Two great agencies have become one! Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising have merged to create a combined company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Quad Cities. The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising services in healthcare, higher education and banking, corporate communications and nonprofit fundraising. Take a look around →

HRB's previous site can still be accessed below.


Brad Maxwell Brad Maxwell wrote:May 2nd, 2014

Mad Men Dressing Habits meet Brand Identity

Being a part of the Amperage family for about four months now, I have attained a wealth of knowledge from marketing to Web design and everything in between. However, one area that may still be lacking is my sense of fashion.

In the upbeat and energetic atmosphere at Amperage, a button up shirt and a pair of khakis perfectly suits our culture. Professional, but not outdatedCreative, but not over the top.  However, few days you will find me pacing the office without a tie. A bit over the top? Possibly, but I hope this blog assures you I am more than an intern fulfilling a Mad Men fantasy.

My Tie, My Brand                          

My Amperage internship has been a journey through brainstorming sessions, client meetings, even a company merger, all focused on establishing brand identity. Too often brands are confused with a sharp design, colorful logo, or catchy tagline, but I learned first-hand that a brand expands beyond any single component. A brand embodies the key messages, designs, and unique qualities of a company. A successful brand creates both a functional and emotional connection with your audience, and ultimately, serves as a promise of value.

So where does a piece of fabric dangling from my collar come into this? I believe my inclination to wear a tie demonstrates my ‘promise of value’ to Amperage and myself. I can already tell what you’re thinking, “this kid is such a kiss up,” but that is far from my intention.  My tie really reflects who and what I am, rather than anyone I am attempting to be.

Brad Maxwell

Why I Wear a Tie #1 – Confidently Stand Out:

I may be on the receiving end of a few jokes, but that perfectly suits the lively Amperage culture. Whether Steve asks for ID when I show up without a tie, or Shelby compliments my professionalism, I enjoy being an individual. Similar to my attire, a company’s brand must convey a unique quality to their desired audience. What are your values and missions and how do you consistently deliver that message?

Whether you view the tie positively or negatively, a majority would say it reflects who I am. Numerous opportunities are born from standing out and showcasing your value, so take advantage. “Hard working intern with a tie” still has nice ring to it, right?

Why I Wear a Tie #2 – Walk with a Purpose

As an Amperage intern, it’s incredibly important to stay hungry and walk with a purpose. Instead of writing this post, I could be surfing the internet, but what would that say about my brand? Everything in life is a choice, and every choice has an outcome. Wearing a tie seems to convey the desired outcome I aim to achieve, where I am a young professional first and a University of Iowa intern second. In reality they are one in the same, but I believe my degree of professionalism correlates with the amount of responsibility I am given. Of course simply wearing a tie will not change an entire persona, but a brand identity “says” a lot without physically saying anything.

Why I Wear a Tie #3 – Respect Given, Respect Returned:

Every day at Amperage, I have a group of coworkers that welcome me as part of the family. A group with a surplus of work on their plate, yet every person takes time out of their schedule to ensure I attain valuable knowledge. Being a hands-on learner with previous internship experience, I cannot begin to explain the value of being included. I am not asked to contribute, I am expected to. This style of atmosphere deserves my upmost respect, as our staff could just as easily pile up meaningless busywork. I figure a professional presentation, both through attitude and appearance, is the least I can do demonstrate my respect for the company and myself.

Let’s Tie this Up

My ties are more than just a piece of fabric swinging from my collar. The tie connects my daily attire with an over-arching brand identity. Whether your company’s brand needs to be developed, implemented, or reinforced, remember “the tie guy’s” message. A brand is more than a logo or tagline, it’s an identity that customers associate with your product or service. Controlling that identity rarely is a simple process, but in the end, can make all the difference in how current and potential customers perceive you.

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HRB Advertising Agency wrote:March 3rd, 2014

Advertising Agencies HRB and ME&V Announce Merger | New Corporate Name is AMPERAGE

Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls, March 4, 2014—Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising + Consulting today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to merge two of Iowa’s top advertising agencies on April 1. The merger will create a combined company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Quad Cities.


