected brands,” Boesche said. “Among those names are USC University Hospital, Rain Bird, Briggs & Stratton, FMC, Merck, Leupold and Woolrich.”
Boesche and Hansen said they credit Steve Russell, current chairman of the board, as being the catalyst for the agency’s success working with national brands. Russell served as the agency’s president for 25 years.
“Steve felt that while local businesses were important to our company, there was also a need for an agency that specialized in specific industries,” Hansen said. “As a result, we have become among the world’s largest agencies specializing in agriculture, healthcare, outdoor recreation and lawn and landscape.”
Swanson Russell’s local clients may be Nebraska-based, but they’re just as respected as national clients. The agency continues to cultivate long-standing relationships with BryanLGH, Dorothy Lynch, Runza, Union Bank, Pepsi, Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau and Reinke Irrigation.
“Of local interest, we are the agency who helped launch the first commercial golf cart for Cushman and we helped start Cliffs Notes from the basement of Cliff Hillegass’ home,” said Hansen. “I think just about everyone is still familiar with those famous brands.”
Agency Key Milestones/Timelines
- June 4, 1962 – Agency founded as Swanson Sinkey Ellis (Annual Billings: less than $1 million)
- February 1976 – Steve Russell (current Chairman) joins the agency as Director of Internal Services (Annual Billings: $2.5 million)
- Spring 1979 – Agency purchases Holland, Dreves, Reilly (Omaha) and becomes Swanson Rollheiser Holland, with offices in Lincoln and Omaha (Annual Billings: $3.75 million)
- January 1981 – Brian Boesche (current Partner/Chief Creative Officer) joins the agency as a Writer/Producer (Annual Billings: $4.8 million)
- 1982 – Steve Russell named President (Annual Billings: $5.8 million)
- 1984 – Agency dissolves relationship with Omaha office and becomes Swanson Russell Associates. Opens new office in Omaha (Annual Billings: $7.3 million)
- 1988 – Dave Hansen (current Partner/Chief Executive Officer) joins agency as Director of Account Service (Annual Billings: $15.8 million)
- 1990 – Wes Neuhaus named Managing Director of Omaha office (Annual Billings: $13.9 million)
- 1997 – Lincoln office completes major building expansion at 1222 P Street (Annual Billings: $36.3 million)
- 2007 – Brian Boesche and Dave Hansen become 50/50 owners of agency in purchase from Steve Russell and Wes Neuhaus. Russell moves to Chairman (Annual Billings: $86.5 million)
- 2012 – Ed Salem and Tracy Stanko named Managing Directors of Omaha office. Agency will approach $95 million in capitalized billing with 140 employees