Founder and president
Lou Congelio is founder, president and executive creative director of Houston advertising agency StanAndLou Marketing/Advertising, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. With more than 30 years of advertising experience, Congelio has been heavily involved in the creation of advertising for many of Houston’s top companies. He also has served as chairman of the Houston Advertising Foundation (now AAF Houston) and is founder and chairman of Only in Houston, a not-for-profit group formed to promote the creative forces in Houston through programs and resources that increase awareness and prosperity of the local marketing communications industry. Congelio has served on the marketing committee for the Greater Houston Partnership, and is president of the Just Ask Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of neurofibromatosis. Congelio was interviewed by Christine Hall.
Q: What defines Houston advertising agencies?
A: I think what makes Houston advertising agencies unique is their entrepreneurial spirit — a can-do attitude. In the 30 years that I’ve been in Houston advertising, anything was possible. If you had a great idea but no budget, you could still get it done in Houston. No pretentiousness. No attitude. When you’re working with the owner of a Houston ad agency, instead of a local satellite office for a national firm, you’re going to get great service, great work and a great value.
Q: Why do you think bigger agencies left Houston, and under what conditions do you think they might return?
A:I think most of the national agencies left Houston when their large oil company clients went elsewhere. Exxon went to New York. Texaco merged with Chevron and now has a California agency. Pennzoil went to Detroit. Conoco merged with Phillips and went to Hollywood for their advertising etc. Why? I have no idea! The people and the talent are here. When you lose a megamillion cornerstone account, like an oil company, it’s hard to replace that income unless you can land one of the other 25 Fortune 500 companies in town. It does seem a bit strange that Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country and is second only to New York City in the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city yet only two are represented by Houston advertising agencies. If the work is here, the national agencies will return.
Q: Is Only in Houston living up to your expectations?
A: Beyond my wildest dreams. What started out merely as a Web site to promote the creative talent in Houston has grown to become a powerful force in the Houston advertising community. We now have more than 2,000 listings of companies in Houston that deal in advertising, marketing, communication and education. More than 100,000 visits a month. Onlyinhouston.com truly is a one-stop source for finding creative talent in Houston and also to find out what is going on in the Houston advertising community. And it’s free.
Q: Is there anything missing from Houston’s advertising industry, and what can local agencies do to correct that?
A: One of my favorite quotes is from Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky who said, “We’re not in the business of making cute little films and throwing logos on the end of them. We’re in the business of being really compelling.” And also building the brand. A lot of the clients that we’re working with are looking for not just strategic thinking in terms of their advertising but strategic thinking for their brand and their marketing that is so tied into their business strategy that they can kind of be one and the same. In Houston, I see a lot of safe, smart advertising that’s strategic but not revolutionary or new. That may stem from Houston being more of a conservative business-to-business town instead of a cutting-edge, consumer-driven market. I think as an industry we need to consistently challenge our clients with new ideas and new ways of doing things, taking advantage of the latest technology and interweb resources to build their business and their brand.
Q: Where do you see Houston agencies going in the next 10 or 20 years?
A: I think the next 10 to 20 years will be some very exciting times in the ad agency business. For one thing, I think advertising agencies, as we know them today, will be a thing of the past. In their place will be incredibly strategic, highly focused creative, technology companies serving niche needs for specific clients. Advances in technology will greatly influence the way goods are advertised and presented to the public. Traditional advertising, i.e., billboards, radio commercials, direct mail, etc., will be replaced by highly targeted communications that hit exactly the right prospects — and hardly anyone else — with entertaining, hard-to-ignore messages that can follow people via new high-tech media into their cars, offices, living rooms and bedrooms. Those Houston agencies that master these new techniques will succeed. Those that don’t, won’t.
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