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Letter From the President

Hello Central Minnesota creatives and friends! 

As this year’s president of the American Advertising Federation of Central Minnesota (AAFCM), I’m excited to welcome you to the 2023–24 season! We have some great events in store and invite you to join in on the fun.

We’re kicking off the year by bringing back a fan favorite: the CMYK Poster Show! Save some space on your calendar for the end of October – we’ll share more details very soon as we get them lined up. We can’t wait to see what you’ve got! We’ve also got a couple of our other fan favorites on the programming lineup: The American Advertising Awards (AAAs) and Beauty + the Bias.

Our goals for this season include running some killer events (both old + new), encouraging more student engagement, and reviving local interest in this organization. Speaking of engagement – we always welcome interested creatives to serve on our board or committees. You don’t have to be an advertiser – you just need to love creativity and have a heart to serve! 

Currently, we are looking to fill a few vital positions on our board:

  • AAA Chair: If you’re interested in helping run the biggest advertising awards show in Central Minnesota and celebrating the INCREDIBLE work that happens in our own community, join our board as the AAA Chair.
  • Campus Relations Chair: Students are a vital part of our organization, and we want to provide events, resources, and opportunities for the next generation of advertisers, marketers, and creatives. Help us connect with local colleges and universities to provide these opportunities.

If neither of these roles speak to you, we also welcome your involvement in whatever way interests you. If you want to help map out a marketing plan, execute some amazing events, or connect our club with the greater community, we want you! If you have any questions about getting involved with AAFCM, reach out to me at or (651) 334-2279.

I’d like to finish out this letter by expressing my gratefulness to my fellow board members:

  • Alison Fischer, Whitebox Marketing
  • Bryce Jacobson, Whitebox Marketing
  • Burke Tagney, Midwest Financial Partners, Inc.
  • Camille Lehmann Rosa, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation
  • Rich Thul, DeZurik

Another special thank you is due to Bridget Deutz, founder of Greenline Marketing, for serving our board in an advisory role. Her historical knowledge, years of involvement, and commitment to AAFCM are incredibly beneficial to our board.

We look forward to staying connected with you. Stay creative!

Amanda Hackett

AAFCM President

Vye Announces Promotion of Jennifer Lawrence as Chief Operating Officer

ST. CLOUD, MN — Vye is pleased to announce the promotion of Jennifer Lawrence to Chief Operating Officer. Lawrence has been with the agency since 2012, serving in various capacities including Account Manager, Director of Client Services, and most recently as Vice President.

“Jen has played a significant role in Vye’s recent growth, including a 90% increase in team members and 144% increase in revenue while serving as VP for the agency,” says Dan Soldner, President & CEO. “I recall when she joined our small, seven-person team back in 2012, we were still trying to figure out where we wanted the agency to go. It’s amazing to be here 10 years later to promote her into this new role.”

With more than 20 years of industry experience, Lawrence has learned
what creative professionals seek to thrive in their career, and what clients need to achieve their goals. Her leadership at Vye has been instrumental in creating a People First culture and uncommon results for clients. “I’m really looking forward to what the agency will accomplish over the next decade under Jen’s continued leadership,” says Soldner.

“When I joined Vye ten years ago, I was drawn toward the vision of redefining marketing as a measurable growth investment,” says Lawrence. “Now, partnering with clients across 18 states, it’s pretty amazing to see the impact we have made.”

Lawrence also serves on the United Way of Central Minnesota Board, volunteers her time periodically at St. Cloud Technical College, and has previously served in leadership roles with the American Advertising Awards (AAF) of Central Minnesota. She was also the recipient of a 2020 AAF Silver Medal Award, which is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to advertising and within their community.

About Vye

Vye is a full-service, digital marketing agency that drives growth through empathy-based marketing to help businesses crush their goals. Our team of 40+ creative professionals based throughout the U.S. tackle difficult problems — and partner with clients who have lofty ambitions. As a HubSpot Partner specializing in inbound marketing, we’re committed to our work, long-term client relationships, our talented team, and our creative process. We’ll never settle because we’re always vying for something more. Learn more at

Media Contact

Dan Soldner, Vye President & CEO

Meta 13 Joins Vye in Recent Acquisition

ST. CLOUD, MINN.Vye (formerly Leighton Interactive), an inbound marketing agency in St. Cloud, Minn. and Green Bay, Wis. announced its acquisition of Meta 13, a website design and development firm in St. Cloud. Effective immediately, the two companies will join their teams and operate under the Vye brand.

