Adtegrity: Cheerleaders of Innovation
Adtegrity.com features glossy online promotion with a hearty dose of local integrity. At a glance, the web-based advertising network displays a sleek look and big city promises. Yet, Adtegrity is centrally based in downtown Grand Rapids allowing the nationally focused company to nurture its regional roots and foster a sense of community.
Scott Brew, President, CEO and founder of Adtegrity.com, is not a native Grand Rapidian, but you would never guess it. "I grew up in the Chicago area," Brew says. Living in Grand Rapids for well over a decade, he has noticed that "the changes within the city have been significant."
Brew moved to the area in 1999, following a job opportunity in the Internet services department at US Exchange, a telecommunications company. Over a span of a few years, Brew made several solid connections with other co-workers in his department. When he "stumbled across an opportunity to broker some advertising for a web hosting client, it worked out really well and was very profitable for that customer," Brew says.
US Exchange began refocusing its company and "I decided to go off on my own and essentially broker online advertising with that [initial] customer," Brew says. Following success with that first client, Brew "thought it would be exciting get everyone back together; to get the band back together," he jokes.
Twelve years later, Adtegrity.com is flourishing. That first year in business, the company earned roughly three million in net revenue and last year, they grossed about 10 million in net revenue.
"Our business had evolved a lot. It used to be that there was a standard way of looking at things. We were an ad network," Brew says. "Over time, we have evolved into almost a strategic media buying company. Our real value now is taking advertisers with specific performance goals. We manage their media spend through several advertising exchanges -- software platforms where buyers and sellers come together to buy in real time -- like the Stock Exchange."
While Adtegrity has spent time bouncing around in offices on the SE side, from the Eastown area to Kalamazoo and 28th street and even by the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, they now reside downtown. The central reason for relocating was "not because it made the most economic sense short term," Brew explains. "I want to be a part of helping the city get to the next stage of maturing."
Now Adtegrity operates out of the new building at 38 Commerce known as "Thirty-Eight." Located on the corner of Commerce and Weston, the year-old building epitomizes the vision of a modern, hip and sustainable Grand Rapids. The space is mixed use, where residential dwellings, offices spaces and projected retail shops and restaurants will come together in a LEED certified construction.
"We were the first people to sign on at 38 Commerce. We've benefited from that visibility and getting plugged into the local community better," Brew says.
The relocation has been successful. The roughly 30 employees are situated in an airy space filled with light streaming in through entire walls of windows, which visually emphasizes the connection to downtown. Not only is Adtegrity centrally located, but the employees can experience the urban setting while seated at their desks.
"Through the course of bringing Adtegrity back into the central business district, I see this community as kind of unique. Some people would disagree, but I think we have a really good group of visionary people within our community along with a bunch of people who are doers. It's one of the few places where you can have a crazy idea and it happens," Brew says. "[Grand Rapids has] this reputation in the area of being insular; if you don't follow a certain path you aren't respected. I think that is a stereotype that needs to go away, because the reality is there is a bunch of cool stuff going on here and it's a very diverse group of people."
Brew's hope for the future of the city focuses on employment opportunities. "You should be able to grow up here, go to school here and find a job here," he says. "We're big fans of the community and want to keep finding ways to add back to it. We want to keep growing and be a part of a set of companies that help retain talent. That's one of the biggest things that I see with a long-term value."
"[Adtegrity is] a perfect testimony that there is talent in this community. We weren't out there hiring Internet advertising people; we were hiring people who could learn Internet advertising. They're not transplants, they are all from the area," Brew says. "I want to show a fresh Grand Valley graduate that there is a variety of options to get into their professional career and thrive and not just for a few years before jetting off to [a larger city]. We need to provide professional opportunities for those folks. Adtegrity is one piece of it. We have good entry level job opportunities for people just out of college."
For Brew, innovation and forward thinking is paramount to creating a thriving city. "If you're not advancing, you're dying and we're a community that seems pretty hell bent on moving forward…I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's a great city."
Audria Larsen, freelance writer for REVUE Magazine, is the founder of Audacious Hoops hula hoop company, teaches Hoop Dance Fusion classes, heads the Atomic Hoop Troupe, performs with Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, is headmistress of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School Grand Rapids, produces Shimmy Shack Burlesque and is an occasional model. She also attends Aquinas College.