Joining the firms brings together Jim Thebeau, CEO at HRB and Steve Erickson, President and Executive Creative Director at HRB, with Bryan Earnest, Partner and President, Jim Infelt, Partner and Creative Director, and Mark Mathis III, Partner and Director of Cool at ME&V. Dee Vandeventer, ME&V partner and director of operations and fundraising, is retiring as a partner at ME&V. She will continue working as a fundraising adviser for the new organization.

The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising services in healthcare, higher education and banking, corporate communications and nonprofit fundraising. Combined capitalized billings will be around $33 million.

“Business is moving toward more integrated marketing and communications,” said Earnest. “This merger empowers us to better execute traditional and digital communications with clients who need deep expertise and expanded bandwidth to stay competitive in this cluttered marketplace. It also allows us to target prospects outside our current markets.”

The alliance will create one of the largest advertising agencies in Eastern Iowa and the largest fundraising consulting firms in the state with more than $100 million raised for nonprofits (including the recent Cedar Rapids Library 3.0 campaign) over the last 15 years.

“This alliance allows us to leverage skills and talent in ways that will greatly benefit our clients,” said Thebeau. “Key strategic benefits of the merger include accelerated technology and new media integration, increased content development and deployment, and video in cross-platform applications.”


On April 1, 2014, the merger will take place. The new company will not retain either of the existing names.  The new organization’s name is “AMPERAGE.” The branding line for the new entity is “Move the Needle.”

“Our new name represents the cross-platform strength of signal or message for any business or organization.  We want to forge a powerful connection for clients to energize business growth,” said Mathis. “Today there is no middle ground—you’re either moving the needle or you’re not.”

This alliance of the two well-known agencies brings together high-end strategic marketing, design, video production, crisis communications, research, brand development, public relations, social media, APP development, website building and consulting, search engine optimization, and capital campaign fundraising consulting all under one company banner. “Our shared vision for AMPERAGE is the need to discover the connection between our clients and their audiences, then, what motivates them in ways that can be measured,” said Erickson. Even though a major benefit of merging is economies of scale, the new company is positioning for growth and future expansion.

“We are not planning any down-sizing due to the merger. In fact, if anything, we’ll be hiring,” said Earnest. “We are positioned for growth and we plan to merge with two more agencies in order to accelerate growth and enhance our capabilities.”

According to Infelt, “Marketing is changing so much that new-age agencies need to be able to integrate messaging on all platforms from television to smartphones.  If you want to see results, you need to embrace all media and consider your brand and content across all platforms.”

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Brad Maxwell Brad Maxwell wrote:February 25th, 2014

Videos Speak Louder than Words

A picture is worth a thousand words. Assuming that’s true, how many words is a video worth?

We can of course take the analytical approach. Apple’s iPhone 5 for example, shoots video at 30 fps (frames per second), meaning every second of video consists of 30 still-image pictures. A little quick math: 30 seconds  x  30 fps  =  900 still images.  If each picture is truly “worth a thousand words,”  multiply 900 images by 1000 words, you get 900,000. So a 30 second video should bring nearly a million words to mind, right?


Marchino Sequence by Davide Costanzo

Viewer Value

We know it doesn’t exactly work like that, but you get the idea. Video is becoming a fundamental part of today’s media culture, from YouTube entertainment to Lynda video tutorials, the combination of video and web seem to be an eternal match. Video has the unique ability to engage viewers with visuals and sound, thus providing targeted audiences with an immersive and time-efficient learning experience. For marketers and web developers, the value of video in content marketing is more prevalent now than ever. If a video truly provokes thousands or millions of words, it’s important that marketers understand the thoughts and desired behaviors associated with each video strategy.

A Bright Future
Research by Cisco suggests video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017. In the fast paced world of business, clients (and potential clients) don’t have time to sift through mounds of text. Consumers want information delivered quickly, efficiently, and in a manner that engages multiple senses. Many marketers understand the paradigm is shifting towards multimedia, and it’s time to press the record button or be left behind.