Meta 13 owners Justin and Josh Gauerke and Nathan Batdorf, along with their employees, will join the Vye team and combine their expertise in strategy, web and ecommerce development, graphic design, content, videography, and photography. With the acquisition of Meta 13, Vye has 30 employees.

“We’ve had a great run with Meta 13, and our business has grown beyond our imagination,” says Justin Gauerke, owner and founder of Meta 13, technology solutions director at Vye. “Vye was one of our agency partners, and the time was right for us to join forces and become stronger and better together.”

Marrying Vye’s inbound marketing strength and mission to redefine marketing as a measurable growth investment with Meta 13’s rich web design and development expertise, Vye will serve clients as a multi-disciplined agency.

“Our clients experience the greatest successes when we offer solutions that align data, technology, and creativity,” explains Dan Soldner, president of Vye.

Learn more about Vye and the recent acquisition at

Media Contact: Julia Brolin,

WhiteBox Marketing: Familiar Face Provides Fresh Leadership in New Agency Setting

ST. CLOUD, MINN.—Carrie Karki, long-time marketing professional in the Central Minnesota and Twin Cities marketing industry and resident of Sartell, has launched WhiteBox Marketing— “today’s modern marketing firm.” WhiteBox Marketing officially opened on July 2 and leases office space at St. Cloud’s Cooper Collective, a coworking space on Cooper Avenue.

Karki’s tight knit “core team” consists of experienced creatives in the fields of graphic design, copywriting, marketing strategy, photography, website development, and more, allowing her to provide a full realm of service to new and existing clientele. Karki has also expanded on the team’s capabilities with the additional offerings of marketing consultation services and commercial branded interior design planning.

As a marketing expert, Karki is driven by client retention and one-on-one relationships with those she serves, which fueled the modern vision for WhiteBox Marketing. Karki was employed by another local advertising agency for the past 12 years, and legally retained her longtime existing clients. Karki and the previous agency creative team members joined her, and they are equally excited about the launch of WhiteBox Marketing—a fresh vision build by hand and heart, and the opportunity to partner with both existing clients and new relationships.

“This acquisition allowed the agency team and current clients to benefit from being connected to an agency with secure, local ownership,” said Karki.

“I’ve gained priceless firsthand experience in my career, with my professional start in marketing media for a national media company, before joining the agency world where I have focused on marketing strategy and client relations for the last 11+ years,” said Karki. “That personal experience has now opened the door for me to lead a solid team that provides fresh strategy, creative work, and effective marketing—all under my vision. I am proud of that!”

WhiteBox Marketing’s website is live at WhiteBox.Marketing.

Adventure Welcomes New Director of Account Service

Adventure is pleased to announce that Kathy McGrath has joined our team as Director of Account Service. After living in Scotland on and off since 2006, Kathy will settle into Adventure’s Minneapolis office. Kathy brings great depth of experience, including experiential and strategic work for Levi’s, Mazda and Coca-Cola, along with stints at Target and the Science Museum of Minnesota. Kathy’s background managing pro athletes (one of whom recently earned an Olympic gold), installing IKEA kitchens, keeping track of family in five different countries, and training her dog & toddler not to bite each other (probably especially that skill) should serve her well in our fast-paced environment.

Welcome to the Adventure team, Kathy!

Palmer Printing: Why We Enter The American Advertising Awards

Submitting work to the American Advertising Awards can seem like a daunting task — from identifying the worthy projects, figuring out which categories they fit into; filling out the form on the website; ensuring coworkers are credited accordingly; printing out the entries; checking and double checking, then triple-checking that everything is in the proper order; and finally delivering the entries. And of course, all of this happens within the last week of the entry period — in between doing actual client work.

So, why does Palmer enter the American Advertising Awards?

First of all, we believe in our work. We’re proud of it. We worked hard to create it for our clients.

It’s part of our currency. Ultimately, a finished piece helps promote brands, grow businesses and for our non-profit clients, raise money for a worthy cause.

It’s also a way to celebrate success. We love what we do, but it’s a tough job at times…working long hours to meet a deadline, dealing with creative block, logistics issues and computer crashes. When you overcome these challenges and deliver a piece that has form and function, it provides real results and a happy client. That’s when our job is most rewarding.

Why do we attend the Awards?

Each time we attend the American Advertising Awards, we’re inspired by the work from both students and professionals. The experience of viewing all of those clever, beautifully executed projects motivates us to grow both personally and professionally.

