Ethan Giffin is the founder and CEO of Groove, a Baltimore-based digital advertising and marketing agency. Groove offers a host of services such as inbound marketing, website design, ecommerce development, branding and UX, lead generation, and more. The company is a Hubspot Platinum Partner as well as a Magento Gold Partner. Ethan has recently been named as one of The Daily Record’s Most Admired CEOs in the pThe Daily Record will be recognizing the winners of this award at an event on September 17, at the BWI Hilton. Groove’s numerous awards and recognitions include inclusion on Business Insider’s “Best Young Companies to Work For” list (2013), the Agency Post’s 2013 Agency 100 list of the fastest-growing agencies in the U.S., and the Inc. 5000 for 2013. Additionally, Baltimore Business Journal named Ethan to its 40 Under 40 list, also in 2013.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What did you envision when you were first thinking about starting Groove?
ETHAN GIFFIN: I always wanted to build an agency, and I always felt like I would have this 50- or 100-person agency with really creative people flowing around and sharing ideas and collaborating. It’s been really cool to get on that journey, and, of course, it never works out exactly like you want it to. I think all entrepreneurs think there’s a straight line sloped up, whereas [in reality], it’s a little bit of a jagged course. The concept to me was really exciting—to be able to get together really smart people to solve problems. And the Internet is constantly evolving and changing, and that allows you to constantly have new perspectives on things.
Q. Is your background in marketing?
A. When I founded Groove, I came from the client side before that. I never spent time in an agency. I was always frustrated that I had to go to a different agency to get technology and development—from search engine optimization, and even pay-per-click, or branding and design—I was always frustrated with that aspect of things, that I had to have five different checks written every month to all of these things, and they all hated each other, and none of them really wanted to work together. So, being able to have all of those types of elements in one place, we thought was a very holistic view of how an agency should operate. Typically, you know, it kind of ebbs and flows, on a quarterly basis, but I would probably say that we’re about 10% branding and multimedia production. Then across that, it’s split a third between our managed services of maintenance and managed services for folks’ websites, marketing, and design and development. People move back and forth between those services depending upon what their needs are. They may have heavy project needs and then move into some type of ongoing marketing relationship with us; or they may start with the marketing relationship and move into a project, and we’ve taken what they’ve come to us with as far as they can.
Q. Is Groove all-digital, or are there traditional marketing components as well?
A. We do consider ourselves a digital agency. We are full-service in terms of things like media buying, multimedia production, branding and design; but the core of what we do has always been digital, and bringing together technology and marketing in one place was something that our clients have fallen in love with.
Q. How did you come up with the name?
The story behind the name is that “groove” has always been one of my favorite words. I’ve always loved music, ever since I was a young kid. I listened to tons of radio, probably more than I should have been allowed to. I was exposed to all different types of music along the way, and I always loved the word “groove.” And, when I was forming the business, I really thought that the movement of music equals the movement of commerce in the marketplace. I love that rhythm, and I love how that always flowed together. I was very lucky that the domains were available to be able to do that, and so everything we’ve done is deep-rooted in music. We have office-wide Sonos with multiple zones. People are playing music—it’s cranking all day long. It’s just part of our overall DNA. So, that’s the biggest thing, I think, in how it all fits together.