CELEBRATING 55 YEARS

While a lot has changed since Anthony M. Franco, Inc. was founded in 1964, the basic principles of raising awareness and connecting with people has stayed the same. We are proud of our team, our clients and our title as Michigan’s longest-standing public relations agency.  

For 55 years, we have helped shape some of the region’s most iconic brands, including Stroh’s Brewing Company, Buddy’s Pizza, the North American International Auto Show, GMRENCEN and Detroit’s MGM Grand Casino. We’ve also been the go-to agency when global brands such as Tiffany’s and Starbucks wanted to enter the Michigan market.

Today, we build integrated communications programs that include social media, marketing, advertising, and so many more capabilities.

Throughout our history, one theme has remained steadfast: the importance of relationships – whether with our team, the media, industry influencers, partners or the local business community. As we enter our 55th year, we continue to align ourselves with others that share our vision and values, and desire to make a meaningful impact.

OUR HISTORY

1964

Anthony (Tony) Franco founds Anthony M. Franco Inc., a public relations counseling firm operating out of the historic Book Building. The firm opens with three employees serving four accounts.

1969

Anthony M. Franco Inc. gains momentum and lands Stroh’s, a Detroit institution and one of the agency’s most prominent clients throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Other notable clients of the time include Domino’s Pizza and Kmart, homegrown brands that the agency helps expand in their formative years.

1973

Anthony M. Franco Inc. signs Touche Ross & Co. (now Deloitte), signaling the start of the agency’s longest client relationship.

1975

Anthony M. Franco Inc. is the first Michigan public relations firm to be recognized among J. R. O’Dwyer Company’s top 40 independent national firms. The agency remains fully independent to this day.

1980

Anthony M. Franco Inc. departs the Book Building for the newly constructed Detroit Renaissance Center, becoming one of the building’s original tenants. Soon after, the agency begins representing the building’s property management group, the Westin Hotel and the national law firm Dykema. Franco represents the GMRENCEN to this day.

1985

Dan Ponder, Franco’s current CEO and majority shareholder, joins Anthony M. Franco Inc. as its chief financial officer beginning a period of expanded services and growth through new collaborations, acquisitions and ownership changes for the firm.

1986

Tony Franco personally signs a consent decree with the SEC agreeing that he would not engage in insider trading of publicly traded securities. Because Tony had just become president of PRSA – National this big news cast a shadow on Tony and the firm for years to come.

1987

Franco forms Covideo, a video subsidiary of Franco. Steve Friedman becomes its president. During the same year Ross Roy Communications, a Detroit based Advertising Agency, invests in Franco. Over the next few years Franco opens satellite offices in New York and Cleveland. By 1990 Ross Roy Communications completes 100% acquisition of Franco.

1993

Dan Ponder leads a management buyout of Anthony M. Franco Inc. from Ross Roy Communications including shareholders Chuck Ragains, George Sepetys, Steve Friedman and Lisa Vallee-Smith. The company’s name changes to Franco Public Relations Group – emphasizing a team approach. Tony Franco retires from Franco.

1997

Franco Public Relations Group helps launch the first Starbucks location in Michigan at the Somerset Collection in Troy. This is one of many retailers the agency will help launch in Detroit. Among the many other well-known food and beverage brands the agency has supported are Applebee’s, Buddy’s Pizza, Granite City, Hard Rock Café, Jolly Pumpkin, Miller Lite, Olive Garden, Panera Bread and Punch Bowl Social.

1997

Franco Public Relations Group signs the Detroit Auto Show (now the North American International Auto Show) as a client and positions it as a world class motor show on par with Geneva, Paris and Frankfort. This is a highlight of the agency’s robust automotive client practice, which has included such firms as DENSO, Alpine Electronics, Brembo, Haartz Corp., the Steel Market Development Institute and Yazaki North America.

2000

As the world enters the new millennium, Franco is at a crossroad as to whether it should remain a full-service generalist agency focusing on a broad portfolio of accounts and industries or become a high-tech agency focusing on high-tech clients like Microsoft. Franco makes the decision to remain true to its mission as a full-service generalist agency and spins off its high-tech clients, including Microsoft, to Franco’s then-president Lisa Vallee-Smith.

2000

Franco Public Relations Group plays a key role in organizing Detroit’s pitch for Super Bowl XL. Maria Leonhauser becomes Franco’s president and a shareholder in the company.

2002

Franco Public Relations Group acquires longtime competitor PR Associates.

2003

Franco Public Relations Group assists DTE with the unprecedented spinoff of its transmission business to form ITC Holdings Corp. Just months later, the second most widespread blackout in U.S. history occurs, impacting more than 50 million people across the U.S. and Canada. With Franco’s assistance, ITC gains national attention by helping the media and public understand why the power grid failed. ITC Holdings Corp. remains Franco’s client to this day.

2003

Franco Public Relations Group welcomes The Salvation Army as a client, continuing the agency’s dedication to nonprofits that enhance the community, dating back to Tony Franco’s long-term support of the Boy Scouts of America. Franco has proudly supported a variety of nonprofits including the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice, Life Remodeled, Justin Verlander’s Wins for Warriors and Metro Detroit Youth Day.

2008

As the economic downturn creates an automotive industry crisis, Franco Public Relations Group’s diverse client base – including Comerica Bank, ITC Holdings, Inc., DatafactZ, Panera Bread and The Salvation Army – helps it remain strong.

2011

Franco Public Relations Group welcomes Buddy’s Pizza as a client to help grow their brand awareness. Today, the Original Detroit-Style Pizza creator is an iconic and nationally celebrated name in the food industry.

2014

Tina Kozak succeeds Maria Leonhauser as president of Franco. Like Tony Franco and Dan Ponder, Kozak’s dedication to the community is reflected in her charitable work with organizations like the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Detroit Regional Chamber and Life Remodeled.

2015

In his 30th “Francoversary” year, Dan Ponder is honored with Michigan State University’s Executive MBA Alumni of the Decade Award. Dan’s longtime commitment to community service includes serving as vice chair of St. John Providence Health System, chair of the Michigan Chamber, treasurer of the Detroit Regional Chamber Executive Committee and chair of Crime Stoppers of Michigan. He also serves on the advisory boards for The Salvation Army and the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.

2016

Franco Public Relations Group rebrands as Franco to highlight the company’s full-service capabilities beyond public relations while maintaining the well-known Franco name. A new visual identity created under the guidance of artist Dominic Pangborn reflects this change as well as Franco’s evolving full-service focus that includes social media, marketing, graphic design and video production.

2016

With bubbling optimism for Detroit and the people who call it home, Franco launches the “Detroit Inspires Me” campaign to capture and share Detroiters’ passion for the Motor City.

2017

Franco undergoes a complete office renovation in the GMRENCEN to better reflect the new Franco brand, allow for more open office collaboration and prepare the company for a future of growth.

2019

Tina Benvenuti Sullivan is promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer as the company continues to prepare for future growth.

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