Bruce Pobocik is one of five employees who formed a partnership to purchase Thinkbox Creative and rebrand the agency. Courtesy of TBX
Thinkbox Creative is not what it used to be.
After more than 20 years of service to West Michigan, the advertising agency overhauled its image and name. Longtime owner Benjamin Eggers handed over the reins to his employees.
Five of his employees, Brian Dokter, Nathan Messelink, Travis Fahlen, Michael Probst and Bruce Pobocik, formed a partnership to purchase Thinkbox Creative, now called TBX, from Eggers in October 2017. Pobocik and Messelink weren’t officially named partners until Jan. 1.
Dokter said they were able to work with Triune Financial and ChoiceOne Bank to move forward with the acquisition, but further details of the buyout were not disclosed.
Eggers said it was the right time to leave.
“I am looking for my next big challenge,” Eggers said. “The leadership at Thinkbox came to a point where I wasn’t needed anymore. They were making really great decisions; they were ready to take on the leadership to point the company in the right direction.
“It came to a point where I could look at their decisions and say, ‘Yeah, those are exactly the right decisions, yeah, those are the things I would do, those are the paths I would take.’ So, when it came to that point, it was time to hand it off.”
Toward the end of his tenure, Eggers said his role lessened. He was responsible for the management of the business, such as making long-term decisions in how to grow the business, what to do with client accounts and how to make financial decisions to continue to be on the right path.
Eggers said he has known Dokter and Fahlen for more than 10 years and trusts their work ethic.
“Over that time, we have really developed a trust for each other,” Eggers said. “So, I began to understand who they were as people and how they made decisions. Each of the partners, as they’ve come on, I have (gotten) to know a lot about them and their character and how they approach projects, how they approach the business, how they approach clients. I know that they are going to make decisions that are going to be in the best interest of their clients, all the time.”
While the transition of the leadership was taking place in 2017, Dokter said the team was working behind the scenes to rebrand the agency. In January, it officially unveiled the company’s new name and logo.
“We changed from Thinkbox Creative to TBX, so we simplified our actual name and our look and feel,” Dokter said. “Our logo, signage, our space, our website, our collateral, everything that goes on is different and matches our new vision, as opposed to what Thinkbox used to be when Ben was here. It now looks different.”
Dokter said the agency strictly was about building websites, brands logos and also doing print designs for clients for the past 10 years, which was Eggers’ background. Now, the company has evolved into managing companies’ marketing structure.
“We create campaigns where we’ll design all the ads that go on social media or Google,” Dokter said. “We’ll manage anything ranging from websites to videos to search engine optimization to digital marketing to billboards to print.”
The agency works with a variety of industries, including retail, manufacturing and lifestyle brands, but Messelink said one of the biggest changes he has seen since the company’s rebranding is its client base.
He said while the company has a dense client base in West Michigan, the agency also is expanding geographically to places like Florida, Chicago, San Diego and Wisconsin. But although the company expanded its ad campaigns nationally, Messelink said its client base is shrinking.
“Two years ago, companies were calling us for one-off things,” Messelink said. “They were asking, ‘Can you make us a new website, can you redo our logo, can you make this sales brochure for us?’ It would be a one and done, we do the deliverable and they would be happy and then they would go away. But now, we’ve seen the volume of our clients intentionally shrinking, but we are seeing longevity in the relationship, and now we are signing one-year, 18-month retainers to manage holistically the entire relationship.”
Within that business-to-business relationship, Messelink said their job is to expand to more than just websites and grow the company’s communications through video, through custom photography, through new branding pieces, which affords them long-term growth.
After the transition of leadership, TBX retained its employee base of 14. Although Dokter, Messelink, Fahlen, Probst and Pobocik are partners of the agency, they carry individual titles and work on projects.
Dokter is the accounts director, Messelink is the creative director, Pobocik is the operations director, Fahlen is the design director and Probst is the technical director.
Dokter said the transition was a growing moment for the company, and it was an opportunity for the agency to restate what it values, what it wants to be perceived as and the clients it wants to do work with.
“New year, new thing,” Dokter said.