January 20, 2022

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Ad Chatter Featuring Sean Looney of Looney Advertising

This episode of Ad Chatter features a revealing conversation with Sean Looney of Looney Advertising in Montclair, New Jersey. Sean and his wife Debbie Looney started the agency more than 20 years ago. Today, Looney is one of the industry’s fastest-growing agencies in the industry and we ask Sean what his secret is.

The short answer is Looney believes in a healthy work-life balance. They also believe in strategic decision-making and solving business problems. Another notable point of difference is Looney’s belief in and investment in their own production facilities, where they make branded content and ads on their terms while saving their clients time and money.

During this episode, Sean discusses the arc of his career, so far. Here’s how he started:

When I was a young kid, I started writing ads in my head, for whatever reason and thinking oh, you could do this better, or they should do it that way. Not really realizing that it was a profession. And when I graduated college, I had an opportunity to work for Goldman Sachs in their executive training program. And I turned that down to make, I think it was $16,500 a year in my first ad job, and, you know, I’m probably dating myself a little bit, but that was even a lousy salary back then. It was a really terrible job market. It was like the early 1990s and it was awful time to try and get a job. So I took it and I was a junior account person and I realized I really wanted to do the creative.

Sean recalls the demands and pressures of working for the big agencies in Manhattan—an experience that he and Debbie chose not to repeat in Montclair.

There was a point where I was being shipped off to Amsterdam to run an account and then she’d have to go to shoot down in Argentina for the big shops. And we were like, Jesus, we just had our first child, what the hell are we gonna do? You know? And we said, okay, how can we do this and have a wonderful career and still be parents? We wanted to have that balance. We wanted to be good parents…

Here’s more of what Sean says about the importance of work-life balance:

I initially started the agency probably somewhat out of anger. Really. I was really disgruntled being at the agency that I was at previously. And that’s a great motivator…but now, you know, we’re just entirely motivated for different reasons. We have people here that have children and they’re buying houses and they’re getting married and, you know, you feel a huge responsibility and love for these people that you want to see succeed. You feel that you’re part of that success. So, you know, love’s much more powerful than anger.

That’s well put. And may I ask, how many ad people do you know who are motivated by love? Love for the work and love for the people who make the work?

Speaking of the work, here’s a recent TV spot that Looney made for Benzel Busch, a dealer of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Mercedes vans in New Jersey and New York.


Previously on Adpulp.com: When Bahlsen Cookies Drop from the Sky, Good Things Are In Store