When Deborah Garry and her business partner, June Musollino, launched the BBG&G Advertising & Public Relations agency back in 1997, their goal was to offer New York City-caliber services right here in the Hudson Valley.
“Our vision was to create a full-service agency that was just as creative and professional — if not more so — than you’d find in Manhattan but without the ‘attitude’ you get at some city agencies,” says Garry.
Garry grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, then went on to study at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. “It was great having the whole city as my campus,” she says.
Setting out as an illustrator, she did magazine assignments, a stint in the ad department of a corporate real estate firm, and worked for an educational publishing company, among other jobs.
When she moved to the Hudson Valley in 1984, Garry began freelancing part-time. “By then, I had plenty of corporate experience, and I said to myself, I think I can do this on my own.”
She honed her entrepreneurial skills by first establishing a small ad agency, then teamed up to launch BBG&G with Musollino and Gene Bové, a former executive art director for the BBDO agency in New York City (the inspiration for Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper).
The Mad Men similarities end there, laughs Garry. “The 1980s and ’90s weren’t anything like the 1950s or ’60s for women in advertising. Although, because we were newcomers to the market, we did have to work hard to break in.”
Bové retired a few years ago, so the two women run the agency themselves.
When Garry and Musollino first started, they each had small children, yet they were confident they could deliver the goods to clients while keeping their business structure flexible enough to address family needs, too.
“We’ve always wanted to create a work environment where everyone on our team could succeed as a professional yet maintain a balance with their personal life,” she says. “And, as women in this field, I think it’s helped a lot that we’re comfortable collaborating and sharing ideas.”
In its early days, the agency began by offering print, radio, and TV advertising, marketing, graphic design, and other services.
“In 1997, very few businesses were even considering building websites. It really started to hit a year or two later, and we added web services, and later, social media and public relations, for clients.”
The agency, based in Campbell Hall, Orange County, with a satellite office in Poughkeepsie, has an in-house team of 13. Though BBG&G has clients nationwide, Garry says the majority are in the Northeast, with many in the Hudson Valley, as well. Their client roster includes everything from those in the healthcare industry to the Dutchess County tourism office — even a company that refurbishes propane cylinders. “Part of the fun is working with so many different industries,” Garry says. The company, she adds, is the only regional agency certified in marketing automation: “It’s a computer-based tool that allows us to create very targeted, customized ad campaigns for our clients.”
The BBG&G staff pays it forward, too, says Garry, who lives in Orange County and serves as choirmaster at her Bullville church. They’ve organized and participated in events and fundraisers for groups that include the Boy Scouts, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Women’s Leadership Fund, and others, and this past spring organized a motorcycle ride to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
“We all love living here, and we think it’s important to be an active part of the community,” she says. And, as BBG&G’s company website puts it, when describing the Hudson Valley: “Where else can you experience such beauty, history, and culture in such a quaint setting and still enjoy such an easy commute to New York City?”