Auto-focused ad shop rolls into town

Luanne Stamp is heading up the local office with producer Jared Olguin, left, and creative director David Dohmann.

Luanne Stamp is heading up the local office with producer Jared Olguin, left, and creative director David Dohmann.

Another national ad agency has set up shop in Richmond, this one with a focus on clients that deal in wheels.

Dallas-based Wheeler Advertising opened an office in the Moorefield office park off Midlothian Turnpike last month. The agency signed a two-year lease for a 2,300-square-foot space at 812 Moorefield Park Drive.

The office adds to others in Alabama, Colorado, New Jersey and New Mexico. The three-person team setting up the Richmond office relocated from Albuquerque, where an earlier iteration of the agency got its start.

Luanne Stamp, who is leading the local office along with creative director David Dohmann and producer Jared Olguin, said the agency’s niche in the auto industry traces back to its roots in Albuquerque, where she said a car dealer frustrated with ad agencies’ lack of knowledge about the auto industry responded by starting his own agency.

That agency and several spinoffs were grouped under the aptly named Wheeler Advertising in 1991. The name refers to company owner Ron Wheeler.

While the agency does work outside the auto industry – clients range from hunting and fishing retailer Pro Line Manufacturing to MCNB Bank and Trust, which has branches in Virginia – Stamp said its work for dealerships makes up the core of its business. Many of its employees were recruited from the auto industry, she said.

“We are built from ground up from a car dealer, Lee Galles. We found nobody was helping the individual auto dealers, so he built an agency that consisted of people who knew the car business,” Stamp said. “That’s what makes us different. We actually understand our clients’ business.”

Stamp said the agency had been looking to open an office that was closer to its clients on the East Coast, selecting Richmond over Charlotte and other metros that were considered.

“Richmond made the most sense to us. It is a strong creative community, and it is a nice, vibrant community,” she said. “We are so close to Washington, D.C., and so close to New York and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Boston. It gets us in such close range of so many major metros that it’s good for prospecting new business and also for drawing talent.”

She said the agency has three auto-related clients in Virginia, but she declined to identify them, noting the competitive nature of the business.

“We work with the world’s largest RV dealer, the largest Ford dealer in the country, the largest Chevy dealer in the country,” she said.

Other clients include auto manufacturers, dealer associations, auto malls, and multi-franchise and individual dealers. Stamp said the agency has more than 100 clients across the country and is endorsed as a marketing expert by the National Automobile Dealers Association and National RV Dealers Association.

The team worked with broker Gregg Beck of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer to find its office space, which Stamp said they selected for its proximity to Powhite Parkway and other major arterials, as well as other office parks and agencies in the area. She said they share the building with Summit Media Group, which operates several local radio stations.

“Being new in this market and knowing that we wanted to hire people, one of my biggest objectives was being someplace that was convenient to get to,” Stamp said, adding that the office is looking to hire several account directors.

She described the agency as marketing-first and strategy-first, as opposed to creative-first in approaching a campaign. She said all of its work is produced in-house, and it uses an integrated marketing plan that includes traditional and digital advertising and social media.

“We’re all about helping the owner make more money,” she said.

Wheeler is the latest national agency to set up shop locally. Last month, San Francisco-based H&L Partners opened an office in Shockoe Bottom after picking up the regional co-op account for McDonald’s.

Wheeler enters a Richmond market that is growing in auto dealerships. An Audi dealership is in the works west of Short Pump. A third local Subaru dealership is under construction in Chester. Alfa Romeo will soon get its first Richmond showroom on West Broad Street. And Tesla has secured a spot on West Broad as debate surrounding its ability to sell cars locally continues.

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