A strategy man
When Ralph Gregory was a student at the University
of South Carolina, the College of Journalism was on the Horseshoe
and had 25 to 30 students.
After his graduation in 1954, Gregory helped
found an agency that concentrated on strategy and service, rather
than costs and client fees.
In the early days of Newman, Saylor & Gregory,
"our clients didn't have much money for implementation, so we
had to have really strong strategy," remembers Lee Bussell, a
longtime associate of Gregory's and now chief executive of Chernoff
Newman Silver & Gregory.
David Anderson, another veteran of the agency
and one of Gregory's longtime friends, said Gregory's legacy is
his emphasis on staying focused on the client and on honing the
ability to retain clients. Anderson said Gregory kept one client
for 25 years and another for 22 years.
"He taught us all about being client focused,"
Gregory also was frugal. Anderson said that cost
consciousness he saw in working for 25 years alongside Gregory
has helped him in his own management as vice chairman of the agency,
one of South Carolina's largest.
"Ralph didn't like parting with his money," Anderson
said. "I think we've got some of those frugal genes embedded throughout
Gregory, who also was fond of saying, "If you
don't know where you're going, you're not likely to know when
you get there," was very much a strategist, to the point of having
a strategy for keeping his agency alive past the retirement of
the original partners.
There was a time when agencies just didn't have
a succession plan, Bussell said. The names on the letterhead "just
retired and the agencies faded away."
But CNSG is a member of the North American Advertising
Network, whose goal in part is to help agencies plan for the future.
In 1990, when it was just NS&G, the agency developed its the
plan for its future beyond the retirement of Gregory and Van Newman,
another of its founders.
Anderson said the best evidence of Gregory's
belief in planning was the frequent retreats to discuss strategies
"He'd always say, 'We're gonna take a trip,'
and it was always to Newberry. 'You gotta get the car gassed up;
you gotta pack your luggage; you gotta get a road map,' " Anderson
said. "He'd put it in simple terms that everyone could understand:
If you're going to take a trip, you've got to have a plan. If
you're going to run a company or help a client, you've got to
have a plan."
Now as, as CNSG, it's the largest advertising
agency in Columbia and one of the three largest in South Carolina.
Its clients include NBSC, Nickelodeon, TNN, Pirelli, Avanex, the
South Carolina Education Lottery, Palmetto Health and Santee Cooper.
Newman has retired from the agency but recently
served on the search committee that hired Charles Bierbauer as
dean of the merged College of Mass Communications and Information
Studies. Bussell is chairman-elect of the School of Journalism's