  • By 2017 video will account for 69% of consumer internet traffic – Cisco
  • 76% of marketers plan to increase their use of video on the internet - Social Media Examiner
  • 58% of B2B marketers believe that video is an effective form of B2B marketing - CMI

Where Video & Content Marketing Meet
Videos reflect a company’s brand, whether the content is developed with this in mind or not. Too often, videos are created simply to increase traffic. Avoid the “traffic temptation” and ensure content represents the company mission, vision, and values. Create a strategy that supports a consistent brand message, conveys insightful information and provides a rich and interactive experience. Consider these points before venturing into the world of video marketing:

1).  Design Goal-Oriented Videos

  • What emotions do you want to evoke and why?
  • Who is your target audience?  (Industry language vs. average consumer)
  • What actions do you want your audience to take?

2).  Implement Calls to Action 

  • Provide links to valuable resources  (landing pages, related videos,  testimonials)
  • Offer convenient contact options for personal interaction and additional information
  • Encourage further discussion through blogs, comments, and other customer-relation outlets

3).  Analyze Performance 

  • View the analytics associated with your video and its desired outcome (fluxuation of sales, leads, web traffic, customer contact)
  • Gauge viewer behavior – What feedback is your video receiving? Do viewers easily associate it with your brand?
  • Use results to tweak content and maximize future return

Striking the Balance
While fundamental marketing practices remain relevant (identifying a problem, target audience and solution), a new challenge is presented to apply these principles to a much more immersive platform. Video content marketing needs to strike the delicate balance between pure entertainment and information overload.  Like any successful marketing campaign, understanding your audience is key.  The possibilities of video are nearly endless, but it only reaches as far as your conception, production and distribution strategies allow.

Remember your competition looms merely a few clicks away. Why just tell when you can show AND tell through a multi-sensorial platform?  Who knows, five years from now, will you be reading an article like this or watching it?

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Elyse Honold Elyse Honold wrote:February 18th, 2014

Lessons from the Sochi Olympics


Sochi 14

Flickr user: artisrams

  1. BE PREPARED: In reference to the dozens of articles about unfinished and unprepared hotels in Sochi, it is important to always be ready when you’re going to be working with clients (or Olympians). As a PR and marketing professional, it is vital to take the time to make sure a strategy or project is polished and error-free before it is presented to a client or the public. Being unprepared makes you and your company appear untrustworthy, and incapable of producing high-quality work. Start projects early and make sure you are allotting enough time for completion.
  2. BE VALUED: Despite Russian promises of packed stadiums, many events are under populated in attendance. Don’t let your clients (or your agency itself) face a similar problem. Generate hype surrounding clients by crafting a strategic PR and marketing campaign. Make sure content that is developed is relevant and interesting to consumers. In order to attract attention, the information you are providing must be of significant value and newsworthiness.
  3. BE DETERMINED: Snowboard Slopestyle was the newest sport debuted at the Winter Olympics and the U.S. won the gold in both the men’s and women’s events. Take advantage of your novel ideas and use them to help your clients succeed. Pitch your story with a unique angle, try out new social media platforms or develop a design that pushes your creatively. Trying new ideas is what leads to innovation and, ultimately, success.

HRB's Intern Blog

Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:February 11th, 2014

Get the Domain Name You Want. New Domain Extensions Are Here!

If you thought the introduction of .co and .me were big news, you should buckle up. Domain registrars are now rolling out the new TLDs (top-level domains). There are literally hundreds of domain name extensions being added, and some are already available for purchase today. So instead of the common .com you might be using .guru, .photography, .agency, and many many more.

List of the New Domain Names

Here’s the list, just to get an idea of the number of new domain extensions. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s relevant.
(Click to reveal the full list, or visit Namecheap)

Why new TLDs?

The use of .com was to designate the site as commercial, but the Internet has had the ideal domain names scooped up by other businesses or squatters. These new TLDs are both more descriptive as well as offering more options in finding an available URL that suits a business the best.

What does this mean for businesses?

Businesses should keep in mind that everyone has been trained to use com/org/net, and introducing a new convention is always met with some resistance as it starts to catch on and visitors learn about the new domains. It might be wise to get the .com variant of the domain just in case as someone told to visit might end up going to as a mistake.

The new TLDs are being rolled out so domain registrars such as Namecheap and GoDaddy (among others) are offering to send you alerts as they become available. They also provide the option to preorder at an additional cost in an attempt to reserve the domain before it’s officially made available for public sale.

