Firefli Media Taps Into Grandin Village’s “Creative Vibe”

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Firefli’s Greg Brock
Firefli’s Greg Brock

A Virginia Tech graduate majoring in Communications and Marketing, Greg Brock, president of Firefli Media (located in the Grandin Village), has been involved in print and radio media for years. He worked at WDBJ 7 for the last 14 years—the last three of which he was digital media manager.  WDBJ gave him permission to take some accounts in on the side which eventually morphed into four, then eight.  “Then,” he explains, “I found myself working until two o’clock in the morning every night trying to do both jobs well;  and it got to the point where I knew that I had some amazing talent in John (Cornthwait, Jr.) and Matt (Matthew Sams).  I felt like the three of us—we’re kind of like a rock band:  It’s like we get the right elements together.  You’re just bound to really have some really major music happen.”

Out of this was born Firefli Media, a digital ad agency that focuses on merging digital technology with advertising needs.  Traditional advertising agencies, says Brock, are trying to adapt digital technology to their work flow: “What we’re doing is we’re actually coming at it from the angle that we are digital first.  We all have a very strong background in traditional marketing and advertising. Where we are different is that we start off first with things like getting you [noticed] on Google quicker, website design and development, social media strategy [and] retail marketing campaigns.” Brock says clients also approach Firefli with traditional advertising needs, “people that want us to do print work or put a newspaper ad in for them – which is kind of fun because we can also go down that path as well.”

Mission Critical is the term Brock uses to describe the significance of applying digital resources to current advertising.  He cites statistics indicating that the amount of media usage has shifted at a very high level to things like streaming video and website usage for news and information.  “It’s not necessarily that there are more and more people, per se, than there used to be.  It’s just that the way that they digest and consume media has changed and the idea that you need to shift with these eyeballs.”

Firefli Media discovered that many of the businesses requiring its services were looking to a national level.  “A couple of times,” says Brock, “we found that the national ad agencies, would say, ‘We’re really too big for you.  We really don’t have a way to take care of you.” There was this sort of unmet need where local businesses were really [requiring] that sort of special physical attention, and that’s where we came in to fill up that space.”

Matthew Sams, Firefli’s director of digital strategy, describes his position as essentially, “A means to help clients figure out their messaging and how [it] fits in a variety of mediums.” Sams works with a designer to determine how content is found and managed through a company’s website, also social media and helping those messages fit their website through outlets like Facebook and Twitter and vice versa.  “I also work with search engine optimization, working with clients to figure out how to get more traffic to their website via search engines such as Google and Bing,” adds Sams, “as well as helping them kind of figure out their messaging in the print world. It’s a way of finding strategies to help clients reach different audiences via different means.”

Firefli’s director of digital media John Cornthwait, Jr. says his job and responsibilities “tie in and compliment what everyone else is doing.  I oversee the design and the programming aspects here. I help our clients discover things like color palates and what works best for their clientele.  What’s going to attract their demographics the most online?  I walk them through the basics of picking out a color to establishing a design style.”

Cornthwait says clients have varying needs,  “Some of them are going to want people to spend a lot of time on the website browsing. Some people will want their clients to search quickly to find the information they need and leave the website. I really bring the strategy that Matt comes up with, [creating] that visual aspect, then we take the strategy and execute it”

Unlike other traditional ad agencies, Firefli Media isn’t based downtown.  “We looked at a lot of different locations downtown before deciding on the Grandin Village,” says Brock.  “We felt like, being kind of a different model, this was sort of a symbolic move for us as well—simply because the Grandin Village has an amazing creative vibe.  You’ll see drum-circles sometimes out on the street.  You’ll see street musicians. There’s a real eclectic, artist kind of thing going on down here that we wanted to be a part of.”

 by Melvin E. Matthews, Jr.