Quality of Life, Culture Attracts Advertising Firm to RB

July 27, 2012
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By John Burton

The Sawtooth Group partners are, from left, Jay Quilty, Kristi Bridges and Bill Schmermund.

RED BANK — The Sawtooth Group has found a new home in the borough where employees’ creative work can flourish and their quality of life has improved.

Sawtooth, an advertising and marketing firm, relocated in June from Woodbridge, N.J. to about 20,000 square feet of space at 141 West Front St. in Red Bank.

The move, the company’s partners said recently, made sense for them, given the work they do. “It’s important for us to be downtown,” said Jay Quilty, one of the partners.

There is vitality, an energy that comes from being part of a downtown community, as opposed to simply working out of an office park, he said.

“It’s a real difference,” between their former offices and Red Bank, said Quilty, who commutes from Bucks County, Pa. “You don’t walk in the suburbs.”

Sawtooth employees had been working in two connecting offices in Woodbridge. The sprawling township with 100,000 residents has a mix of industrial, commercial and retail complexes, along with residential communities and is intersected by a number of major roadways.

While Quilty and his partners, Kristi Bridges and Bill Schmermund, realize the Middlesex County location offered a centralized destination for employees and clients, it lacked amenities they wanted, such as a vibrant cultural scene in town and the natural light that was missing in their old offices, Bridges said.
The former site “didn’t do anything for us,” said Bridges, who is the firm’s creative director.

When the partners searched for a location to combine operations from the two separate spaces in Woodbridge, they knew they needed to meet their needs on both professional and personal levels.
That led them to Red Bank and the fit has been successful.

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“People are really into Red Bank,” Quilty said, as Sawtooth Group’s approximately 70 employees can explore the culture and entertainment avenues the community provides.

They have found that also has helped stoke the creative process, which is at the heart of what the Sawtooth Group does.

“Building brands and making them irresistible to the customers” is what the company does, said Quilty, who heads up client services for the firm.

“We try and tell a truth” about a product they have been charged with creating an image for or rebranding, he said.

That is done, in part, by “connecting as an emotional image,” said Schmermund, Sawtooth’s chief executive officer.

“The brand and the customer kind of mirror each other” when they are successful, Bridges said.

The company’s challenge for one of its current bigger clients, McCormick’s herbs and spices, is how to reintroduce what is really a venerable product to a new generation or to re-engage former customers.

“There is no one size fits all” approach to their business, Quilty noted, as the firm looks at an increasingly segmented media landscape — TV, radio, print, social media — to come up with the strategy that would best work for their clients’ goals.

“We have message strategies to meet all of those segments,” Quilty said.

“What’s the secret stuff?” he asked. “It starts with meeting with the clients. What’s fun and challenging is where these messages are going to show up.”

Advertising, like many other industries in a time of rapidly changing technology, is “in a state of flux now,” Quilty acknowledged. But, he said, the core components remain the same. “You start with a business problem and a challenge … and you use creativity to make them fall in love with the product.

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“I find that interesting,” he said.

That’s what keeps Quilty and his partners in the game.

“It’s a great way to make a living,” said Bridges, a Rumson resident, who has spent her career in advertising. “It’s not easy. It can be very hard but I love it.”

It’s all about keeping it interesting — whether it is the work, the location where the work is done or even the company’s name. Started by Schmermund, who lives in Holmdel, about 24 years ago, Sawtooth Group was named after a mountain range in Idaho. “We wanted a conversation starter,” he said.

“Sometimes names are something that have a feel,” Quilty said.

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