Veteran local adman departs NDP amid recent layoffs

Ndp’s building at 2912 W. Leigh St. in Scott’s Addition. (BizSense file photo by Jonathan Spiers)

Changes stemming from the loss of one of its biggest accounts continue to play out at local ad firm ndp, as a longtime member of Richmond’s marketing scene has parted ways with the agency that absorbed his own company 15 months ago.

Ken Wayland, who joined ndp as an executive vice president when it acquired his Free Agents Marketing in late 2017, has left at the same time the firm laid off nine other employees in the wake of losing VCU Health after a dozen years as the health system’s agency of record.

On top of the layoffs that were announced internally late last month, ndp made additional changes to its leadership team that included a CEO switch, with Executive VP Brent Morris taking over for Danny Fell, who remains with the company. Denise Rushing and Amy Baril also were named executive VPs.

Ken Wayland

Wayland, who founded FAM in 2001 with his wife Marilyn, said the time was right to part ways with ndp in light of the lost VCU Health business and what he described as a completed changeover of FAM’s former accounts to ndp.

“After 15 months, we were successful in transitioning all the FAM clients and the Hampton Roads market into the ndp family. As they look to regain fiscal health, it only makes sense for me to move on,” Wayland said.

“Even with that loss, ndp continues to be one of the larger agencies in the region, and they’re very solid and very strong and they’re doing great work with the (Virginia) Lottery,” he said. “They’re going to be fine. It just didn’t make sense for me to be there in an executive-level position when the agency’s trying to regain fiscal health.”

Ndp’s staff count has dropped by 10 employees since BizSense reported the layoffs two weeks ago. Its website listed 47 employees when the layoffs were announced Feb. 22. The site listed 37 employees Thursday.

Tennessee firm chosen

After 12 years with ndp, VCU Health selected Tennessee-based ReviveHealth as its agency of record, a change that took effect at the start of this year. The healthcare-focused firm, based in Nashville, also picked up AOR accounts with five other health systems in Connecticut, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri and New Jersey.

“While we are disappointed to no longer serve as the agency of record for VCU Health, we are still doing some work for VCU Health businesses,” said Thomas Becher, a senior VP at ndp.

That includes work for Virginia Premier and VCU Department of Psychiatry, Becher said. Cynthia Schmidt, marketing director for VCU Health, said ndp also is doing work for MCV Foundation, the health system’s fundraising arm, and she said ndp co-founder Susan Dubuque remains involved in projects she’s doing independently.

Schmidt said the AOR change was due to changing marketing needs and a desire to consolidate agency work, which has included past involvement from PR firm Padilla. She said the state-run health system, which underwent a brand consolidation in 2015, is required to put out requests for proposals after so many years and its contract with ndp had maxed out following multiple renewals.

“We had a great relationship with ndp. They worked with us on a lot of different levels,” Schmidt said. “When we had to put together the RFP, we wanted ndp to pitch it, of course. But whenever you do that, you get a lot of new thinking that comes to the table and a different way of looking at our business.

“When we looked at the field, ReviveHealth just brought a new perspective to how we could go about doing our business,” she said.

Wayland likened the move to when another ndp client, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare, ended its business with the agency after the system was acquired in 2018. The lost business also harkens back to Wayland’s FAM days, when his agency was dealt a blow by the loss of Bon Secours Health System as a client. FAM’s acquisition by ndp soon followed.

Upbeat outlook

Wayland, who discussed the impact of the lost Bon Secours business when he joined ndp in 2017, said he doesn’t see a similar fate for ndp, which maintains a client roster that includes Virginia Lottery, The Jefferson Hotel and former FAM clients CapCenter, Mercedes-Benz of Richmond and Short Pump Town Center.

“Our industry is a very volatile industry. For me, it was a little déjà vu,” Wayland said, referring to the Kindred Healthcare loss specifically. “When that happens, I think you have a commitment to your current clients, to your colleagues and to the company itself to maintain fiscal health.

“The industry really is changing, and I applaud ndp for being versatile enough to change with it.”

While he’s no longer with ndp, Wayland said he’s by no means retired and will remain active with his civic involvements, such as serving on Chamber RVA’s executive committee and chairing the Hampton Roads chamber’s brand committee. He and Marilyn were traveling this week on a trip that included stops in Savannah and Florida.

Dubuque, who co-founded ndp with Chairman Roger Neathawk, lauded Wayland’s contributions to the agency and the local ad scene.

“Ken has been an asset to Virginia advertising and the business community for many years, and we know he will continue to be a success,” Dubuque said. “We thank him for his many contributions to ndp during his time with us.”

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