Known for a hands-on approach to marketing, Henderson Shapiro Peck, founded in 1994, is celebrating one of its best years. Awarded a combined 14 Communicator and Hermes Creative awards this year for a variety of ideas and projects in the marketing industry, HSP has come a long way since its early days.
“I was the marketing director at a fast-food chain,” HSP CEO Debbi Shapiro said. Jon Henderson “was one of the sales directors for what became Warner Brothers. We got to know each other and had some ideas about the industry, and we decided to give it a go.”
From the early days, Shapiro said, the company was created to fill a void in the field: smaller marketing support companies.
“We tried to fill a gap in the market at that time,” she said. “All the big boys were here in Atlanta, just like in New York; they were all down the street from one another. We wanted to be a place where clients, large and small, could go and feel like we were a part of their team.”
The Roswell-based firm has changed some but maintains its identity as a support company first and foremost.
The two-partner enterprise became a trio at the top after Shapiro met Jill Peck while both were picking up children from day care. Peck, according to HSP’s website, “jumped on board, drank the purple stuff and became a partner.”
While growing steadily, HSP also lost a founder to colon cancer: Henderson was diagnosed in 1999 and died in 2008. “It was very hard,” Shapiro said. “The business took a turn in his absence because he brought a lot of the television, media and consumer talents to the table.”
HSP also set itself apart in its staffing approach early on. Shapiro said they noticed that other agencies tended to hire young, specialized staffers. “Our concept was to have more senior people that could come in and be more general in what they did.”
The goal from the beginning was to be different from the standard advertising agency, aiming more to be a part of a business’s marketing team than representatives from an advertising agency. “We’re not an advertising agency,” Shapiro said. “We don’t care what your budget is; we want to work on strategy.”
Shapiro joked that the biggest difference from the early days of HSP is the Internet, but there’s some truth to that statement. She also explained that when HSP started, it was one of the only marketing support companies, but today other companies have integrated a similar spread of services within smaller agencies.
What she is most proud of, Shapiro said, are the relationships HSP maintains with its clients, some of which have been with the company since Day 1.
Shapiro said her Judaism has been a big influence on the environment she tries to create within HSP. The goal is to have fun at work and be a family, both within the HSP offices and with clients, on which HSP relies for referrals.
The past four years HSP has focused on four areas: technology, health care, building and construction, and publishing. The future for HSP is largely centered on those four areas, with the goal of creating initiatives and sometimes joining two clients to make an even bigger project.
HSP also does a lot of work with and for nonprofits and other charities. “The way I was raised, we did community service,” Shapiro said. “Whether it was through temple or our parents, it was expected of me, and Jill was the same.”
Henderson wasn’t Jewish but had worked in New York all his life, and he asked Shapiro whether HSP would close on Rosh Hashanah like all the agencies in New York, she said. “The next year when we added Jill, who was Jewish, he said, ‘All right, I guess we’re closed on the holidays. Two out of three partners are Jewish.’ ”