Photo credit: Peter Anania Written by Jamie Carter Logan & Bryan Roche
When Laura Davis Rinck and her husband, Peter, were deciding where to start their new advertising agency, they discussed heading to New York City, Cincinnati or another big city with an established industry presence.
Ultimately, their love of Maine overcame the allure of Madison Avenue.
“We could head to a larger city,” says Rinck of the couple’s mindset. “Or we could do what we love in a place that we love.”
The Rincks combined have helped the agency, Rinck Advertising, grow steadily from its humble beginnings at the couple’s kitchen table to a 40-person operation with locations in Maine and Maryland.
Now, with a new headquarters in downtown Lewiston and a talented, growing team behind them, Rinck and her husband hope to be at the forefront of the revitalization of a region that gave them both so much.
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At the time the pair was launching their business, the country was in the midst of a recession. It was 2001, 9/11 had happened and the Rincks had both been working for a Portland, Maine-based agency. She was a copywriter and the director of public relations for the agency, a position in which she showed considerable aptitude. Rinck’s first PR outreach project landed their client an above the fold feature on the front page of the New York Times’ entertainment section. That’s no small feat for any PR professional, much less one who had only recently come to the profession from a teaching career.
While teaching and advertising might seem like disparate careers, Rinck still credits her experience teaching writing and working with gifted and talented students as helping her in her advertising work. That experience, she says, helps her to see potential where others might not, a crucial part of what has helped Rinck build a strong talent pool.
“At the gifted and talented program, I was working with the bored kids — the kids who were always getting into trouble because they were coming up with new ideas. Now, I look at it as getting to work with those kids everyday. I can tell in an instant when someone walks into a room if they’re gifted and talented. Those are the kinds of kids who work at Rinck,” explains Rinck.
While they now have 40 of those “kids” working for them, Rinck Advertising started small. The Rinck’s first job was doing pro bono work for the local L/A Arts organization at their kitchen table. Doing that pro bono work helped open up the Lewiston/Auburn community for the agency, a community that Rinck credits as being a big part of their success.
“You wouldn’t believe how this community came out to support people starting an agency. We had so many people rooting for us,” says Rinck. In February, Rinck moved its headquarters from Auburn to a new downtown Lewiston location, a move that allows them to be a part of the revitalization of Lisbon Street and help the community that did so much for them.
“The position we find ourselves in now is that we can be the ones rooting for that next start-up,” she explains.
So how did Rinck Advertising get to this point? For one, they landed a national client soon after opening. Dean Foods, the largest dairy in the United States, remains a client of Rinck Advertising sixteen years after signing on as the agency’s first paying job. Even with such a large company in their portfolio, Rinck is clear that it was hard work getting the agency off the ground, and that it will always be hard work to keep a successful business running.
“People would tell us that after the first two years it gets easier. Then they’d say after your third. Then they’d say give it five. Looking at our seventeenth year, it never gets easier. The challenges just change,” says Rinck.
When the Rincks first started the agency, they were coming from a world in which copywriting for brochures was still a major part of their job. Now, they are looking at a world where they have to be on top of the latest advertising algorithm change from Google or Facebook. Part of Rinck’s strategy in dealing with the ever-changing demands of the advertising world is by asking their clients to tell them what kind of agency they need to be. Rinck is adamant that the agency will never get stuck in a rut of pushing just one kind of approach on a client. Instead, Rinck is focused on solving clients problems.
“If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail — we didn’t want to focus on one approach. We say to clients, ‘tell us what your challenge is, and we can bring all of these tools to bear,’” explains Rinck.
It’s the approach she and her husband took when they were just starting out, and it remains the cornerstone of their business. So much so, they installed a test kitchen in their new building to solve a challenge faced by many of their clients — a need for food photography.
Rinck is also cognizant of the challenges faced by her own company. The agency has reached a point where, as Rinck puts it, “the challenges have more zeroes attached to them, and adding employees brings with it more responsibility.” She is focused on making Rinck a place where top talent wants to work, both to bring value to clients and to help keep talent in Maine.
“How can we be the best place to work in Maine? How can we foster balance in our employees’ lives? How can we be a healthy place to work? How can we build an agency that creates new employees who do hybrid work, filling an number of roles?” are only some of the questions Rinck asks herself as she works to improve Rinck and build on its successes.
She’s doing something right. A Bates student from the D.C.-area recently opted to stay in Lewiston to work at Rinck. He didn’t even want to transfer to the agency’s Annapolis office, a decision Rinck says is one of the most exciting things she’s had happen.
Though Rinck is firmly based in Maine and supportive of their community, they have international reach. The agency works with 4C, a Singapore-based media partner, and also have clients in Italy and the United Kingdom.
A recent project had them working to promote a British hair product in the United States. Indicative of the agency’s creative approach, they eschewed traditional media outlets to promote the product, instead choosing to use the influence of well-known celebrities to create buzz. They had Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens use the product to prepare for prominent awards shows, and got the word out that way. They got 150 million impressions for the product in one night. They did that with no TV ads, no radio ads, not even a sponsored Instagram post.
To have successes like this, Rinck explains, you have to be able to keep changing, to keep learning and to want to learn. The agency’s slogan is “You’re going to love what happens next,” a tagline Peter Rinck wrote on an index card in the early days of the business. It guides the forward thinking of everyone at the agency, and Rinck believes that kind of mentality is absolutely essential in the world of advertising.
“There are days that suck in advertising, where you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she says. “But we have a thirst for quickly reinventing ourselves. I welcome that person who comes in that sees everything differently than I do.”
Rinck is a creative mind, but she’s also a talented businessperson. From a team of two at a kitchen table to a staff of 40 with two office locations, Rinck Advertising has become known as a creative, savvy advertising agency. As president of the agency, Rinck has not only built a business, she has welcomed and encouraged Maine’s creative professionals, giving them the opportunity to stay in the state to find success. She has been an avid supporter of her local community, giving back to a place that helped her business get going, and she’s willing to share what she has learned along the way.
That is why Laura Davis Rinck is a Maine Icon.