What it is

When the March 2014 Start Tank was announced, Kathy Kiely, President of The Ad Club, had an inspired thought. Rather than another hack-a-thon, why not create the first ever "Brand-a-thon" to provide startups with the kind of marketing and branding genius typically reserved for the biggest, global brands.

Within days, Kathy recruited some of the top creative teams of leading agencies, and on June 20th we launched the Brand-a-thon, during which these teams selected the most promising Start Tank startups. After a quick briefing, the creative teams pulled a couple all-nighters to put together their best work. On June 26th, we had a unique event where they presented polished work to panel of renowned judges, all CMO's and CEO's.

Congratulations go to Nail for winning the Brand-a-thon, with their work for SprayCake. And to Allen & Gerritsen for their work with Supplet. Click around below to learn more about the agency teams and the startups they selected to work with.

What people are saying

Agencies and
and  Judges

Isobar. (Team Isobar) + onthebar

Tony Gould. Creative Director. Writer.


onthebar connects consumers and spirit brands with the most effective and charming salespeople on earth, bartenders.

Forge Worldwide. (Fried chicken and coffee) + Project 2020

Jim Bell. Associate Creative Director.

Marie Rockett. Senior Art Director.

Project 2020

Project 2020 delivers cost-neutral, on-site eye care and comprehensive eye exams to businesses and their employees via a state-of-art mobile eye clinic ("eye truck").

Allen & Gerritsen. (Pros in Cons) + Supplet

Ariel Heinmann. Art Director.

Carissa Wright. Copywriter.


Supplet is a healthy pregnancy marketplace, community and monthly gift box service for pregnant women and new moms.

AMP Agency. (Bangs and Curls) + Greenbean Recycle

Kathryn Fink. (aka "Bangs"). Designer

Lauren Turner. (aka "Curls"). Digital Copywriter

Greenbean Recycle

Greenbean Recycle is a software technology company that aims to increase recycling by incorporating real time analytics, social media, and gaming into its groundbreaking reverse vending machine and web app process.

Conover Tuttle Pace. (Team CTP) + Canary

Jay Courtney. Creative Director

Jessica Ruggieri. Senior Art Director


Canary is a safer, local online marketplace that donates 30% of their profits to local charities.

Hill Holiday, Team 1. (The Jukka Brothers) + Covvet

Mike Shaughnessy. Art Director

Jeff Baxter. SVP, Group Creative Director


Covvet is an online wish list that tracks prices on the web so you never miss a sale on the things you want.

Hill Holiday, Team 2. (Let's Not Test This) + Cocomama

Craig Johnson. Vice President, Creative Director

Pier Madonia. Art Director

Cocomama Foods

Cocomama uses ancient grains to create nutritious, innovative products that meet the safety needs of food-restricted consumers, while satisfying the high taste standards of food lovers.

Our delicious, gluten-free foods cater to the person with an active lifestyle, who wants a healthy on-the-go meal that tastes like homemade.

MMB. (J&J) + The Welcoming Committee

Jerry Cronin. Partner, Creative Director

Jamie Day. Associate Creative Director

The Welcoming Committee

TWC is a movement of LGBTQ folks that takes over typically straight bars, sports games, special events, and major travel destinations for one-time-only experiences.

Nail. (Gift Shop Boys) + SprayCake

Bob Troutman. Art Director.

Rodrigo De Lima. Copywriter.


A cutting-edge innovation in home baking, Spray Cake makes warm, fresh and delicious cake as easy as a whipped cream-style can of our batter, a pan, and an oven or microwave.

Agency and Startup Pairs

Last week, nine of Boston's best agency teams each picked out a startup in an auction-style pitch event. They'll be tasked with working with their chosen startups to deliver a full creative campaign. Click around these agency names to see who they picked.

Agency and Startup Pairs

Last week, nine of Boston's best agency teams each picked out a startup in an auction-style pitch event. They'll be tasked with working with their chosen startups to deliver a full creative campaign. Click around these agency names to see who they picked.

