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The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast

Feb 14, 2020

John Hernandez is Owner and Partner at On Advertising, a marketing and advertising agency that has, over the past 26 years, rebranded itself, leveraged “new identities,” survived a recession, and increased and changed its client base. 

In this interview, John talks about his company’s “humble beginnings” and reveals the strategic decisions that helped it grow.

Ron Meritt, a television meteorologist, started NPR Public Relations in 1993 as a side gig. He provided traditional PR for nonprofit organizations . . . working out of his house with 1 client. 

In 2002, John accepted Ron’s invitation to join the business and quit his job at the television station. They took out an SBA loan to cover payroll, rebranded the company as PRfect Media, and offered a flat fee “one-stop-shop for everything” marketing solution for small businesses. In addition to traditional marketing services – billboards, TV, radio, PR, and support – they utilized video, a technology application new for marketing. John’s television-world experience – in graphic design and in scripting, shooting, and editing video – provided a differentiating and cost-saving advantage for both the agency and its clients: They didn’t need to hire outside firms for those services. 

Six or seven years ago, the agency was doing a lot of non-traditional work, but people on the outside perceived them as a traditional PR firm. What to do? 

How about doing the same thing the agency would do for its clients?

John and Ron tasked the agency’s employees to rebrand the company and On Advertising was born: The employees set the color palette, the logo, and the brand. In a bold move, the agency took out a revolving loan and relocated the company from a commercial building in the Phoenix suburbs to a downtown high-rise, putting their signage on a street with heavy traffic all through the day. That move almost doubled their business: they were now visible, accessible, and re-defined. 

John says On Advertising has two growth strategies: to build the business organically and to expand its client base and capabilities through mergers and acquisitions. The agency still maintains its revolving credit line to even out the cash flow and to facilitate these acquisitions and mergers. 

John lists a number of keys to On Advertising’s success:

He believes the company gets traction as long as it treats itself as a client: spending money on itself; boosting its website presence, Google Analytics, and social media presence; and embracing media marketing technology.

He emphasizes that it is as critically important to have “trustworthy team members on the outside” (CPA, attorneys, PEO) as it is to have good employees. 

And, to weather a recession, as this company did in 1987-88: John recommends developing multiple streams of income. 

John can be reached on his company’s website at: