Ad It Up: Great Lakes Bay Regional Ad Club emerges as industry changes

After a prolonged hiatus, Traverse City’s creative community has its own advertising collective in partnership with mid-Michigan’s tri-city region.

Known as the Great Lakes Bay Region Ad Club, advertising professionals from northern Michigan and the Saginaw, Midland and Bay City region was born from the need to stay current in an ever-changing field, said board member Karl Bastian, who owns Traverse City-based PB&J Creative.

“We started having conversations about creating an extension of the club that continues to serve its (downstate) community, but also grows membership in Traverse City,” said Bastian, who had pursued membership in the downstate group after discovering the former Northern Michigan Ad Club had dissolved during the Great Recession.

Along with several Traverse City-based members, including Brandon Jenkins from Lake Effect, the regional club aims to connect the advertising community – whose members range from media mavens to experts in graphic art and design – with the social and professional resources for success in the creative market.

“Ours is an industry that requires constant growth, no matter where you are on the spectrum,” said Bastian. “And though you can do that online, there is something to be said for (connecting) with people.”

So far, the collective has hosted two career development functions: Adtober in October, which was held in Traverse City, and the American Advertising Awards, commonly known as the ADDYs, an industry competition which was hosted downstate in early 2022.

“(Events like) the ADDYs are a great way to show the community the level of work being done and how that impacts local economy for the clients and businesses that are here,” said Bastian.

Bastian said that small businesses and freelancers are growing the ad agency market, which is no longer dominated by the corporate agencies of larger hubs like Chicago, Grand Rapids or Detroit.

In response to the morphing field, the club hopes to host more collective events, like their Adtober seminar at the Botanic Gardens at the Historic Barns Park.

“(Adtober was) a way to network with other people and discover new technologies that are going on in our industry,” said Bastian about the all-day event. “It was very successful; we’ll be doing it next year.”

Distance between the members means socializing virtually will be an option along with inter-club bowling, regular small group meets and the occasional sporting event.

“There are a lot of things we can and are going to do while still catering to the advertising community,” Bastian said, adding that quarterly professional development events will also be added.

“We really want to be more tailored to the way that people are working now and be mindful of what they want out of the club,” he said.

For now, though, growing regional membership is the Great Lakes Bay Ad Club’s first priority.

“The more people we have, the more we can do and the more value we can offer our members,” he said. “For a long time, there hasn’t really been a professional organization that brings us all together – not just to celebrate the work that we do, but also to grow in our profession.

“This (group) allows us to do that.”