Gulfport advertising executive doesn't fit the typical mold

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Published: April 26,2004

GULFPORT – In the frenetic world of advertising, Ted Riemann, president and creative director of The Prime Time Group, is an anomaly. He has no cell phone or pager and does not use a computer. He does, however, have an impressive list of clients, many of whom have been with him for 20 years.

“My clients have learned to work with me. We’ve earned their trust,” he said. “I’m an archaic fellow but this works for me.”

Riemann, who says he doesn`t like computers because they’re not touchy-feely things like human beings, looks, listens, takes a lot of notes and then gets the job done. He almost joined the computer age recently when he had an employee send an e-mail for him.

A lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast, Riemann is the son of Doris Riemann and the late Dr. E.T. Riemann, a beloved family physician who practiced 40 years in Gulfport.

“I have my dear parents to thank for many things,” he said. “My father taught me hard work and dedication and my mother had creativity and vision. My father was one of those family doctors they don`t have any more.”

This advertising executive, who likes to wear white shirts and jeans to the office, never was run of the mill. Right out of college he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in West Africa digging wells.

After returning home, he talked his way into a job as marketing director for the athletic department at Tulane University in New Orleans and worked a short time for the New Orleans Jazz. Back in Gulfport, he worked with Keith-Miller Advertising and Miller-Potter Advertising before starting his own company, The Prime Time Group, in 1979.

Riemann, who majored in political science and geography, says he learned the advertising business by doing and making mistakes.

“In the early days I was a Jack-of-all trades,” he said. “I found out there are a lot more talented people out there. I don`t do as much creative now. I run the company and I’m trying to stay with what I started with. My business model is different from others. I think small is better.”

Riemann and The Prime Time Group don`t fit into the mold of corporate companies and he feels that`s an advantage for his clients. “It keeps it personal. They know who they’re dealing with because we don`t have layers here,” he said. “We have the freedom to be ourselves and our business has significantly increased since 1979.”

The Prime Time Group has only three full-time employees. To keeps costs reasonable and ideas fresh, they regularly partner with freelance talent and other companies.

“I couldn`t handle a million dollar client and stay true to what I am. If I get too busy, I can`t fish as much,” Riemann, who`s known for his love of fishing, said.

He says he`ll never become a 20-person agency and that if he ever sells out to a larger agency, he`ll retire. He hopes to have succession of The Prime Time Group with his daughter, Morgan, who`s presently a pharmaceutical representative.

Riemann`s business philosophy is that advertising is the engine that drives the business of the world. He believes it`s The Prime Time Group`s number one job to make their clients stand out, then it`s up to the clients to cinch the deal. He says the relationship of agency and client has got to be a marriage to be successful.

“We’re in a classroom and the client is the teacher when they come to us,” he said. “The relationship evolves into a partnership. I’m big on that team philosophy to get the work done. I’m not a cheerleader standing on the sidelines.”

He adds that the team philosophy can sometimes mean butting heads with clients, especially if the client wants great creative work but ties the agency`s hands in other ways.

“I tell them they can have cheap, fast or good: pick one,” Riemann said. “Give us time to do the work and research and have the money to do it with.”

He says the clients who’re the most fun are those who give the agency the freedom to create and the money to produce.

The upbeat ad exec`s favorite thing about his business is that it`s changing every day and never boring. The most rewarding aspect is the pro bono work with Feed My Sheep, HelpLine and numerous other charitable organizations. The most challenging is to balance work with fun. He believes a person must enjoy work and life to be successful.

Riemann thoroughly enjoys having political candidates as clients and is frustrated when his candidates lose.

“Out of 100 campaigns since 1979, we have an 80% win record,” he said. “The beauty of politics is that it`s a lot of hard work but it`s fast and quick. On Election Day, you know whether you won or lost.”

Although he realizes losing a race may not be his fault, he feels he had a lot to do with it. Therefore, he chooses political clients very carefully, remembering the old adage that you can`t make a silk purse out of a sow`s ear.

Recognized consistently by advertising peers, The Prime Time Group has won 312 Gulf Coast, state, regional and national awards since 1979.

Its newest client is the Whataburger franchise group in Mississippi and Louisiana. A few other clients include Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, Palace Casino and DuPont`s Delisle Plant.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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