Associated Integrated Marketing CEO Bill Fialka is out as agency eliminates position

WICHITA — Most people probably didn’t notice when Bill Fialka took over as CEO at Associated Integrated Marketing – and that’s how he liked it – but now he’s gone.

“The position was eliminated,” says Shawn Steward, vice president of client service and public relations.

He won’t say if Fialka was fired.

“I’ll let people draw their own conclusions on that.”

Fialka didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Steward says the agency is restructuring. He and three other vice presidents will manage the company. They include Dave Stewart, vice president and executive creative director, Luke Gutschenritter, vice president and group account director, and Kim Weprin, vice president  of finance and human resources.

“This is not a financial decision,” Steward says. “This was a proactive decision to better allow us to operate more efficiently.”

He says, “We essentially saw a lot of duplication of effort at the management level. We felt that by eliminating the CEO level of the agency … we’re just getting the management closer to the client level and just streamlining across the board.”

Steward says the agency’s board of directors made the decision.

Fialka has been CEO since January 2010. He followed much more high-profile CEOs, including Mike Snyder and Bruce Rowley most recently. Fialka, though, deliberately avoided media and other attention.

For many years, Associated was ranked as the No. 2 agency in Wichita according to billings.

“I honestly don’t know where we stack up in the list,” Steward says of current numbers.

He won’t say what billings are. The agency, which opened in 1946, has 20 employees. That compares to about 45 employees in 2005.

“Business is good,” Steward says. He says the agency has “a smaller group of clients than we had five years ago.”

The agency lost high-profile accounts such as Intrust Bank and Via Christi Health. Steward refers to those and other losses as “relationships that ended during previous leaderships.”

“We’re getting great feedback from the clients we’re working with,” he says.

Some of those include Cargill Meat Solutions, Moundridge-based Grasshopper Co. and Kansas City-based PBI/Gordon. The agency also has added Topeka-based PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. and Lawrence-based KEA Advisors and is doing work with Downing & Lahey.

“We have a good group of core clients for sure,” Steward says. “I’m not going to say it’s been an easy last few years. I think the economy has hit everyone. I think we’ve weathered it well.”

He says restructuring makes sense.

“We view this as a positive,” Steward says. “It’s a better structure for our business, for us moving forward, and it’s going to allow us to have a better chance of success.”