Internet marketing and search engine optimization have domain strategy as an essential component, and new extensions make a huge number of options available for this now and in the future.

What does this mean for consumers & the general public?

It might take a second to see “jones.plumming” and immediately relate that it’s a website URL. Hopefully services/businesses will be auto-linking these so they just work when click/tapped, or they still format them with the familiar http://jones.plumming trapping.

It’s opening a huge opportunity to get the name you want for everyone, but the adoption of having people know about the new names is something that should be taken into account (definitely when presenting it in an non-interactive medium).

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
800-728-2656 ext. 123

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Brad Maxwell Brad Maxwell wrote:February 6th, 2014

“Cut it Out” – Why Jargon and Clichés Don’t Belong in PR Writing

Here at HRB, our staff loves catchy phrases and quips as much as the next person. But there is a fine line between catchy and cliché, and for PR professionals, this is a “slippery slope” (pun intended).

Technique gets noticed
We revisit the age old question, “What components embody strong PR writing?”  PRSA highlights clear, concise, and strategic writing as essential components. Clearly the list goes on, and of course, every situation varies. The structure and tone may seem obvious, yet clichés and jargon phrases continue to creep into many forms of public relations writing.

Communicators can quickly catch clichés, but how easily can you spot them in your own writing? We hear them all the time, so naturally they become the first words that come to mind. Consequently, the more familiar a phrase is, the more likely readers skip through it and skim your content. “Easy come easy go” right?

Avoid the cliché trap
You’re on a tight deadline…  I know the last thing on your mind is revising a press release for the hundredth time. However, I give you a few points worth considering before hitting that distribute button.

  • Cut down sentences.  Why use 20 words when 10 will suffice?
  • Avoid industry jargon.  Your audience often lacks the insider knowledge about the business or product.  Remember who you’re trying to reach.
  • Keep it relevant.  While you may be “delighted” or “thrilled” to deliver the news, your job is guide the reader to this feeling, not tell them.
  • Audiences are people too.  Keep your writing simple, interesting, and understandable.  Your audience is not a robot, (though it may occasionally seem that way).
  • Know your client. Some clients and executives may look for a more complex and wordy message to build credibility. Be on the same page to best fulfill their needs, but also explain the value of simpler content.  

If your audience is looking for a laugh, let them breeze through the comics or surf YouTube.  Remember your key objective is to deliver clear and concise content that your audience can engage with. Giving them a novel of clichés and/or a book of company jargon will only distract from your key message.

Ultimately “time is money” and public relations writing is “neither the time nor place” for endless clichés.

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Elyse Honold Elyse Honold wrote:February 5th, 2014

Oh, Instagram! The Photo Sharing App for Businesses

The social media app Instagram is quickly becoming a user favorite. Not only is it fun to see images of what your friends had for lunch or of their beach vacation, but the image-based application can be beneficial for blogs (personal and business) as well.

Instagram for Business

Photo credit: The Verge

According to Problogger, Facebook and Twitter operate within complicated algorithms, while the simple design of Instagram is a fresh take on image sharing. A simple post of what you, in a professional sense, have been up to is visible to all of your followers and is easy for them to access. Take a few minutes to play with photo editing filters and add a relevant hashtag or two to attract users.

There’s no need for witty statuses or attempts to generate retweets. Instead, a simple caption and location tag can show your followers all they need to know. Instagram currently boasts 150 million active users, with 65 million photo uploads per day. Let this popular app help increase engagement with your brand by adding photos to your posts.

Contact us to learn more about using Instagram and other social media platforms to grow your brand. Follow us on Instagram.

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HRB Advertising Agency wrote:February 5th, 2014

HRB Welcomes Two Spring Public Relations Interns

Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) welcomes two new interns to the agency this spring following an outstanding 2013 fiscal year. University of Iowa students Brad Maxwell and Elyse Honold will bring a multitude of experience to the team, ranging from media marketing to broadcast news.

As public relations interns, the pair will be tasked with analyzing and developing strategic campaigns for clients. Their responsibilities will involve writing and distributing press releases, researching clients, pitching to media outlets, and contributing to the agency blog. Additionally, Maxwell and Honold will face new challenges that draw from each of their backgrounds including: developing company videos, expanding inbound marketing, and assisting with brand development.

