I hired Adam at my agency, Cone Communications, when he was fresh out of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. He quickly earned a reputation as one of the most innovative, brightest and passionate “Coneheads” in our brand marketing and crisis management groups. He helped grow our business, mentored junior staff and struck out on his own with our full support in 2007. At the beginning of the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, armed with just a laptop and a cellphone, he opened a downtown office, won his first client and built a PR business that survived, thrived and defies the notion that firepower is proportional to size.
Adam is a new breed of practitioner who achieves global results for global clients, creatively and resourcefully. He’s attracted accounts on four continents and assembles nimble teams that blow client expectations out of the water. Over the last year, he’s demonstrated a series of commitments to the industry with one amazing feat after another, which makes me so proud.
His work spans 20 categories, from beer to baby seats, from cyber security to the world’s largest swimming pools. His brand history includes names like Perrier, Timberland, Jiffy Lube, Magic Hat Brewing Company, Evenflo and Jacuzzi. His agency’s mission is to “bring out the best in brands by helping them grow, communicate and do the right thing”—with an emphasis on the latter. His work has helped introduce children to STEM careers, turned hackers into cyber defenders, cut thermal pollution, greened urban areas, built followings for social entrepreneurs, encouraged healthy eating, educated parents on child passenger safety and supported women reentering the workforce.
Breakthroughs and results
Adam answered the question, “How do you convince people to buy new music from an unsigned, independent band?” by inventing a new content distribution vehicle, deployed in an industry-spanning campaign which turned the digital into the drinkable, offered a complete sensory experience, used technology to solve a problem technology created and changed consumer behavior. MarketWatch called it “a new strategy” and Adweek said it “took co-branding to the next level.” T.R.I.P. was the world’s first studio album released on cans of craft beer brewed to pair with the music. The campaign with The Lights Out and Aeronaut Brewing Co. generated coverage and conversations around the world, sold out of every unit twice and drove a 167% increase in live attendance. Aeronaut’s CEO said Adam “transcended the ordinary and set a new standard for how these things should be done.”
Adam followed up the success of T.R.I.P. by transforming a diverse group of real-life pregnant women from across the country into the world’s first team of pregnant comic book superheroes with Summer Infant. The M.O.M. Squad celebrated all moms as heroes, triggered a spree of supermom-tagging which doubled the brand’s social interactions and contributed to a double-digit percentage growth in sales. One editor wrote, “It challenges the way our society thinks about mothers.” Summer Infant’s VP of Marketing said it was the most “relevant and inspiring story delivered to our target consumer” to date.
Adam capped off this run by combining the inventive and transformative elements of his previous work to address a new challenge: “How can a brick-and-mortar capture the attention of digital natives?” Adam turned social insiders into a series of inspired menu items with Life Alive, a collection of organic cafes led by Panera and Au Bon Pain founder Ron Shaich. Mix It Up brought a diverse cohort of micro-influencers together with the brand’s culinary director to create healthy dishes from their personal stories, and named them after their social handles. It put the brand at the center of the city’s food, healthy living and student scenes, tripled its social interactions and raised thousands of dollars for wellness nonprofits. Ron said Adam was “superb in his approach and his commitment to doing it right.”
Adam is leading the charge for PR to drive product development and earn the profession a seat at a table few of us even considered. He believes when PR is judged on the success of the product or service it supports, PR needs to take a stronger hand in their creation. He doesn’t wait for clients to come to him with a product. He uses creative insights to tell clients what type of product they could make.
He created a pro bono speaking tour called Invention in PR and set out on a mission to inspire the next generation of rule breakers to create new communication vehicles and construct campaigns across industries—with the goal of reshaping perceptions and the practice of PR from its past as an organization’s mouthpiece to its future as an organization’s creative engine.
His talks have reached more than 1,200 students at dozens of universities across the country, from Syracuse, to Georgetown, to DePaul, to Penn State, to American, to BYU and everywhere between. Through his tour and serving as a breakout speaker at the PRSSA National Conference, Adam is teaching how to push the limits of PR and showing the possibilities of what PR can do when you don’t play by the book. One attendee said he’s “literally changing the way I think.”
Adam’s advocacy for PR’s leadership role has led to him moderating the Storytelling panel at PRSA Boston’s Social Media Summit, being a featured guest on the PRWeek Podcast, taking live questions over a #RaganChat and contributing a piece on why PR professionals make effective inventors in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics Design and Innovation issue. The director of PRSA’s national board called Adam’s contribution, “a master class in creative PR…awe inspiring…what Top of Your Game looks like.”
Throughout his career, Adam has mentored dozens of professionals who have gone on to drive change at some of the best agencies in the country, including Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Droga5, J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, Racepoint Global, Weber Shandwick, FleishmanHillard, Cone and Ketchum—and media companies like VICE, AMC and WBUR.
Last year, Adam Ritchie Brand Direction swept every PR competition in the country, with more than 40 honors. It was the most recognized agency in the PRSA Silver Anvil Awards, with four category wins including Packaged Goods, became the first business of its size to ever win a PRWeek Award—twice—(Best in Creative Excellence and Best in Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Media), a Holmes Report Innovation & Insights SABRE Award for Brand Content & Creativity, PR Innovation of the Year from the American Business Awards, Most Innovative Content Distribution Strategy from the Content Marketing Institute and clinched categories from Bulldog Reporter, PR News, PR Daily and more.
This year, Adam is a Bulldog Reporter PR Professional of the Year, PR News PR Professional of the Year, Holmes Report Most Innovative Marketing Communications Professional and PRWeek 40 Under 40 honoree.
Adam is a leading voice in the active workplace movement through his treadmill desk client, LifeSpan. Adam walked 3,000 miles across the country, from Boston to San Francisco, using their product, while promoting it. Then he walked back to complete the round trip: a commitment which took seven years. He’s pushing offices to modernize into better places to be, help people lead healthier, less sedentary lives and live by his own message points.
Outside of work
In addition to running his business, Adam is a touring musician. Adam’s band has written and released five studio albums, performed at national music festivals, composed songs picked up by MTV and been featured in Billboard. Originally from the hometown of Bruce Springsteen, he and Bruce may be the only Freehold natives who have attended South By Southwest as both performers and speakers.
NPR recently featured Adam in a special live session at WGBH studios, where he discussed independent music and how nontraditional distribution can be used to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital.
15 years of clients have called Adam “tenacious, fearless, disciplined, wise, accommodating, passionate and game-changing.”
A peer at the world’s largest agency called Adam “a rare combination of strategic and creative ability that makes him a professional force of nature with a seemingly endless ability to make the impossible a reality.”
PRWeek said he is “a true innovator, pioneering new approaches.”
The director of public diplomacy at the Newhouse School called him “one of the finest and most creative public relations minds in the country.”
Adam was amazing when I met him 15 years ago. He’s absolutely stratospheric today. Most people talk about brand ideas. Adam has evolved to inventing them.