West Coast ad agency opens office in Richmond

Tyler Martin and Carly Williams outside H&L's office. Photos by Jonathan Spiers.

Tyler Martin and Carly Williams outside H&L’s office. Photos by Jonathan Spiers.

A newcomer to the Richmond advertising scene is making its entrance to the market through a pair of Golden Arches.

San Francisco-based H&L Partners has set up shop in Shockoe Bottom after picking up the regional co-op account for McDonald’s.

The local office adds to others in St. Louis and Boston, with a fifth office opening in Lexington, Kentucky, in July.

Tyler Martin, who is leading H&L’s Richmond office, said the agency made a pitch for the account when the regional co-op, which is run by area McDonald’s franchisees, decided to go with a new agency after previously working with Moroch Partners. The co-op region covers Richmond, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg.

“The brand was struggling for the last couple years until October of last year, when it launched All Day Breakfast,” Martin said. “The brand had such a great run it was bound to hit a plateau at some point. It did, and now it’s gotten some of its swagger back.”

To staff its local office, the agency has recruited two full-time employees: account director Brian Swann, formerly with local branding firm StoryWerks, and account executive Carly Williams, who previously handled the regional McDonald’s account for Moroch. A third hire was expected to join the group this week.

Martin, who serves as vice president of client services, leads the Richmond staff while remaining based in St. Louis.

A scene from the "Good morning Virginia" ad.

A scene from the “Good morning Virginia” ad.

The group has been working on two new marketing campaigns for the co-op: a beverage promotion called “Drink Run,” and an All Day Breakfast promotion called “Good Morning Virginia,” consisting of radio and TV spots that feature a number of regional landmarks, including several in Richmond – the Lee Bridge, State Capitol and Libby Park among them.

Martin said the campaigns aim to localize the brand to connect with consumers. In addition to the locations, the spots also feature area McDonald’s crews and customers.

“The campaign is designed to be a very local flavor,” he said. “A lot of folks think that all these restaurants are owned by folks out of Oak Brook, Illinois (where McDonald’s headquarters is located), and it’s not the case. They’re all independent businessmen and -women that own one to 12 restaurants somewhere in the mix.”

The agency worked with Richmond-based Rainmaker Studios on sound and recording work for the “Drink Run” spots, in addition to its own production crews from other offices.

Since starting work locally in March, the agency had been working out of temporary offices in the Regus office rental space on the 10th floor of the downtown SunTrust Center building. It signed a five-year lease for a 1,800-square-foot space at 15 S. 23rd St. in the American Cigar Factory building, now the River Lofts at Tobacco Row managed by Forest City Properties.

The space was previously used by Fuel Creative, which moved to North 19th Street a few blocks away. H&L worked with Divaris Real Estate to find the space after considering other sites in Shockoe Bottom, Manchester, the VCU area and Scott’s Addition.

While McDonald’s brought H&L to Richmond, Martin said the goal for the local office is to build a portfolio of regional accounts. In addition to McDonald’s, the agency’s national clients include other retail and tourism brands, such as Toyota, Maytag and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

“The goal is to get the McDonald’s business up and running, get our feet under us, know the ropes and then look for some other opportunities that make sense for us, with McDonald’s being our anchor account,” he said.

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