Detroit executives to open marketing firm in Midtown

Posted on July 11, 2012

Another day, another new business moves into Detroit’s Midtown area, occupying another renovated historic building.

In this case, two veteran Detroit marketing executives, Mike Jackson and Gary Topolewski, are moving back to town from Las Vegas, under the banner of Jackson & Partners, to work on marketing strategies with automotive dealer groups and a range of other clients.

They will start small, with an initial crew of a half-dozen people that they hope to grow to around 30 in the next three years. Jackson signed a lease last week for 2,000 square feet of space in the 86-year-old Graphic Arts Building at 41 Burroughs St., between Woodward and Cass. They plan to move in next week.

Why Detroit? And why now for Jackson, a former General Motors marketing vice president, and Topolewski, creator of classic ads for the Red Wings (“Hockeytown”), Jeep and Cadillac — both of whom sought work in faraway places as Michigan’s auto industry went through its meltdown phase a few years back?

They told me their story Tuesday, just as their redesigned website was going live online.

“I saw Mayor Bing at the Detroit auto show’s charity preview event this past January,” said Jackson, who had met Bing years before when Jackson was riding high as the auto executive who spearheaded the star-studded GM Style event in 2007, bringing Jay-Z, Jennifer Hudson, Vivica Fox, John Legend and other celebrities to town for a splashy event on the eve of that year’s auto show.

Jackson left GM in mid-2007 and has since worked in several other ventures, most recently with Topolewski in tandem with the R&R Partners agency in Las Vegas, best known for its “What Happens Here, Stays Here” campaign for the Vegas convention bureau.

“The mayor asked what I was doing now and asked, ‘Why are you out in Vegas. Why not come to Detroit?’

“It was a very brief conversation, but I went back to Gary and we thought, yes, we can do this ourselves. We talked to some other people, and it became a very easy decision.”

Last year, Topolewski was working on entertainment industry projects in Los Angeles, where his kids now live, and driving frequently between L.A. and Vegas to work with Jackson and R&R. But he had always kept a residence back in metro Detroit, where he grew up and worked most of his career with agencies including BBDO, Bozell, Doner and a small shop called Evil Genius.

“Detroit,” he said, “has a hipness to it, and I think that’s partly because we’ve been knocked around a little bit and keep getting back up. There are creative people here in music, in entertainment. It’s a great sports town. It’s had a few hiccups, but this is a great place.”

A third partner, former Broadway actor Randy Easterbrook, will be moving from New York to join the team.

Jackson said the partners will soon be hiring production and administrative staffers, plus a creative sidekick for Topolewski.

And the client list? It starts with auto dealers for sure, but could include direct work for the big automakers and retailers of all kinds.

“It’s not about winning awards. We’re not afraid to get down and dirty and do whatever works,” said Topolewski. “Our mantra is ‘Solutions, not just ads.’ ”

That’s on the website, along with lots of cool historical photos of Detroit.

By: Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press