Woody Benson.
Partner, Prism Venture Works

Woody joined Prism VentureWorks in 2004 and runs the firm’s digital media practice. He also has extensive experience in mobile and transformational business. Woody is a director for LogMeIn (NASDAQ registration), KickApps, Worldwide Biggies and Everypoint. Formerly, he was on the board of Maven Networks, acquired by Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and M:Metrics, acquired by comScore. (NASDAQ: SCOR).

Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, Woody had an extensive operating career. Career highlights include serving as Chairman, President and CEO of MCK Communications (NASDAQ: MCKC). MCK Communications went public in 1999 and completed a secondary offering in 2000. Before MCK, Woody was a senior executive at Shiva Corporation (NASDAQ: SHVA) and Lotus Development (NASDAQ:LOTS).

Woody is a frequent speaker and panelist on topics from redefining venture capital to trends in digital media. Woody is a member of On Hollywood’s Top 100.

In 1999 he was awarded the “CEO of the Year” by the Mass Telecom Council.

Woody serves on the board of the Massachusetts Network Communications Council, the MIT Enterprise Forum 10-250 Committee, The American Red Cross-Metro West and the Bentley Private Equity Council.

He lives with his wife and two children in Newton, MA.

John Coombe.
VP, Corporate Communications. Liberty Mutual Insurance

John Coombe has more than 20 years of leadership experience building global brands and supporting large scale marketing and communications campaigns. As a corporate strategist and marketer, John has utilized his expertise and vision in both the Business-to-business and Business-to-consumer channels to drive enterprise growth across the financial services, high tech and insurance industries.

Combining strategic and operational strengths, John has been an integral part of the marketing and communications successes at such companies as; American Express, AT&T, IBM, Citigroup and most recently, Travelers Insurance. In his various Marketing and Communications roles he has supported a variety of sales distribution models and has worked extensively in the P&C industry with the independent agent and broker channels.

John has considerable experience leading major advertising and communications campaigns in large complex multi-channel driven organizations. John’s background also includes process improvement management, database marketing and CRM implementations. John is a seasoned marketing and communications executive with a strong, consistent track record of achieving results.

John joined Liberty Mutual in September of 2006 and is currently Vice President and Manager of Communications Support reporting to Paul Alexander within Liberty Communications Services in Boston. His role spans corporate communications programs, Commercial Market advertising and communications as well as, interactive communications efforts including LibertyMutual.com and LibertyMutualGroup.com initiatives. As we implement our ‘responsibility’ campaign, John will collaborate closely with the business leaders of our operating companies to implement our corporate marketing strategy.

John is a member of the Association of National Advertisers and a member of the AdClub board of Boston. John received his MBA and BA from Clark University in Worcester, MA.


John Della Volpe.
Founder and CEO SocialSphere, Inc.

John is one of the world’s leading authorities on understanding global sentiment, opinion and influence — especially among Millennials and in the age of digital and social media. He was named a “Future Legend of Marketing” by the Ad Club of Boston in 2013 and has advised heads of state, Fortune 100 CEOs, military generals, athletes and entertainers and has turned his recent insights into tools that help companies and organizations use social media analytics to identify and empower their most important stakeholders.

John also serves as the Director of Polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and with Jonathan Chavez directs polling for POLITICO and the Boston Globe.  In 2008, he received an Eisenhower Fellowship for which he traveled extensively throughout China, Hong Kong, and Korea (including a supervised day in North Korea) studying Millennials and the use of the Internet.

In 2014, he was featured in the ABC News and Yahoo! News series Power Players, and has keynoted numerous conferences around the world speaking on the impact that the Millennial generation and social media are having on our economy, politics and culture, most recently at the Swiss Media Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland. John is a regular contributor to the political coverage of the New York Times, the Huffington Post, WBUR’s Cognoscenti and other online and offline channels.

