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Woman-Owned Creative Agency BNO Announces New CEO

Creative agency Baldwin & Obenauf, Inc. (BNO) announces that founder and namesake Joanne Obenauf has named a new Chief Executive Officer after 40 years at the helm. Obenauf will continue serving the award-winning agency as Board Chair as she passes the torch to company’s current president, Trista Walker, CCXP, who adds CEO to her title and officially takes the reins on March 1, 2022.

“We have been thoughtfully developing this succession plan for several years,” notes Obenauf, who wanted to ensure a smooth transition and continued success for BNO as a women-owned agency. “I’m confident that Trista and our talented management team will lead BNO through its next phase of its growth, as I transition to my new role as Board Chair.”

Founder Joanne Obenauf names Trista Walker CEO at Baldwin & Obenauf, Inc. (BNO) after 40 years of leadership.

Obenauf established herself as a leader in the male-dominated world of marketing long before the development of a national standard for women-owned business certification. In 1981, Obenauf joined forces with Mark Baldwin to create a marketing services agency to serve the booming businesses which, like her, chose to plant their headquarters in the Garden State. From a staff of three in year one, BNO currently boasts more than 75 employees, three offices, and a client roster which includes powerful brands like Verizon, Bristol Myers Squibb, Aramark, Mastercard, Nike and Johnson & Johnson companies Ethicon and Janssen. Johnson and Johnson is the agency’s longest client partnership, dating back 40 years.

Recognizing her success as a business leader, Obenauf was honored with a 2021 Icon Award by NJBIZ, in the same year she celebrated the agency’s fourth decade in business. She often credits authenticity as “the secret sauce” for her business success, a quality that has fostered a winning company culture while attracting and retaining clients.

Obenauf’s entrepreneurial vision, passion for excellence, and energy has provided a strong foundation for BNO, and after decades growing the agency, she continued to attract and support women entrepreneurs as fuel for agency growth. In recent years, this growth has included new levels of revenue, substantial client growth, launching new capabilities, and expanding to new geographic territories.

“The success of BNO rests on Joanne’s shrewd ability to listen to what clients need and fearlessly evolve the company’s strategy to remain a step ahead,” explains Walker, “which has included making smart investments in new technologies, services and most importantly people.”

An entrepreneur herself, Walker founded Blue Flame Partners, a multidimensional marketing agency, prior to joining BNO. In fact, she originally engaged BNO to partner with her firm on a large design project for the USDA and, loving the energy and creativity at the agency, agreed to join forces. She also previously served as Senior Vice President of Client Services for Compass Healthcare Marketers.

With experience in industries spanning life sciences and healthcare, financial services, consumer, government and media, Walker served as Chief Marketing Officer for BNO, quickly ascending to President in 2014, and now adds the role of CEO, rising in parallel with historic growth at the agency. In addition to her role at BNO, she serves on the board and executive committee for the Thomas Jefferson University Health System, the largest health system in Philadelphia.

While the pandemic paused marketing efforts and painfully dismantled agencies of all sizes in recent years, BNO enjoyed exponential growth, a credit to both Obenauf and Walker. In fact, BNO has experienced double-digit growth in each of the last three years, while increasing staffing by 30 percent during a pandemic and while enjoying its milestone 40th year, marked by its recognition as one of the “Best Places to Work” by NJBIZ and its acquisition of Garfield Group, a creative marketing and PR agency.

Last year’s addition of Garfield Group bolstered BNO with 33 years of award-winning branding, digital, broadcast video, and public relations expertise, as well as a coveted 5,000-square-foot office space in Garfield Group’s Old City headquarters on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia’s Historic District. The deal also represented BNO’s second geographical expansion, following the agency’s opening of BNO Creative Labs in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2019.

“Maintaining momentum will be our greatest challenge, as we look forward to a post-Covid culture,” muses Walker. “BNO has survived four recessions, we have an exceptional team, and our corporate fundamentals are solid, so I’m very optimistic.” She also notes that BNO had the foresight to invest in developing employer brand marketing capabilities nearly 20 years ago, which is a fast-growing area of its business. That investment has served the company well amidst a renewed global war for talent.

A certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), BNO far exceeds industry standards for women in leadership roles and staff diversity.

BNO is a full-service creative agency that helps clients develop relevant and meaningful brand connections and helps global brand leaders and talent acquisition executives attract and engage best-fit candidates. Headquartered in Somerville, NJ, BNO has remained proudly independent, smartly strategic, and fearlessly creative for more than 40 years. Learn more at