New agency manager benefits Talking Dog

New agency manager benefits Talking Dog

October 22, 2021

There is a new top dog at Talking Dog.

Mary Ellen Barto joined the staff at Grady College as the inaugural agency manager for Talking Dog, the student-led advertising and public relations agency.

Barto, a 30-year veteran of agency and corporate marketing, will provide professional guidance for the students, network with current and future clients and help provide operational  consistency.

Talking Dog agency provides students experiential learning opportunities in a full range of advertising and public relations disciplines including market research, strategy, copy writing, website design, messaging and creative to for-profit and not-for-profit clients.

“We created Talking Dog as an integrated ad and PR agency in 2017 with the dream of eventually having a full-time professional manager,” said Bryan Reber, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor of Crisis Communication Leadership and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations.  “We feel so fortunate to have found someone like Mary Ellen.  She has agency and brand experience, so can mentor students whatever their career goals may be.”

Prior to this role, Barto worked for Luckie & Co, establishing a Media Center of Excellence within the agency.  She also spent 13 years as Vice President of Brand Media and Field Marketing at Arby’s Restaurant Group, where she oversaw strategic media planning and field marketing for the company, managed multiple agency relationships, and was part of the marketing leadership team responsible for the brand’s revitalization. Mary Ellen has also held senior positions in some of the most respected advertising agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather/Mindshare (New York and Atlanta) and BBDO/OMD (Atlanta).

Barto has worked with Talking Dog students over the past few years through her role at Luckie & Co. and she was intrigued about the opportunity to assume this new role where she could mentor students and help them launch their careers.

“I am thrilled to be here and excited about the opportunities within Talking Dog,” Barto said. “I love that UGA has an experiential learning program and I look forward to contributing. I have enjoyed my past work and helping to guide and inspire the students. There are so many opportunities to water the next generation.”

Barto emphasized that even with her new role, Talking Dog will continue to be student-led.

“I see my role as connecting to what’s happening in classrooms to the work in the agency,” Barto continued. “These students are so bright and capable and Talking Dog is absolutely ripe for more opportunities.”

Talking Dog currently serves a variety of local and national clients, and looks to expand its client base in the future. They have worked with clients as diverse as local restaurants and non-profits to Coca-Cola and Porsche.

Carolyn Caudell Tieger (ABJ ’69) worked alongside Reber to bring the new agency manager position to reality.

“The role that Mary Ellen will play is crucial in taking Talking Dog to the next level,” said Tieger, who is instrumental in the Public Affairs Communications certificate program, as well. “It’s all about taking Talking Dog to new heights in terms of quality client service and reputation.”

In addition to Tieger, Brad MacAfee, founder and CEO of Mission + Cause, and John Gardner, president of Luckie & Co., were key in providing encouragement and support.

“At Luckie one of our most valued relationships is with the University of Georgia Grady College and its amazing Talking Dog student agency,” Gardner said. “As one of the initial external supporters of this group we have seen firsthand their talent at UGA, in our business and for our clients.  This relationship will be taken to the next level with Mary Ellen’s addition as she brings unmatched industry experience with a passion for teaching and mentoring our next generation of impact players.”

Nearly 80 students are currently involved with Talking Dog in a variety of roles including account executives, art directors, new business development, communications and PR specialists, copywriters, media specialists, member relations and recruitment.

See the Talking Dog website for more details.