PARTNER WITH US. WE'LL LISTEN TO YOU AND THE DATA, CHALLENGE YOUR MINDSET AND DELIVER BRILLIANCE.
PARTNER WITH US. WE'LL LISTEN TO YOU AND THE DATA, CHALLENGE YOUR MINDSET AND DELIVER BRILLIANCE.
As an agency providing thought leadership, creative talent and implementation, it’s all about our people. Because it’s the quality of our staff that counts the most, we invest in experienced talent with knowledge about the industries we serve. Bottom line: There’s no “B” team at NEXT.
Eric Loring - President
With over 25 years of experience, Eric has led digital marketing implementations for major companies and holds several patents for online marketing solutions. As the President of NEXT, Eric has a powerful vision to drive successful and measurable marketing technologies for our clients.
“It’s rewarding to lead a team of experienced employees that consistently bring a fresh perspective to our client’s businesses. Ultimately, clients want to get the best results for their marketing investment. There’s a steady truth behind our integrated approach that just works.”
Melissa Kalal - Senior Vice President
Melissa is a versatile leader with proven expertise in leading marketing, advertising and design organizations for over 25 years. Her teams run a smooth operation, delivering results-driven solutions with strong collaboration and communication.
“Everyone at NEXT brings their individual talents to the table in authentic ways. We cover the big picture while connecting all the dots, which is why each member of our staff has direct access to collaborate with clients. It’s gratifying to be part of team that leads great experiences and creates high ROI for the people and brands we serve.”
Donn Thierer - VP Planning & Strategy
A results-focused marketing professional, Donn has over 25 years of experience building iconic brands across multiple categories. More recently, Donn has been partnering with global industrial manufacturers to expand their brand presence, generate qualified leads and drive additional customer engagement via multi-contact support plans. His experience includes both agency and corporate environments such as Advance Auto Parts, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, BBDO Chicago, Bernstein Rein and Campbell Mithun.
“A well-managed brand should rarely get caught off guard. Everything we do as an agency ultimately ladders up to business strategy – followed by brand strategy, sales strategy and marketing strategy – and all the tactics that line up afterward to get results. When companies ignore the big picture, it’s the small things that come back to bite bigger than they should. I enjoy helping clients align on all levels to build forward-thinking, integrated strategies for brands.”
Robert Powers - Creative Director
With 20 years of experience in design and creative direction ranging from large agency to business ownership, Bob actively leads the company’s creative team. His collaborative approach brings life to creative solutions that elevate brand strategies, and he has won multiple awards including Marcom Awards, Davey Awards and GD USA Awards for logo designs. He’s worked on a multitude of branding projects for clients such as Lift Bridge Brewing Co., Dairy Queen, Land-O-Lakes, General Mills, Winfield and Toro.
“I’m transparent because creative is a collaborative process. My clients and the NEXT team know right away when I’m passionate about something; it’s what drives creativity and purpose. Agencies have to want the brands they touch to be great – no matter what – so we do what it takes to get there. I’m super collaborative, so pull up a chair and let’s talk."
Jill Maki - Director of Planning & Strategy
Jill is an insightful, strategic partner that helps to build cohesive, successful brands. With deep experience that spans an array of industries – from crop nutrition, dental and specialty malt to diversified technology, consumer electronics and banking – she helps clients align their brand strategy with their business objectives to help companies deliver on their mission and vision. Using a blend of strategy and creativity, she develops effective solutions that are impactful and memorable. Some of her clients have included Cargill; The Mosaic Company; 3M – multiple businesses; The Valspar Corporation, Citi brand, card and banking; Minnesota State Colleges & Universities; Star Tribune; Bergan KDV; Fredrikson & Byron; and MacPhail Center for Music.
“I’m a learner by nature. My natural curiosity and desire to relate to others transfers well to my work as a strategist. They lead me to strong relationships, meaningful insights and the ability to better understand other perspectives. Being an effective, consistent communicator is a top priority for me, just as it is for successful brands. Professionally and personally, these traits define who I am.”
Kate Galloway - Director of Planning & Strategy
Kate is a strategic marketing, brand and communications professional with over 15 years’ experience consulting a wide variety of B2C and B2B clients. She brings deep knowledge and expertise in consumer products, entertainment, environmental science and agriculture industries. Kate is results-oriented, has an eye for accuracy and values strong client service. Her experience includes work with Target, BASF, ADAMA, Firestone, Nidec and Safe Reflections.
“To drive for success, you need to understand what’s behind your organization’s brand engine. My clients count on me to be an advocate for achieving their goals – and have come to expect a sprinkle of wit and humor each step of the way. I bring the added expertise of PR experience to provide a unique perspective for the team and our clients.”
Zach Coulter - Director of Digital Strategy
Zach crafts innovative, integrated solutions to his client’s challenges. A natural storyteller with over 10 years of digital marketing experience, Zach creates content, search engine optimization and analytics strategies that make a measurable impact.
