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Takeover Is A “Natural Progression”

By Kevin Tampone, CNY Business Journal Staff

SYRACUSE, NY — Syracuse advertising agency ABC Creative Group has a new owner, but he’s not new to the company.

Travis Bort, formerly the company’s account supervisor, creative director and a principle at ABC since February of 1997, is now its new owner. He closed on the purchase Nov. 1st. Steven Roberts, the company’s founder, sold the company to focus on a long-time ambition.

“It’s been a long-time dream and plan of mine to go into the ministry,” he says.

Roberts has left the company and is now director of outreach at the Believers’ Chapel in Cicero. Bort and Roberts spent about a year working on the sale and so all transitional issues were addressed during that time, Bort says.

“Travis will continue to set ABC apart from all those places that just do ads,” Roberts says. “Travis grasps that. He has the approach of spending clients’ money like his own.”

When Roberts made the decision to sell, Bort says it didn’t take long for him to decide he wanted to buy.

Bort and Roberts had talked about Roberts’ desire to enter the ministry full time repeatedly through the years, so when he decided it was time, it did not come as a surprise to Bort.

“It was really a good chance for him to do what he really wants to do,” Bort says. “When I joined the company, me and him worked really hard, put our brains together, and kicked around a lot of the ideas and the concepts that have grown the company.

“There wasn’t a lot of thinking it over for me. It was a natural progression … It’s natural for me to take ownership of whatever I’m doing at a company. I never had an employee mindset.”

As for his future plans, Bort says he will continue to concentrate on ABC’s prime strength — its ideas. The firm tries to separate itself from other advertising agencies by developing unique, powerful concepts for clients and then deciding how to communicate them, Bort says.

Often the advertising world is beholden to traditions that dictate what medium is best for certain industries, he explains. Sometimes tradition works, but sometimes it does not, he says.

The goal at ABC is to come up with ways to sell a company’s unique points in different ways, Bort says. That’s more important to ABC than getting a commission, he adds.

ABC, founded in 1986, currently employs six and Bort says he does not ever see the firm growing beyond 12 to 15 employees. He says he likes the idea of remaining a small to mid-size agency.

“I don’t want to lose that edge,” he says. “I like being able to get my hands dirty and work with clients, and I like everyone to be involved.

“I don’t see us getting too much out of that comfort zone.”

He does plan to continue pursuing larger companies with bigger budgets that are looking to do more with their marketing plans. Some of the company’s current clients include the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, Oswego County National Bank, and Jreck Subs Restaurant chain.

Bort wants to continue that trend. He says he hopes to serve large companies that are willing to take chances with a “radical, smaller agency that is willing to do things differently.”