“With an influx of new clients and increasingly diverse workload, we saw the opportunity to provide two internships for students eager to gain agency experience, said Shelby Kraus, vice president of public relations. “Brad and Elyse each possess a unique set of skills that we hope to utilize and further develop.”

HRB Interns

Maxwell and Honold have held multiple internships in the journalistic field prior to HRB. Maxwell has interned at Frank N. Magid Associates, where he used market research and analysis to ensure brand consistency across mutliple media platforms. Maxwell also served as a reporting and writing intern at KCRG TV-9 News, where he shot, wrote, and edited stories throughout the Cedar Rapids’ television market.

“In today’s competitive job market, employers are looking beyond the classroom and searching for candidates with a diverse range of real-world experience,” said Maxwell. “I believe exploring multiple areas of journalism will best prepare me for a successful career, but also create some memorable stories.”

Honold brings a wealth of experience from the Chicago area, where she interned with several boutique PR agencies including Ripple PR and Sanderson & Associates. She also spent a semester in London, where she worked in the PR department of GUESS Watches & Jewelry. Through these diverse experiences, she gained valuable public relations skills working with both local and national clients.

“After taking-on public relations roles in Chicago and London, I am excited to begin a new chapter at HRB this semester,” said Honold.“ I will be working with clients to develop multi-faceted strategic campaigns that allow me to apply my previous experience, as well as develop new skills specific to an advertising agency.”

Maxwell and Honold are studying Journalism and Mass Communications and currently completing their senior semesters. Honold is also obtaining a minor in German, while Maxwell is finishing a second major in Cinema and Comparative Literature. Honold is a member of the Psi Beta Chapter of Chi Omega Sorority, volunteers at the Iowa City animal shelter, and previously worked with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Maxwell has previously been a member of The University of Iowa Career Leadership Academy and Daily Iowan TV, where he was recognized as a Hearst Journalism Award semi-finalist and received an Upper Midwest Student Emmy Award.


Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:January 17th, 2014

Three Tips to Boost Your PR Efforts

HRB Public Relations

Photo credit: stockholminnovation

Public Relations Tip 1: Don’t forget offers and calls to action.

It seems as though public relations is most often used to create and send out information such as news releases, articles and media alerts about events. PR pros can use offers and calls to action via social media to enhance engagement with a client’s branded content. Publish a new white paper and promote the offer on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook the website where it’s available for download. Use social media to ask followers to take a product, market or customer satisfaction survey.

Public Relations Tip 2:   Want a little extra free help in being found online?

Create a Wikipedia page for your company or organization and fill it with quality, searchable content.
A Wikipedia page is like a free mini website for your company that shows up in search results and can create traffic and inbound traffic to your website. Many companies don’t claim their company Wikipedia page and overlook this valuable free marketing tool. It’s also a good idea to claim your LinkedIn, Facebook and Manta pages as well, since they are additional sources of information about your company and potentially generators of inbound links to your website.

Public Relations Tip 3:  Get free national publicity by helping a reporter.

HARO is a free service that PR pros can sign up for to receive daily requests from regional and national print and online journalists looking for expert sources to interview or to provide specific information for a story.  Help A Reporter Out (HARO) has been around for years and is an especially good site to monitor if your involved in financial, lifestyle, healthcare, medical, weight loss, pets or any number of other topics and you are an expert or have access to one.

Jim Thebeau
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Brando Hills Brando Hills wrote:January 10th, 2014

Facebook Makes Adjustments to Improve Advertising for Brands

Brands can relax a little better knowing that Facebook plans to get rid of their Sponsored Stories on April 9th. This news comes in the new year after Facebook announced back in June 2013 that different changes were in progress to eliminate redundancies, optimize social context in ads, and promote ad consistency.

Last month Facebook rolled out their new video ad feature that allows brands to use videos to share their message. The new updates will give brands and advertisers better advertising opportunities through Facebook and will create a better experience for the end users.
Contact us if you are interested in learning how your business can grow using Facebook Advertising.

Brando Hills
Social Media Specialist
800-728-2656 ext. 114

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