He Creates the Buzz
By Steve Kaufman | Photos by John Sodrel
MARKETING EXECUTIVE DAVID GRANTZ PUTS HIS CLIENT’S INTERESTS INTO CREATIVE ACTION. JUST LOOK AT THE FRONT OF MALL ST. MATTHEWS.
Just after this issue of Extol went to press, David Grantz packed his bags and flew to Charlotte, N.C., bound for the Quail Hollow Country Club.
February is not exactly golf season, even in North Carolina. But Grantz didn’t go to play golf. He went to begin selling golf.
Quail Hollow will host the PGA Championship golf tournament in August 2017 – and Grantz’s Louisville agency, Buzz Advertising, will handle all the marketing for the event, strategically creating and placing ads on local radio and TV stations and in local publications, on the web and in social media, as well as local and regional public relations, all to build the awareness and interest that will lead to ticket sales.
The PGA of America does not take the success of its signature U.S. tournament lightly, and Grantz has well-established credentials. In 2014, he created the marketing strategy and did the media placement for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club that, based on paid attendance, was the PGA’s most successful championship in its 96-year history.
That accolade didn’t last long. The following summer, his marketing strategies led to the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., surpassing the Valhalla event.
He has also run the marketing for every Senior PGA Championship since 2011.
It’s not a stroll on the links. “I personally worked over 100 hours at Valhalla Championship week,” Grantz says. But the stakes are high. A successful event will earn millions of dollars. So a good marketing strategy employs all the tools available. And those have exploded from the days when a marketing strategy included TV, radio and newspaper advertising plus some mailbox stuffers.
“We have to build a program around all the new outlets for people’s attention – social media, digital marketing and the Internet – that didn’t exist even 10 years ago,” Grantz says. “We can now deliver mobile ads in any market in the country, reaching right into someone’s cell phone to deliver a marketing message.”
Rewarding and creative as a career in advertising and marketing has been for Grantz, it was something else that first attracted him. It’s the oldest of attractions – the allure of a pretty woman.
As a seventh-grader, the New Albany youngster remembers meeting the sister-in-law of his best friend and asking her what she did for a living. “She said she was in media,” he says now. “I was impressed – with her style, her clothes, her car – and I decided those were footsteps to follow.”
He was known around town, and in the halls of Providence High School, as “the artist,” and so a career in graphic arts seemed likely. In 1990, he went off to Ball State University to major in graphic design. Then, commerce intervened. He found he could make good money by selling the T-shirts he had designed for his fraternity’s dances and a new career in marketing was launched.
“I switched my major to public relations and marketing, which made my parents happy,” he recalls. “They didn’t like the familiar ‘starving artist’ image for their son.”
That he didn’t starve had a lot to do with ingenuity, right from the beginning. “In my senior year, we had to get an internship,” he says, “and I determined to get one with the most significant company I could.”
That company was Churchill Downs, and his internship in the spring of 1994 began during Derby week. “Talk about being thrown into the deep end,” says Grantz.
It was good experience, he says, but perhaps more significantly his boss and mentor was Larry Sinclair, who was then Churchill Downs’ director of marketing. Later, when Sinclair left Churchill for the PGA of America, he introduced Grantz to Ben Rubin, the director in charge of the 2010 Senior PGA Championship being held at Valhalla that year.
“The PGA of America has been a client ever since,” says Grantz.
Before that, Grantz had established a solid career in TV and radio marketing, first selling advertising for WTVQ, the ABC affiliate in Lexington.
After a year, he moved to WAVE 3 in Louisville, where he says he used both sides of his brain – steering clients to their best television buys as well as writing their ad copy. He also got in on the ground floor of something new and untested when he was asked to join the station’s web development staff. “I remember telling the committee that, at some point, the competition for ‘eyeballs’ [ad lingo for the number of people that view a piece of marketing collateral] on the web would equal the competition for television viewers,” he says. “Of course, they were all steeped in traditional media and told me I was crazy.
“Crazy? Just look at traffic on YouTube today.”
Grantz’s TV/radio career moved along to Chicago (bigger market) and then Birmingham (better weather), and into station management. “At that point,” he says, “I knew I’d either become general manager of a TV station, or I’d start my own advertising agency.”
The entrepreneurial bug bit the hardest and, in 2005, he returned to Louisville and started Buzz Advertising – with a ton of confidence and zero clients.
But he had relationships from his TV days here, and so his first call was to Larry Link, owner of Bonnycastle Appliance and TV on Bardstown Road. “I told him I’d like to rep his company, would he give me a shot?” Grantz says, “and he’s still one of my clients to this day.”
His secret sauce is not only understanding, negotiating and buying media, but also being tuned in to the client side of the business, especially the needs of small-business owners.
“They want to market themselves, but they don’t have the time to deal with all the choices and media selection,” he says. “They want it taken off their plate and run by someone – one point of contact – who knows the business better than they do.”
Grantz is perhaps most proud of the opportunity he created for the Pandora Jewelry Store in the Mall St. Matthews. “There’s a big empty glass cube in front of that mall,” Grantz explains. “In 2010, I approached the mall and told them I wanted to ‘buy their glass.’ ”
For the last four years, Pandora of Louisville has been the sole advertiser at the mall entrance with an ad inside the glass cube 33 feet wide and 90 inches tall, an unchallenged opportunity to plant a seed in the head of every shopper who enters the mall. Keep in mind, says Grantz, that Mall St. Matthews has roughly a half million people walking through the mall each week, especially during the peak holiday shopping period.
To his knowledge, General Growth Properties had never sold advertising space on that front entrance before. Buzz now buys “glass space” for its other Pandora clients all over the country.
“We’re not afraid to shake the trees,” he says, “to see advertising space where people never saw it, to envision, change, adapt to circumstances – all to develop marketing strategies unique and different for our clients.”
Ironically, the guy who draws hundreds of thousands of fans to golf events is a self-described hacker, “a better beer drinker than a golfer!”
His relaxations, away from the rough and tumble of the marketing world, are bourbon and travel. His bourbon preference currently runs to Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch (“I have a rather refined palate”).
As for travel, after having been all over Europe, he’s considering a trip this summer to Rio de Janeiro, specifically for the Summer Olympic games. It’ll be strictly a busman’s holiday. He won’t be there to do ZIP code research or figure a strategy for selling more tickets. But maybe get some ideas? As long as he’s there, anyway? He won’t rule that out.
1801 Frankfort Ave. Louisville
502.458.2899 | www.buzzadv.com