“What I love about digital marketing is that there’s always something forward-thinking to explore. Currently, it’s speed that gets my attention. We’re talking speed that’s measured in micro-seconds, the new currency for SEO. Did you notice that the NEXT website is fast? Yep – that’s what we intended. Digital is all about a great user experience and ultimately – impact.”
Elizabeth Kohagen - Director of New Business
Liz came to NEXT with a wealth of experience as a former business owner and communications expert. She leads business development at NEXT with a sharp focus on helping companies figure out what is needed to best solve their problems – both today and in the future.
“I’m a great listener because it’s the key to learning. It’s also the key to being able to truly strategize with business leaders about the future of their organizations and their potential for growth with the NEXT team by their side. I’ve found business leaders consistently want to win and make money. So that’s the end goal.”
Michelle Blair - Project Manager
Michelle brings over 20 years of experience as a skilled marketing and communications consultant across both print and digital. With experience spanning operations, account and project management, Michelle ensures that all projects are executed both on time and on budget through consistent and clear communication to all teams.
“What I love about project management is overseeing complexities and figuring out how everything will come together. There’s a strategy for not getting lost in strategy! Even the most creative campaigns have a timeline that can be communicated in a linear way. We bake in flexibility where it’s needed in order to ensure our clients are happy and get the most value.”
Tara Stein - Project Manager
Tara brings over 15 years of experience to the team as a professional project manager and print production manager. Her excellent communication skills and attention to details keep projects moving smoothly from start to finish.
“While managing campaigns and projects, I prefer to set everything up correctly from the beginning – it saves time and gets everyone on the same page about how we’re moving forward with our clients. I believe in straight-forward communication and doing what works. Let’s find the best collective path to success. Why would we do it any other way?”
Steve Barry - Associate Creative Director
Steve has been a creative guru with NEXT for more than 25 years. As a fine artist with incredible ideation chops, he rarely disappoints in providing a fresh visual perspective. His knack for understanding the complexities of B2B companies and then finding aesthetic ways to communicate information is pure talent at its best.
“Creating is a process. I don’t always know where things will end up when I begin. I’m a laid-back person so you definitely won’t hear me cheering for myself along the way, but’s pretty gratifying when everything comes together and our clients love the work.”
Tom Gallus - Art Director
Tom is an action-oriented designer with 15 years of industry experience. He’s highly skilled at providing fresh, strategic, thoughtful and elegant designs that drive results and give companies a competitive edge in the marketplace. With strengths in multiple areas – graphic design, motion design, videography, photography and art direction – Tom is a highly versatile team player. His background in fine art serves as a base and inspiration for his work.
“I love motion – it makes everything so much more interesting. There’s so much that can be done with video and communicating complex information with motion is incredibly effective. I dive deep into my projects. It helps me focus and bring out the best in what I’m doing.”
Jackie Marthaler - Creative Manager
An experienced designer, Jackie leads the creative studio and relentlessly pursues solutions to achieve high quality end results. With more than 22 years with the company and a variety of skill sets, Jackie's versatility is a big asset to our team.
"I love what I do, working each day to support our clients. I take a lot pride in finding solutions that drive their success and exceed their expectations"
Pam Griffith - Design & Content Specialist
Pam supports the creative team with both graphic design and content creation. Her positive attitude and flexible approach make her a dependable resource for both large and small projects.
“I’m a positive person, so I enjoy the variety of meshing both design and copywriting to make everything come together. There’s an integration between the two that works well to create a lot of impact.”
Lee Baker - Media Strategist, Planner, Buyer
Lee is a media innovator, successfully developing award winning media plans in the digital, print and broadcast space for more than 30 years. Her ability to dig deep into relevant data helps deliver solid marketing solutions for clients.
“I started out in TV – back in the day when you had to figure it all out manually and then negotiate your way to success – so I don’t mess around. Media has evolved into a huge playing field of traditional and digital opportunities, so I focus on getting the best results for a client’s budget. There’s always a way to work a deal. There’s always a way to get big impact. And I always know my numbers.”
Craig Cotner - Media Coordinator
Craig has been with NEXT for over 15 years coordinating our paid media activities while supporting Zach on digital project development tasks. He also plays a key role in gathering results for our clients’ campaigns and projects.
“The media and digital landscape has changed a lot in the last 10 years – it’s been fun to continue to learn and grow with the industry.”
Vince Blaede - Controller
Vince is NEXT’s accountant, keeping precise (Excel) tabs on our financials while keeping clients happy with his attention to detail. Highly dependable and disciplined, his left-brain finesse keeps the wheels on the bus around a network of right-brained creatives.
“I take pride in understanding our business, our clients, what they do and how we are supporting them. I’m an advocate for all of us to be successful.”
Would you like to join us?
We are always eager to connect with talented marketing leaders. If you would like to chat about joining (or collaborating with) our team, then we would love to hear from you.