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.

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Atomic Enterprises building its first billboard

WICHITA — Before Mike Snyder officially joined the Rowley Snyder Ablah advertising agency in February, he started another company, Atomic Enterprises, in November.

Now, Atomic is showing its first physical signs of activity.

The billboard management and sales company is building its first billboard.

The digital board is under construction on Washington between Lewis and Waterman.

Atomic will help independent billboard owners manage and operate their billboards, says managing member Brandon Shuey.

He says he and Snyder hope to have six to 10 billboards by end of the year.

“We’re using new techniques that will bring in far more advertisers than they had in the past,” Shuey says.

They hope to help clients convert their static billboards to digital in order to attract new advertisers looking for increased placement options.

“We’re flipping that on its head,” Shuey says.

They plan to find new digital sites here and outside of Wichita as well.

Shuey says to look for more news from the company soon.

Bruce Rowley and Jeff Ablah to start Rowley and Ablah advertising agency

UPDATED — Bruce is back.

No one in the Wichita advertising community should be surprised that Bruce Rowley couldn’t stay away long.

The former Associated CEO, who left in 2006 for stints at Invista and Pulse Systems, is returning to the industry with Rowley and Ablah, an agency he’s formed with real estate developer and investor Jeff Ablah.

Rowley says the idea is, “Why don’t we start a different kind of ad agency together where it’s a little more business focused and a little less . . . pretty picture oriented.”

It’s the kind of talk that’s reminiscent of comments that quickly gave Rowley a brash reputation when he returned to Wichita in 2002 following an international advertising career with large agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB Worldwide.

Ablah hasn’t been in the agency business before, which Rowley thinks may be a good thing.

“He doesn’t really yet know what many people think the rules are, if that makes sense.”

Rowley also says in addition to having a lot of great local and national contacts, Ablah “also just has a fantastic strategic business mind.”

Mike Snyder, who succeeded Rowley as Associated CEO before being forced out early this year, was going to be the third partner in the new agency. In fact, when the company incorporated, it was as Rowley, Snyder and Ablah.

“Mike’s not capable (of) having any involvement in this,” Rowley says. “Not at the moment.”

Snyder couldn’t be reached for comment, but it sounds like a noncompete with Associated prevents him from leading another agency right now.

Associated’s structure is what caused Rowley to leave the agency.

“The key reason why I left Associated . . . (was) it was never going to be a place that I could own,” he says. “It’s been a goal of mine to make sure I didn’t get back into advertising working for somebody else.”

Associated is owned by its employees, and Rowley says part of the agency’s money goes to paying people who haven’t worked there in years.

“I always had a bit of a problem with that.”

He and Ablah have leased space at the Terra-Cotta Tower at 29th North and Rock Road, where they’ll open today.

For now, it’s just the two of them, but by the end of the month Rowley expects there to be six employees. A couple of client announcements likely will come before then.

“I’ve had a great time being on the client side,” Rowley says of his time away from agency life. “Done a lot of really interesting things.”

A change was probably inevitable, though.

“I love doing this work, so it’s really fun to get back to it,” Rowley says.

“I’m not coming into it with some grand vision of wanting to get to a destination.”

Rowley quotes Jay Chiat of the legendary Chiat/Day advertising agency.

“The experiment was let’s just see how big we get before we get bad,” Rowley says, paraphrasing Chiat. “And you know, frankly, he discovered how big that was and sold it and left.”

Rowley’s idea is to just see what happens.

“The point is let’s do really great work. Let’s have fun. Let’s do the work that everybody else in the market wishes they could do and have a great time doing it.”

Mike Snyder discusses his departure as Associated’s CEO

UPDATE — Mike Snyder is out as CEO of Associated, the second-largest ad agency in Wichita.

Whether it was his decision to resign or if he was forced to leave is unclear.

“You know, those are internal workings that we just don’t discuss publicly,” Snyder says.

A statement from Associated says:

“Associated appreciates Mike’s innovative, steady leadership, especially during a period of challenges in the overall economy.”

Bill Fialka, who joined Associated in 2007 and is vice president of client service, will be the interim CEO.

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Mike Snyder no longer Associated CEO

snyder.jpgWICHITA — Mike Snyder is out as CEO of Associated.

In response to calls from Have You Heard?, the advertising agency released a statement saying Snyder resigned.

“Associated appreciates Mike’s innovative, steady leadership, especially during a period of challenges in the overall economy,” the statement said.

Snyder, who joined the agency as a vice president in 2003 and became CEO in 2006, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Bill Fialka, who is Associated’s vice president of client service, will be the interim CEO. He joined Associated in 2007.

During Snyder’s tenure, Associated lost some large, longtime accounts.

In 2007, the agency lost Intrust Bank, which had been a client for 26 years.

“This is not anything we’re worried about,” Snyder said at the time.

“In my view, business is business. You’ve got your ups, and you’ve got your downs. . . . You go on and you make your own success.”

Last year, Preferred Health Systems ended its 13-year relationship with Associated.

“Nothing lasts forever but God, a mother’s love and the United States Marine Corps,” Snyder, a Marine, said then.” You know, you move on.”

Associated also landed some sizable accounts under Snyder’s direction, including Wesley Medical Center late last year.

Associated creates, pulls River Festival video

mike-snyderThere’s a video that briefly circulated about the Top 10 things that can get you in trouble at the Wichita River Festival. But Wichita Festivals didn’t produce it — or even know about it.

Associated, which creates the River Festival poster every year, did the video. But it wasn’t a client job.

“We decided to have some fun,” says chief executive Mike Snyder.

“We don’t talk about funnel cakes,” he says. “We talk about some things that are very real. Very human.”

And very inappropriate to print in a family newspaper.

“When you get 100,000 people out, you see all kinds of different things,” Snyder says.

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