Why Strong Automotive Merchandising?
We have the in-house capability to provide tailored merchandising that is original, creative and most importantly result driving advertising. As our client, you’re treated as an individual with definite needs, not as a “one-size-fits-all” store.
For 40 years, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been successful in driving the highest quality next day traffic for dealers and dealer groups nationwide through grassroots, digital, broadcast and direct mail marketing yielding the highest return.
1977 – Strong Automotive Merchandising opened the doors
1994 – Mike Strong sold Strong Automotive Merchandising to the employees; agency renamed Intermark Group
2004 – John Paul Strong founds Strong, LLC
2008 – Addition of Direct Contact and Interactive companies
2014 – Strong Automotive Merchandising name regained
2017 – Generating traffic for 40 years with a staff of over 80 full-time employees
In 1977, Mike Strong joined the world of advertising with nothing more than a desk, a calling book, and a rotary dial telephone. “Mike Strong & Associates” was open for business.
The company grew quickly, collecting several big-name banks and commercial centers in the region. It was a flourishing business, but it was destined to evolve.
The tipping point occurred in 1983 when Mike and a few associates traveled to Atlanta to film a set of car commercials. Because these were all for automotive clients, the team was able to produce six times more material – significantly more than they could churn out for non-automotive clients. The auto industry was standardized, which means making ads was a more streamlined process. When the results came back, the team was stunned.
That was on Friday. The following Monday, Mike announced that the agency would be splitting. Mike Strong & Associates would transform into an automotive-only agency, releasing all retail clients to the newly-formed secondary business.
This was the beginning of a new era.
The new, auto-exclusive business grew quickly, picking up several Chevrolet dealer groups in Florida. With the rise in demand, Strong added the company’s first in-house direct mail division in 1984.
It was a crazy time back then. The internet was in its infant stages, meaning the team would physically ship commercial proofs to dealers – upwards of 400 VHS tapes every day. Strong was among the first to have a dedicated shipping truck from FedEx.
It wasn’t uncommon for the team to work 40–60 hours straight to get everything produced in time. But the founding members were ready to put in the necessary investment involved in starting a new business.
Along with producing next-day traffic, Strong needed to be capable of next-day travel. The agency’s first plane would be considered a crop-duster by today’s standards. We’re talking crash landings, engine fires, near-death experiences. But as soon it was fixed, the team would be back in the air, determined to never miss a meeting.
The company had a new focus, and it needed a new name to reflect it. That’s where “Strong Automotive Merchandising” was born. It gave the agency an advantage, instantly communicating its exclusive focus on automotive – the only agency of this kind at the time. The name would stick for several years before disappearing for more than a decade.
Eventually, Mike made the decision to transition out of the company. New leadership stepped in, and the company was sold as an employee stock ownership plan. This was the end of Strong Automotive Merchandising.
John Paul Strong was coming of age, and after a couple of years working for another local agency, he partnered with his father to buy Birmingham’s Rogers Advertising in 2004. This acquisition is the foundation of Strong as we know it today.
Under John Paul’s leadership, “Strong, LLC, An Automotive Intelligence Company” was born. The agency focused on providing dealers with everything they needed to know about their markets: target zip codes, demographic maps, competitor information and a panoply of market insight.
The approach was a popular one and led the company to outgrow its shell. In 2010, the company moved to its current headquarters in Office Park. Along with giving the agency more room to grow, it also gave us Midtown Studio. Having a production studio in-house was a gamechanger for the quality and turnaround Strong could provide. It also allowed for in-house digital, direct mail, and equity services to come on board.
But something was missing. The name – Strong, LLC – still didn’t have the right ring to it. A generation after its naming, the family business once again became called Strong Automotive Merchandising 2014.
Today, Strong Automotive Merchandising has grown to employ more than 100 advertising professionals serving more than 230 dealer clients. John Paul has taken over the reins from Mike’s founding momentum, with the two still regularly consulting on the agency’s strategy and growth.
We’ve grown fast and furiously over the years and have encountered many changes along the way, but we’ve never lost touch with our defining characteristic:
Strong's ability to produce the best possible product for dealers and ultimately drive traffic to their stores.
The biggest testament to the success of Strong Automotive Merchandising over the last half of the century is its ability to endure such a tumultuous industry and to retain so many full-time employees as well as clients. What began as a small company of seven people has now burgeoned to 10 times that size. Our ever-growing staff is complemented by an ever-growing list of clients from Connecticut to California. Our roots are in Birmingham, Alabama but we have offices all over the U.S. from North Carolina to New York. Our Account Executives have the ability to be at a dealer’s office within 24 hours’ notice anywhere in the nation thanks to Strong Air, our own company jet.
To say that SAM has the best creative and knowledgeable minds in the business is an understatement. We’ve masterfully harnessed a sweet combination of experienced automotive veterans and young bright minds. This collaboration is unstoppable when it comes to developing the latest trends and creating a cutting-edge product. We’ve managed to retain a high majority of our clients because of our employees’ ability to meet and exceed their wildest expectations.
We’ve grown fast and furiously over the years and encountered many changes along the way, but have never lost touch with our original mission. Strong Automotive Merchandising will continue to grow and be successful as we drive traffic to dealerships.