John remains active today as a member of the Ad Club of Boston Board of Directors, the President of the New England Association of Eisenhower Fellowships and is a member of the Global Alumni Steering Committee.


Steve Fuller.
CMO, LL Bean

Steve Fuller is the Senior Vice President / Chief Marketing Officer for L.L. Bean. In this role, he oversees all marketing functions for the company including advertising, customer planning, e-commerce, advertising, database segmentation, operations (printing, paper, forecasting) as well as L.L.Bean’s Multi-Channel strategic initiatives. Since taking over the company’s marketing responsibilities in 2002, Steve has helped L.L.Bean attract more new customers than at any other time in the company’s history. Most recently he has been asked to oversee L.L. Bean’s international business and move into China.

Steve has played a key role in the development of L.L. Bean’s “Outdoor Advantage Program,” the company’s co-branded VISA card and helped turn it into one of the largest affinity programs in the country. He was also responsible for the establishment of L.L. Bean’s relationship with Subaru and the development of the L.L. Bean Editions in both the U.S. and Japan.

Prior to coming to L.L. Bean, Steve spent nine years in the publishing industry.
Steve is a Maine native and received his undergraduate degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He has an MBA from Boston College and attended Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He is a member of L.L.Bean’s Board of Directors and an annual speaker at the Tuck Business School. He is also currently a Trustee at Bates College.

Steve has been on the boards of several environmental and outdoor organizations, including Friends of Casco Bay, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the New England Nordic Ski Association. Steve was also a ski coach for five years with the Freeport High and Middle School nordic teams. During those five years, no team finished lower than 2nd in the State Championships. He was also the co-founder of an iphone/ios race timing app – RaceSplitter – that launched on iTunes in January, 2011.


Diane Hessan.
Chairman, Communispace

Diane Hessan is Chairman of Communispace, one of the fastest growing social networking companies in the country, “with a Blue Chip client list that would make a Madison Avenue giant jealous," according to Advertising Age. A pioneer in creating online communities to help marketers generate consumer insights, Diane helped found Communispace in 1999 and hasn’t looked back.

Today, Diane leads Communispace’s employees in building and managing the more than 700 private online customer communities the company has created for a marquee list of global corporations. Communispace’s revenues have tripled over the last four years, and the company enjoys a 90+ percent client retention rate.

Diane has spent her 30-year career helping companies become customer-focused—both as a business executive, and as co-author of the best-selling book Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage. She has received many awards and citations for her leadership and workplace innovation, including Ernst & Young’s Regional Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year. In addition to her professional recognition, Diane is quoted frequently in the business media and is a highly sought-after speaker and expert in the marketing arena.

Diane has committed time and energy sitting on the boards of numerous organizations including Tufts University, Panera Bread, Governor Deval Patrick’s Council on Innovation, the Advertising Research Foundation, Horizons for Homeless Children, and The Boston Philharmonic.

A summa cum laude graduate of Tufts University, Diane received an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is the mother of two grown daughters and co-founder of The Sound Bytes, an a cappella group that writes lyrics about business and performs at major conferences.


David Krauter.
General Manager, Smarter Travel

David currently serves as General Manager of Smarter Travel, a TripAdvisor Company located in Boston, MA, and leads the strategy and operations of a portfolio of innovative travel websites such as Jetsetter, Tingo, BookingBuddy, Airfarewatchdog, Smarter Travel and Oyster. In his previous role as the company’s Vice President of Product, he led the development and user experience of the company’s popular sites.

Prior to joining Smarter Travel, David guided site development for Rue La La’s 2008 launch and the site experience for SmartBargains.com. He has also held leadership roles within a Smarter Travel sister company – TripAdvisor.com – directing the market leader’s Site Experience and Merchandising divisions. Prior to TripAdvisor, David was Director of Global Publishing Services for publishing giant CNET Networks, where he drove product and advertising innovation initiatives.

