“I can’t go anywhere,” laughs Michael Benedict, “without someone saying ‘I know Jim Benedict.’”
Michael’s father, Jim, started Benedict Advertising & Marketing in Daytona Beach 43 years ago. And although his father didn’t want to hire him right out of college at first, he did and Michael moved on to become the agency’s second owner.
The company continued under the second generation for 10 years and, on Valentine’s Day in 2015, it was sold to JKR Advertising and Marketing in Central Florida. There are 80 employees overall and in Daytona Beach they are busting at the seams with a staff of 25. The company just consolidated its Orlando operation and relocated to a 24,000sf space in Maitland. The local Daytona Beach office is on the look-out for a larger space as well. The change “pushed the company to grow much more on a managed track.”
How does Anthropology with Advertising mix? Very well.
Benedict, a University of Florida graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising, said advertising was a natural career choice. “I grew up in the business, worked a lot of summers there and interned.” But it wasn’t his first major. “I majored in Anthropology all through my undergraduate years.” He said there are a lot of similarities between the two with “the study of people and their society, the cultures and how they communicate. It’s very applicable to advertising.”
“I saw an opportunity to work with my Dad and grow the family business,” said Benedict. If you happen to converse with him for any length of time, you’ll notice the word ‘opportunity’ peppered throughout the conversation. That could have a lot to do with his upbringing.
Even the bad times were good times
“We were pretty lucky growing up. You don’t realize the good times and the bad times when your parents take care of everything for you. We didn’t realize until later that when my dad’s office was moved into the house that that was a bad time. We thought it was great, Dad’s here all the time. We didn’t realize the agency was going through some trouble when we were younger because we never actually suffered. They still always did everything for us. He still had time to coach us in soccer and baseball. I look back and wonder, how did he have time to do all that and run a business?” Benedict’s mother, Marguerite, also worked at the company several times throughout the years . “We have a great family. They put us first in everything we did and supported us 100%.” A 13th generation Floridian born in DeLand, Benedict has two brothers, Tyler who is in Greensboro, NC writing for a mountain biking blog, BikeRumor, and Jonathan who came to work for the company after several years as a golf course superintendent.
“We shoot for the stars.”
“I feel like advertising people in general are eternal optimists,” said Benedict. “Because we always feel like we’re going to win the next pitch. We always feel like we’re going to do the right thing for the client and I always feel that if you think that way, you’ll do that. It doesn’t always happen but I just pick myself up and do it again. I try not to allow the negativity to breed, because it’s very destructive. We try to push forward and it’s just better to be positive. The majority of the people here see the glass as half full. We shoot for the stars.” Benedict sees his job as solving problems and creating opportunities. When asked, “How do you survive growth spurts and how do you keep creative, creative?” he has ready answers.
Managing growth and not managing creativity
“We try to manage growth responsibly,” said Benedict. “We will turn away business if we don’t feel we can handle it. It’s very difficult because when everyone wants to hire an agency it does come in spurts, but it’s the right thing to do. We learned that a long time ago, my dad taught me that. And we have to have the right people to build our team members up as well.” Regarding creativity, “there’s not the silo in the sense that we don’t work together, but there is the silo in that we don’t tell each other what to do. Our creative department is led by our creative director and at the end of the day we have to trust each other. We work together, but we don’t step on each other’s toes. It’s a very defended territory. So we understand and respect that. And you have to have the right people to do that. When you cross those boundaries, there isn’t the trust or the ability, on either side.”
Moving forward is something the younger Benedict said he learned from his father.
“I learned a lot from him on how to move forward, on business and family, life in general,” said Benedict. “He’s been a great resource. He’s doing well and is really happy that he’s retired. He didn’t get to travel much outside of work travel because of the business so now he’s enjoying that. He’s going everywhere and making up for all the time he didn’t get to do those things. And having three boys growing up in the house. We came first, so it’s nice to see him travelling all over.”
“People think they want to be part of the business because it’s glamourous and it is to us, but there’s also a lot of work behind the scenes to make things happen,” said Benedict. To illustrate, Benedict’s clients are served by an account management team that consists of the media, creative, digital and administrative departments. “That’s how we work on the account services side – management, strategy and communication.”
“Problems happen,” said Benedict. “We all make mistakes, we own up to them and fix them and hopefully we become smarter and create better opportunities in the future because of it.”
Why Ad Fed?
Benedict has held many positions on the board of the Daytona chapter of the American Advertising Federation and is this year’s Program Chair. Together with the board’s input, he has secured speakers from Publix, Tervis, Costa Sunglasses, social influencers, and landed during Speedweeks Joie Chitwood, III, President of Daytona International Speedway, who will share his initiatives to brand the new motorsports stadium upon completion of the $400-million Daytona Rising project.
“Our agency, myself and my family have been big supporters of Ad Fed for a long time. It’s always what you put into it, so we try to put a lot into it and I think we get a lot out of it. We have been able to network, make friends, create business connections that help us with our clients.”
“It’s a very useful group and why would you not want to be with like-minded individuals? I like it for the commonality. We have similar issues and opportunities that present themselves, a base understanding. It is becomes a very easy group to talk with.”
What would Benedict consider to be one of the company’s greatest achievements? The winner of numerous industry awards including “thousands of Addys”, the greatest accomplishment would not be the awards themselves. “We’ve been very fortunate to have great clients that allow us to do great creative and judges that think the same as we do.” A sign of success for Benedict is the number of people that have come through the company.
“I can look on LinkedIn and see 50 people I helped develop and train,” said Benedict, who believes strongly in community involvement and supporting educational opportunities. “It’s two-fold: we have been a part of making them better at marketing and advertising, and they have made us better.” Benedict says almost 50% of the students who have interned with his company have become full-time employees. It’s that give and take attitude that permeates Benedict’s philosophy.
“One of our policies is that you can get a free day every month to donate your time. We always have a\ pro bono client and this year it’s Marine Discovery Center.” The company supports Habitat for Humanity and was instrumental in helping with the Stock Car Hall of Fame which, in its 27th year, recently moved from The Shores Resort and Spa to The Ocean Center.
“I was raised that if you take, you have to give back.”