‘Idea factory’ comes to Grand Haven


Bill McKendry has opened an advertising agency on South Harbor Drive in Grand Haven. Courtesy HAVEN

Bill McKendry is on a mission.

The chief creative officer of HAVEN wants to redefine your perception of advertising agencies. 

“It is not an agency, we are an idea factory,” McKendry said. 

Before officially opening HAVEN, 212 S. Harbor Drive in Grand Haven, on Jan. 8, McKendry quietly was testing the idea for several months because he wanted to break away from the norm.

“The old model of advertising agencies on how they were judged was the amount of billings they had and the number of employees,” McKendry said. “I am throwing that right out the window because I don't think clients care about that anymore; they want ideas.

“So, I have fewer employees, and I don’t really care about how much billings we have. Our standard is how many ideas we can generate. I want to create a different culture.”

HAVEN has just five employees; McKendry said he doesn’t see his employee base growing to more than 10. Instead, HAVEN enlists independent contractors from all over the country, including Rhode Island, San Francisco and Denver, to help clients with advertising their work, whether it is on the radio, television, billboards, social media, short films, microdocumentaries or websites.

HAVEN specializes in formulating ideas for retail, nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education.

Jay Greer, board chair and treasurer of Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids, collaborated with McKendry to create a new brand for the school’s nontraditional methods of educating their students about cinematic arts.

McKendry and his colleagues from across the country produced a video for the college in December during winter break. 

Greer said the HAVEN model allowed the college to work with the agency’s photography director in Rhode Island, its art director in Colorado and the director of the commercial in Minnesota, as the students and staff used their equipment to do the acting, planning and importation of the commercial.

Using this method was cost-effective, Greer said. He said McKendry’s model costs about 60 percent of what other ad agencies were charging, and the school is greatly benefiting from the final product.

“Our social media and our clicks have doubled in the last month,” Greer said. “So, the story and the model are great.”

Compass College is able to measure what others do on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. The college also is able to target prospective students who are interested in acting, movie production and directing through Google AdWords and SEO.

Jon Resheke, a 10-year veteran of the industry who previously worked in Phoenix, is now the senior writer for HAVEN. He said he likes HAVEN’s model because of the collaborative nature that allows ideas to grow.

“Not just having people, myself included, work on every single project, but it is a collaborative approach as far as bringing the right talent at the right time to meet the specific client needs. It is kind of a tier-rated approach,” Resheke said.

McKendry was the co-founder of another ad agency, Hanon McKendry, where he worked for over 20 years. The company had offices in Grand Rapids and Colorado, but he sold his business to JDA Worldwide before launching HAVEN.

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