Walking into FKQ Advertising + Marketing, visitors most likely will be greeted by a screen welcoming them, by name, to the offices.
Attention to detail is one of the qualities that allows FKQ, with headquarters in Clearwater, to compete with larger global firms.
“FKQ is not the biggest. We don’t want to be the biggest,” says Lisa Faller, president of the agency and daughter to founder Bob Faller. “We’re big enough to do anything we want to do. We go up against every major global agency, no problem. Because we know what we do, we know our positioning.”
Faller stands about 5-foot-2, but she is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and passion. She’s particularly solemn when she speaks of her father, who died in 2018.
The Early Years
“I have just an incredibly blessed life journey, and it’s because of my parents,” Faller says. “I grew up surrounded by the business. We had clients over all the time.”
Faller attended Ithaca College in New York for communications. While she was interested in the family business, she wanted other experiences, too.
“I did not have in my head that this is what I was going to do or this is what I was destined to make happen,” Faller says. “I was absolutely very interested. I thought it was an amazing industry and a tremendous opportunity to help many different brands grow and be successful. That part intrigued me … but I also wanted to try other things.”
Before, and during, launching the Tampa Bay location of FKQ, Faller worked at Tampa’s NBC television affiliate.
“We had traveled here since I was in kindergarten. Growing up in Buffalo, New York, you traveled to Florida as often as you could,” Faller says. “At the time, I wasn’t thinking of moving here, but I got a job at WFLA, News Channel 8.”
In 1984, when it came time to open the FKQ office in the Tampa Bay area, Faller says it was a natural progression to be at the agency full-time.
Real-Life ‘Mad Men’
Faller was born March 1, 1961, in Buffalo. It was the same day her father, Bob Faller, established FKQ.
He purchased a 15-acre wooded estate and converted the home to an office park—with a house, tennis courts, a swimming pool, horseshoe pitch and basketball courts. “His concept was to attract the cream of the crop to live in Buffalo, New York,” Faller says.
FKQ later opened offices in Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Toronto and San Francisco. “At the time, you needed brick and mortar buildings to serve clients,” she says. “Our offices were strategically located based on brands that we served,” Faller says. “It was cool. FKQ had a jet and we’d fly all over.”
In persuading cream-of-the-crop talent to relocate, Faller says Tampa Bay was an obvious choice. “When my father opened this location, we didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm to relocate to Florida,” Faller says.
Faller describes her father, Bob, as a mentor and hero, saying they had a special bond. “He made his whole mantra, that we all still live by today, as ‘whatever it takes,’ ” she says.
The Faller Way
Faller runs her company with a work-hard, play-hard mentality. The office is both kid- and pet-friendly. There are refrigerators stocked with just about any beverage one could want, including wine and beer. Food is brought in on a regular basis to keep her team sated. The presentation for special meetings are done with thought and attention to detail, including matching napkins and placements, real glassware and silverware. She even provides a basket of Listerine strips at the end of the food line.
Faller owns a Sea Ray boat, which she also uses to entertain her team and clients. “We’re always trying to make sure we’re hosting, and doing the right thing, and making sure people are happy. That’s why I bought [the boat],” she says.
Finding top talent, and retaining them, is a large part of the success story of the company. “We sell our people, their brain power and their talent. So, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy recruiting the right people,” Faller says.
Then there are the “boomerang” employees—the ones that leave, usually because of family needs, and then return. “We’re happy about that because they were rock stars when they left and they’re even bigger rock stars when they come back. Right? So, we embrace that,” she says. FKQ employs in excess 80 team members in Tampa Bay.
Most of FKQ’s clients are on retainer, with capitalized billings in excess of $80 million. These clients include Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Badcock, Melitta, Essilor, Tampa General Hospital, Visit Tampa Bay, among others. Many relationships span three decades.
There are boomerang clients, too. “We’ve been involved many times where there’s large global brands that believe they probably have to go with the larger entity because they think the footprint will facilitate a better execution across every level,” Faller says. “They’ve come back to us and said, ‘We thought that was the smart way to go, but we were wrong.’ ”
Generosity is a large part of what FKQ does and a large part of the culture and fabric of the agency.
In May, the agency received the Award for Excellence from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay, days following TBBW’s interview. FKQ has been a longtime advocate, and supporter, of the charity. Their partnership has generated millions of dollars of media exposure for the nonprofit organization.
FKQ also supports Junior Achievement, which Faller is on the board of, the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and the YMCA. The agency has also worked with the Tampa General Hospital Foundation for about 20 years.
Faller has no children of her own, but gushes over how she loves to be “Aunt Lisa” to her sibling’s kids and grandkids, her team’s children and pretty much anyone who needs an aunt figure in their life. She laughs as she explains, “I think my neighbor’s daughter believes I really am her aunt.”
“I love having everybody at my house whenever possible. As they grow up, they all drive, and they bring their friends and then all their friends call me Aunt Lisa,” Faller says, smiling broadly.
She likes to spend time near or in the water and owns three connected properties on Clearwater Beach, creating guest houses so she can continue to be surrounded by family and friends.
“It’s peaceful to me, although it sounds like there’s a lot of action, to be on the water. There’s something that’s very calming to me,” she says.
While Faller maintains a special bond to her father, she and her mother have become closer since his death. She makes a point to see her often and has Friday night dinner dates when she is in town.
She also admits she has “a need for speed.” She owns two cars and loves to drive them, fast. She attributes this to her father’s influence. She has a Maserati, a Mercedes and a notorious driving record.
She believes most successful people are more aggressive drivers. “We’re busy and we need to get to places and get things done,” she says with a laugh.
“For years when we would recruit a new team member, we would make the recruit drive to lunch or drive to dinner. And I will tell you, you learn a lot about people that way,” she says.
Faller’s life is undeniably integrated with her business. Whether it’s supporting her team, her clients or her family, she lives to please others and to enjoy life.
“When I die, I want to come back as an FKQ client,” Faller says as she laughs. “This is where my heart is.” ♦