- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 1999

Deborah Gasper wanted the freedom to design an advertisement any way possible. So two years out of college and into her career, she saved some money and opened her own ad agency.

"And that has been our creative forte over the years strong, creative background," she said.

Ms. Gasper, 41, started the AD Agency almost nine years ago. The company has slowly grown, and now has a firm stand in local advertising.

A native Washingtonian, Ms. Gasper graduated from the University of Maryland in 1980 with a degree in advertising. An only child, her mother worked for the federal government and watched the home. Her father was an engineer.

It was in 1982 that Ms. Gasper decided to start her own business, called Gasper Designs. For the first six months she worked alone, without a salary. It was a tough time, but one she recalls fondly because it worked out in the end.

In the mid-1980s, two advertising agencies merged with Gasper Designs, creating a new, larger agency that employed as many as 40 workers at one point.

In subsequent years, Ms. Gasper left the firm, and in 1991, she founded the AD Agency, which works with clients Ms. Gasper has had since she first became an entrepreneur.

"A lot of people dabbled in real estate, but that was [the AD Agency's] niche," said Michael Boland, president of Boland Real Estate Service in the District, which was one of the agency's first clients.

The AD Agency originally concentrated on the real estate industry. But as Northern Virginia's technology sector boomed, Ms. Gasper diversified the firm's clientele.

The AD Agency designs advertising for print, television, radio and the Internet. Recent projects include Dulles Town Center ads for television, radio and print and the Department of Transportation's Web site.

Ted Pasek, a department spokesman, said the children's learning section of the Web site has won won a series of awards over the years.

Aside from advertising, the company also provides public relations for start-up companies, which makes up about a third of the AD Agency's business.

"We are really pitching the e-commerce and Internet content," Ms. Gasper said. "Companies come to us so that we create their image, brand them."

Once Northern Virginia's high-tech industry grew to be a force in the region, Ms. Gasper found herself driving out to Fairfax so often from her D.C. office, that, in the mid-1990s, she moved the AD Agency to Vienna.

It was for the best, since clients like America Online of Sterling, Va., were knocking on the AD Agency's door often. For AOL, Ms. Gasper and her creative staff designed several chat rooms and Web sites.

Today the AD Agency employs 13 persons. Six of them are on the creative side, and the rest are public relations and planning staff.

Among the agency's clients are the DOT, the D.C. Convention Center, American Express and WinStar, a telecommunications company.

"There is never a dull moment in the ad industry," said Ms. Gasper. "There is always something neat, and it's constantly changing."

A usual day for Ms. Gasper involves a series of meetings with clients, local business leaders or her creative staff. Other days she takes time for research and planning.

Her local clients are mostly in the real estate, high-tech and telecommunications industries

"Ideally, we have one or two clients in each category and work with them," she said.

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