It’s also pretty awesome to mingle with other creatives; whether it’s former instructors, classmates, co-workers or other industry professionals. It fuels our own creativity and pushes us to work that much harder for our clients.

So yes, entering the American Advertising Awards might seem like a daunting task…but it’s so worth it.

Amy Hanfler is the creative director at Palmer Printing in St. Cloud, Minn.

5 Reasons to Enter the American Advertising Awards

So you’ve heard about the American Advertising Awards but you’re still figuring out if it’s worth it to submit (spoiler alert, of course it is!) If you still need convincing, check out the top five reasons to enter below:

5. Business is all about relationships

We all know that when working with clients and customers, strong, trusting relationships are key to repeat business and referrals for new business. The American Advertising Awards is the perfect place to showcase the work you are doing on behalf of your customers. They say actions speak louder than words and submitting the pieces you’ve done for clients screams “HEY! Look who we get to work with and would you look at what we get to do for them!?”

4. Because Self Promotion isn’t Selfish

Business is, well, business and when we get down to it, it’s easy to get caught up in the grind of promoting products and services, taking care of clients, and generally hustling that we forget to do all the same promotion and hustle for ourselves! The American Advertising Awards are the perfect place to remind your colleagues in the industry of who you are and what you do.

3. It’s for the babies!

Okay, well maybe not actual babies, but seriously, proceeds from our show are used to support all the feel good things our club does for local students (i.e. the future of our industry) like our annual Student Design Competition.

 2. Helping Us Helps You

Okay so we help babies, but we also help you! Part of our mission as a club is to provide programming and workshops throughout the year that help you grow and flourish as a professional!

1. The work!

You #grind day in and day out and honestly, the work speaks for itself. You’ve put in the hustle and heart, now it’s time to step aside and make way for the work. It deserves to be recognized!

Submit your work today!

What’s New for the 2018 American Advertising Awards

What's New for the 2018 American Advertising Awards


What’s New for the 2018 American Advertising Awards?

The core of the American Advertising Award stays tried and true year after year, and it ought to! It’s a robust competition that has been around for years; something good that shouldn’t be messed with, because as they say, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. That said, AAF’s mission is to advance and protect the advertising industry and with that comes the necessity to keep the competition as fresh as the strategies, artwork, and advertising messages are that you strive to deliver to your clients (or professors) each day.  We gathered some tidbits – some old, some new, and others just worth mentioning, to make sure you are in the know on what’s new with the 2018 American Advertising Awards.

For the newbies, a little recap:

The American Advertising Awards are the industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting over 50,000 entries every year in local competitions. The mission of the competition is to recognize and reward creative excellence in the art of advertising. Conducted annually by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), our local competition is the first of a three-tier, national competition. The call for entries for AAFCM’s competition is released in the fall with entries due around, or shortly after, the first of the year. The entries are judged and an award show is held to honor our club’s student and professional award recipients. From there, winning entries move on to the district and then, hopefully, national level to compete with other top-notch work from around the country.

The Award Show Theme

The culmination of the competition is a fun, theme-inspired show.  If you’ve been to AAFCM’s ADDY show in the past, you know we go big when it comes to executing a theme…both in attire and decor. This year, however, we’re taking a step back, and notch up, making the theme all about the work itself. Sometimes less is more and that will definitely be the case this year as we leave our somewhat ridiculous costumes at home and make a special point to honor the American Advertising Awards’ most important guest: the work.

Emerging Leader Award

The American Advertising Federation of Central Minnesota (AAFCM) is proud to announce our Emerging Leader Award. This award, new this year, was created to recognize young professional men and women who are making outstanding contributions to marketing, advertising, design, and/or communications.  Emerging Leaders are those who, though relatively young in their careers, have already proven themselves to be making an impact in their company and for their clients; they are individuals who have begun to further industry standards, creative excellence, and responsibility in areas of social concern. If you know someone who has an exemplary work ethic, pushes the envelope, challenges the impossible, embraces the unknown, and continually innovates, they are worthy of an Emerging Leader nomination (link to website). Emerging Leader Nominees must be under the age of 35 (as of the end of this year), and contribute to the industry in the Central MN community. Like the Silver Medal Award (link to website), each year AAFCM will bestow this honor upon an outstanding member of the central Minnesota community. Emerging Leader recipients are selected by a panel of judges that include community leaders and industry professionals and will be announced at the AAFCM’s American Advertising Awards, along with the recipient of the Silver Medal Award.

New Categories

Most actually aren’t new to the competition, but since you don’t know what you don’t know, we figured they’re worth mentioning because they may be new to you!

