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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Voice Is Making Itself Heard

The Voice Is Making Itself Heard:
Fairfield ad agency on the climb
By Mike Lauterborn

Fairfield, CT – The concept came to Matthew Hallock in his sleep and now the Fairfield-based ad agency he founded is one of the hottest shops in the region.

Located in a ranch-style house at 170 Brookfield Avenue, in a mixed-use/commercial area of town, The Voice boasts eight full-time employees and two paid interns. It’s a diverse group, so broad in ethnic representation it has been named a top business in America for three years running by Staffers have a wide range of skills allowing the shop to tackle most any marketing or advertising challenge in any medium. The agency’s forte, however, is creative, focused in the online/digital world. The Voice, in fact, has developed a reputation for high-end, content-rich online solutions. This includes websites, Flash demos, keynote presentations and rich internet applications.

Computer Associates, the world’s largest independent software vendor, is a leading client for which the agency has fulfilled over 500 projects. Other large clients include Emerson Network Power and the NFL. The shop has a solid stable of local clients as well, including Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton, High On the Hog Catering in Milford and Investment Capital Partners in Fairfield.

While the agency was literally born overnight, it was cooking over the years as Hallock rose through the ranks from freelance writing to creative and account management.

Born in New York City, 49-year-old Hallock said he always wanted to be a writer, though there were no family members that had pursued the craft to influence that aim. His father was a VP in personnel for an international paper company, in fact, and they bounced around a lot from New Jersey, to Mississippi, and then Pelham, New York. Writing, literature and reading were always a focus, and continued to be a target as he earned his B.A. in English from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton in 1984. There, he wrote for Pipe Dream, the school paper, and, in his senior year, interned at a local radio station writing 25 radio commercials a week.

After graduating, Hallock stayed on at the station as its assistant director of continuity, getting spots on the air and continuing to write copy. In 1985, he then moved back to New York City to “make my fame and fortune in advertising,” as he put it.

His first foothold, as a secretary in the research department at Grey Advertising, was not exactly his pie in the sky job. “It was the driest of the dry,’ he said about the position, which involved typing up statistics and creating tables on research results. At the same time, he was taking night classes at the School of Visual Arts, developing his portfolio and freelancing at other agencies.

Along the line, too, he became a reporter for the largest paper in Queens – the Western Queens Gazette. “I was THE sports department,” he said, doing a weekly column, taking photos and covering area high school, college, Catholic and recreation league team action.

In 1991, he landed a spot as a junior copywriter at Adler Boschetto Peebles, a mid-size ad agency with about 150 people. He worked on accounts like CIT Group, Business Week Magazine and Manufacturers Hanover, then ran the creative group on The National Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT). The experience sharpened his management style and the work became a meal ticket that attracted the attention of agency Ryan Drossman, which tapped him to run the Bear Stearns account in the late 90s.

After marrying in 1997, he earned his Masters Degree in American Studies at C.U.N.Y., started teaching the history of advertising and design at the School of Visual Arts and a seminar program at Yale, and moved to the creative team at the Keiler agency in Farmington, CT.

“I began noticing that kids coming out of college didn’t know how to get into the business or what would be expected of them and that agencies were frustrated with often ill-prepared recruits,” he said.

The need for a bridge between higher education and the advertising business was the driver behind The Voice, which came to Hallock in a dream in March 2001. He found a space in downtown Bridgeport near McLevy Green and rolled up his sleeves. “I had four walls, no windows, no clients, a wife, two kids and a mortgage,” he said.

But clients – Playhouse on the Green, The Klein Theater, Bridgeport Bluefish – happened, in-roads were made with area colleges for intern talent and, ultimately, in 2008, Hallock found the Fairfield location. The space features a photo studio that doubles as a seminar and meeting room, open-flow work spaces, a kitchen and two rooms that are rented to interns on staff.

“I didn’t start this for revenue,” said Hallock. “I did it to serve other people and give them entry. To see it succeed is fulfilling. I do feel like we have a higher calling. It gets you out of bed in the morning.”

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