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Alum Ryan Csolak Thrives in Changing World of Advertising


West Windsor, N.J. - It was love at first sight at the age of 15.

Ryan Csolak '97 (A.S., Advertising Design), of Hamilton, took an art class as a sophomore at Nottingham High School that required him to complete a logo/marketing project. That assignment piqued his interest in advertising.

"I simply fell in love with the process of creating and designing for commercial use," said Csolak, now managing partner, founder and chief creative officer for the Hamilton-based Ryan James Agency (RJA), a full service, fully integrated advertising firm specializing in creative marketing. "I knew I wanted my own shop one day. I really love what I do. I get the chance to create excitement and change."

Establishing RJA in 2008, Csolak oversees all aspects of creative and strategic marketing campaigns, including print advertising, e-mail messages, website features, search engine marketing and social media marketing initiatives. Working closely with fellow managing partner, Steve Chaldnicek, their list of clients includes Tommy Hilfiger, the Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel, Multipet International and Romance NYC Events.

"There are so many pieces to advertising and marketing puzzles that need to be in place for a campaign or idea to be successful. Making them work together - not only coming up with the idea - is our job," he explains.

Although Csolak quickly admits that the advertising business is "more challenging than ever," the academic and professional foundation he acquired at Mercer County Community College prepared him for the field. "Mercer set me on a clear career path," said Csolak, who opted to stay close to home. "I knew the college had a fantastic arts program. I left feeling prepared to take on any interview, job or task."

Csolak is especially proud of the public speaking and presentation skills he learned at Mercer, where he presented his first formal ad campaign before a group of judges. "It was very nerve-wracking," he said. "I feel grateful that I was able to learn how to present myself in a confident manner."

Alum Ryan Csolak '97
Ryan Csolak, back row, left, returned to the MCCC campus in November to share his professional expertise with Advertising Design students. Pictured with Csolak are, front row, students Cynthia Rivera (left)and Steven Benci; back row, second from left to right, students Paul Tongco, Jignesh Patel, Ad Design Coordinator Tina LaPlaca and student Chris Findley.

Mercer's Advertising Design program provided Csolak with caring professors who were not only passionate about their work, but had the ability to effectively engage students in the learning process both in and out of the classroom. "The technology was up to date and the design basics and trends they taught were right on the money," he noted.

Prior to founding RJA, Csolak gained expertise as a graphic designer at Princeton Partners, a Princeton-based agency, and as senior art director for Dana Communications in Hopewell.

Now in the creative driving seat, Csolak continually seeks innovative ways to advance RJA's name and mission, one of which has been to establish itself as a certified Google Ad Words Pro, a move that distinguishes RJA as skilled in AdWords management with Certified Partner status.

On the professional development front, Csolak plays an active role in the art directors' clubs of New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City, as well as advertising clubs in New York and Philadelphia. He is also a member of the AdGabber Creative Directors Club. He is the recipient of gold, silver and bronze Adrian Awards from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

"Every decision we make at RJA affects the bottom line, so we always have to be thinking with our 'A' game," Csolak said. "My advice to others is to never stop producing work you truly believe in. The passion you have will shine through and you'll gain a leg up on the competition."

Csolak recently returned to the MCCC campus to share some of his professional expertise with students in the Advertising Design class of Associate Professor Tina LaPlaca. He discussed the importance of design in marketing and advertising and the large role branding plays in consumer driven advertising. "I showed them a good number of selections from the Ryan James Agency portfolio and explained in detail why certain decisions were made." He also shared advice on preparing for a career in the field.

Learn more about the Ryan James Agency here.

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