There are over 170 categories that fall within 7 divisions! Here is just sampling of them.

  1. Sales & Marketing – includes well-known categories such as packaging, brochures, annual reports, book design, apparel, and direct marketing. Did you know you could also submit menu designs? Yes, menus. And you know you’ve seen some award worthy menus at our local breweries and restaurants.
  2. Print Advertising – this is where newspaper and magazine advertisements land.  They can be any size, single ads or full campaigns.
  3. Out-of-Home & Ambient Media – Guerrilla marketing aka “non-traditional advertising”, installations such as kiosks, art exhibit, trade show exhibit, retail store or an other design and build-out of a temporary or permanent branded environment, posters, and outdoor displays that are delivered to mass audiences on sidewalks, streets, etc. all fall within this category.
  4. Online/Interactive – Did you know your blog could win an award? That’s right there is a category solely dedicated to blogs and digital publications. You can also submit mobile apps, virtual reality (new this year!), websites, social media marketing, or tools and utilities such as widgets.
  5. Film, Video & Sound – this includes movie trailers, television and radio commercials, music videos, sales presentations, podcasts, and even webisodes.  
  6. Cross PlatformAn integrated campaign is defined as a campaign or series of ads, commercials or executions that utilize more than one medium.  So yes, if you’re a total rock star and your campaign spans more than one medium you can gather it all together and submit it as one whole entry here. 
  7. Elements of Advertising – copywriting, infographics, illustrations, still photography, sound design, art direction, computer generated imagery (new!), data driven media, responsive design, voiceover talent, and video editing are just a few of the categories/elements of advertising you can submit.  

2017-2018 Rules and Categories for Professionals
2017-2018 Rules and Categories for Students


NEW this year our all-in-one membership, the Season Ticket, includes attendance to ALL events for one entire year including one ticket to the American Advertising Awards. And since AAFCM’s membership cycle is rolling – which means you are enrolled as a member for a full year from the day you sign up, no matter the time of year, it’s not to late to become a Season Ticket Member! This will save you $$ on entries and gets you into the show!  

There you have it! A little bit of new and whole lot of the same awesomeness for AAFCM’s 2018 American Advertising Awards. Whether you have attended the ADDY’s in the past and can’t wait to celebrate our local creatives and their amazing work again, are a past entrant and have submitted your work to the ADDY’s (and maybe even won!), know next to nothing about it but someone, somewhere told you how much fun they had at the ADDY’s and you’re wondering what it’s all about, or some sweet combo of those reasons, we look forward to seeing at this year’s show. We’ll all bask in the glory together celebrating the work and tremendous value local advertising agencies, companies with top notch internal marketing departments, and students that are the rising stars in the industry bring to our community.

Leighton Interactive Named a 2017 Global Leader for Inbound Marketing

Leighton Interactive was selected as one of the digital marketing and design agencies named “2017 Global Leader” for inbound marketing by Clutch. Agencies from around the world were researched by Clutch in order to determine the top leaders for digital and design categories. The top leaders were selected based on a criteria that analyzed industry expertise, verified client feedback, and their ability to deliver.

In a recent press release announcing the 2017 Global Leaders, Clutch Business Analyst, Ilse Heine stated, “…these high-performing agencies prove that they not only are experts in their specific practice but also have a clear understanding of how their piece connects to a larger strategy.”

Some of Leighton Interactive’s clients, from manufacturing, technology, and printing industries recently reviewed their experience working with the inbound marketing agency. The company received an overall score of 4.8/5.0 stars by their clients, which they believe is due to their strengths in web design, digital strategy, and content marketing.

“It’s an honor to be viewed as a Global Leader for inbound marketing by Clutch and our clients,” said Dan Soldner, President at Leighton Interactive. “We make it our mission to solve for our clients and bring our best work to the table, so it’s humbling to hear we are meeting and exceeding their expectations.”

Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in the heart of Washington, DC, Clutch connects small and medium businesses with the best-fit agencies, software, or consultants they need to tackle business challenges together and with confidence. Clutch’s methodology compares business service providers and software in a specific market based on verified client reviews, services offered, work quality, and market presence.

Leighton Interactive is an inbound marketing agency located in St. Cloud, Minnesota that is passionate about demanding and driving results. Their tribe of experienced marketing, development, and design professionals foster dynamic solutions for their business partners’ goals and objectives. Leighton Interactive focuses on branding, email marketing, web design, blogging, and campaign strategy development for all industries and sectors. For more information, visit