Groupize’s CEO, Charles de Gaspe Beaubien notes: “David offers invaluable experience, insight and proven leadership in our key areas of focus – travel and e-commerce. He will help us in defining a state of the art user experience for automating groups and guide us in our growth."

David holds a baccalaureate degree in Marketing and an MBA from Cornell University.


Manny Rodriguez.
Director of Brand, Media, and Sponsorships at Santander

Manny Rodriguez is an experienced marketing executive with proven success in corporate leadership, brand positioning & building, developing and delivering on strategic and tactical marketing plans, business development, product development & launches, marketing communications, advertising, consumer marketing, community marketing, sports and entertainment marketing strategy. In his most recent role, Manny led NRG's corporate sponsorships and helped build a large sponsorship

portfolio, the biggest in the Energy industry. As part of this role he managed not only the naming rights at Reliant Stadium, as well as a very large portfolio consisting of over 20 properties. In the last 2 years Manny led the signing of 10 large partnerships that positioned the NRG Brand to drive its expansion into the North East and California.

Manny was the lead negotiator on partnerships for the NRG solutions team that is responsible for bringing alternative energy solutions to large scale partners like the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, Formula 1, MLS, entertainment venues and more. Manny led the negotiations of 7 alternative energy partnership deals (Cowboys, Redskins, Jets, Giants, Patriots, Eagles, and 49ers) that created a showcase for NRG’s alternative energy vision.

Manny also has a very extensive background in marketing. Prior to leading NRG's sponsorship portfolio, he was the head of Marketing for Reliant Energy where he served as steward and gatekeeper for the Reliant Brand to drive consistency and lead ongoing renewal and refinement of the Brand’s positioning.

Actively involved in the community and with non –profits Manny currently sits on the board of Ace Fitness, Houston Express and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. As a Leukemia survivor he is very passionate about the disease and can be often found doing public/motivational speaking to help raise awareness and funds.


John Stephans.
President, IdeaPaint


Prat Vemana.
VP of eCommerce, Staples

Prat Vemana leads cross-channel mobile initiatives for Staples.com and Staples stores to drive revenue growth and enhance the cross-channel customer experience. He is additionally charged with leading Staples Cambridge, Massachusetts e-commerce innovation center and global mobile growth initiatives. Under Prat’s direction, the Staples mobile team has recently launched several assets including a mobile website, smart phone applications and a tablet site.

Prat has over 15 years of experience leading mobile and online innovation as well as product development efforts for companies in the healthcare, finance, insurance and defense industries. He is passionate about online and e-commerce innovations and interested in learning more about cutting edge interactive and mobile technologies. Prat earned a Masters in Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Madras.


Sarah Welch.
CMO, Gazelle

Sarah joined Gazelle after six years at TripAdvisor, where she helped the company grow from a small dot­com into the world's most visited travel site. She now leads all aspects of Gazelle's end-to-end customer experience – marketing, product, and customer care, bringing to the job her passion for building strong teams and trusted brands.

Sarah's roles at TripAdvisor included VP of Marketing and VP of the TripAdvisor Media Group, where she drove synergies across the company's large portfolio of travel brands. Earlier she worked for BabyCenter, Johnson & Johnson's popular site for pregnant women and new parents.

Sarah holds an M.B.A. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and a B.A. from Brown University. Outside work, she is passionate about her two kids, a good read and a great meal, whether haute cuisine or quality cheap eats.


Meet the Judges

Our panel of judges includes some of the most influential executives in the local business ecosystem. It's a diverse group, ranging from LL Bean to Liberty Mutual, with many stops in between. But what they have in common is their business acumen. Our judges can spot good ideas and creative that sells product. Click around and get to know them.

Meet the judges

Our panel of judges includes some of the most influential executives in the local business ecosystem. It's a diverse group, ranging from LL Bean to Liberty Mutual, with many stops in between. But what they have in common is their business acumen. Our judges can spot good ideas and creative that sells product. Click around and get to know them.

Our Partners