2023 was bursting with good news. (It was!)

A wise man once said, “Why be negative when you can be positive?” That man was James Hettich and he may have said it the other way around. He’s off to a dermatologist appointment as I type this, so I can’t verify. I will just assume what I think is true because that’s what I would like to assume to be true at this point in time. This past year was a good one. For some, a great one. It wasn’t a year in which we were mired in a pandemic. Sure, COVID is still around, but this is not 2020, people. It’s not even 2021. Or 2022. This is 2023. And though our beloved football team failed to once again do what many of us (maybe just me?) think they’ll never ever ever ever do, they played football for us and gave us some thrills. They went all the way over to England and some of us made a nice little trip out of it (not me; traveling across the ocean to see a football game is something I would never ever ever ever do). We have NOT had a blizzard this year (yet). AI has not taken our jobs (yet; more on this later).

Yes, you could argue 2023, was a year in which we did our best to return to normal. A quiet year. Which, you could also argue is what we all deserved. But who would argue that? Of course we deserve it. I’ve had just about enough of those nightmare years that have us inevitably asking, “*expletive* Remember that? *expletive*

How about instead, we all say “*expletive* Remember that? What a fine year 2023 was! *expletive*” Because, for us at Crowley Webb, it sure was. 2023 saw some engagements. Some weddings. Some new babies. Some transitions that will shape the future of our agency. Some big-time promotions and some small acts of kindness. It was a year that was a good year. And it was definitely what I needed. So why not relive what it was, even if it wasn’t all that much. Though, at the time, it always is.

Tricia Barrett became our new CEO.

Perhaps the loveliest news of the year, our gal Tricia was named the third CEO in our history – as well as the first woman ever to hold the title. But who else but Tricia would deserve this honor? A woman who’s had an incredibly impressive 23-year career already, beginning in Rochester before we were lucky enough to have her arrive at our agency. After successfully managing many of our high-profile accounts, she managed our Praxis division when patient recruitment became part of our agency in late 2010. This led to the growth of our media and creative departments, the birth of our analytics department, the resurgence of our PR department, the advent of our video and digital departments, and the addition of an entire third floor to our agency offices. One could easily make the case she’s affected the trajectory of our agency. I think one just made that case. But in case you need more evidence, here’s the original announcement of the big news and the video we made in Tricia’s honor.

Jeff Pappalardo rode off into the sunset.

Okay, this is sad news, but also great news. Jeff’s still around WNY and we still have all the wisdom and memories he’s bestowed upon our agency. We were fortunate enough to have the guy here, and that’s some of the best news ever.

And yes, while it’s been documented and celebrated, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that 2023 saw Jeff Pappalardo’s last official day at Crowley Webb – August 31. What began in 1994 wound up as an amazing 29-year career with our agency. He was a creative director, strategist, mentor, friend, ping pong champ, silly guy, confidant, and brief hoverboard enthusiast. We will likely never repay this man who’s done so much for us. But he’s invited back for a drink and a laugh every month when we have our agency meeting in Local86. And we’ll be sure to plug his new endeavor whenever possible. Like right now.

Jeff started Inkind to help nonprofits and community orgs with smaller budgets but decent-sized challenges. And we’re sure his clients will be getting 110% of Jeff, which is like 1000% of any normal person. I dare you to do the math. So check it out and maybe even pass it on. Jeff (who I’m sure is reading this; hi, Jeff!) definitely appreciates it.

We opened Crowley Webb Studios!

This wasn’t just amazing news for our video team, which was basically sitting on top of one another in a cramped office on our fifth floor that housed at least three too many people, all of our fancy equipment, an overpacked refrigerator, and many, many pictures of Dustan. We needed room to spread out – and did so in the most impressive way. And in the process, created some good news for our clients, as we now have expanded capabilities. This is also good news for our friends and neighbors as we’re hoping they might use the space as well – that now includes a cyc wall and sound booth.

Say “Action!” to Crowley Webb Studios!

And it’s good news for anyone in the agency who has a hankering to create (or recreate) weird (or super weird) videos when they have some free time and a whole lot of gumption.

ESAB shined bright.

While FABTECH is North America’s largest fabricating trade show, it had been a bit since our client ESAB attended (due to, you know, a certain pandemic). So we wanted to help make their return a triumphant one – with a booth full of new product reveals, a fresh creative design, and more demo stations than any other brand in the massive conference hall. Our PR team was also there in full force, creating a social buzz that reverberated for miles and miles beyond Chicago. From influencers to innovative photo ops to giveaways, our booth was hotter than a welding arc. And in just five days, we created and deployed more content than you can shake a stick electrode at: 89 story slides, 24 in-feed posts, 19 reels, and five livestreams.

See you next fall, FABTECHers!


We came together as one.

Way back before we knew what a disaster of a season this would be for our Buffalo Bills, we gathered at their home to celebrate our team that is truly stronger than ever. The theme was singularity, to drive home how intertwined we see the Crowley Webb and Praxis brands. We even created a special logo in honor of the day.

We heard from Joe Collins, the Bills director of sports performance. We participated in football drills. Those too cool for that (me) and/or those less athletically inclined (also me) sat on the field and took in the beautiful sunshine. We toured the stadium. We spent the day making stronger connections with one another on and off the field. We announced Tricia as our new CEO! It was a day filled with good news. And these days, that stadium could certainly use it.

We spent more quality time with #14.

It wouldn’t be a summer if we weren’t getting ready for football fall, now would it? Our team’s current performance notwithstanding, we love our Bills, and we love working with Stefon Diggs. No matter the mercury reading in July. And we were quite the content-capturing juggernaut (fullback?) this summer, catching scenes for TV, social, and outdoor galore. The biggest touchdown? Scoring more than a million views for an organic social post featuring some nifty hidden camera and mic work.

In total, this organic post received nearly 7,000 shares, 38,000 likes, and more the 1,200 comments. And then million views is by far the most viewed post on Stef’s Instagram account. Let that sink in. Then read more if this one somehow sailed over your head like an errant pass.

We made another short film!

It wasn’t just the fresh paint on the cyc wall or that new studio smell that had us all excited to take another run at the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Festival. I mean, we had such a thrilling time two years ago. So we gathered at 268 Main on a Friday this past August and waited as anxiously as a kid on Christmas Eve for 7pm to arrive with our assignment for a full weekend’s worth of moviemaking magic.

The rest of friday, we planned. Saturday, we filmed. Sunday, we edited. Sounds easy, huh? WHY DON’T YOU TRY IT THEN? Truth be told, it was exhausting. But also insanely rewarding. And a Mighty Taco lunch aside, there’s nothing the team would change about that weekend, or the outcome. So grab some popcorn and watch yourself a short film.

We created the hottest ticket in town (in January).

Waaaaay back when the Bills were fun and in the playoffs, we worked with our client Highmark to create a very special experience for a handful of fans. Last January, The Highmark Igloo Village was founded, and we held a contest to determine which lucky fans would be its first citizens. More than a stadiumful of fans vied for the honor, and when the snow settled, 18 of the luckiest were treated to a pregame party they’ll never forget – and also tickets to the post-pregame party game (the game!). Heated igloos filled with pizza logs, beverages, and plenty of swag proved to be all the rage – and cameos by Billy Buffalo and Freddy Jackson were a hit as well.

But this is only the tip of the igloo. We’ve been activating up and down as of late for our clients. Stay tuned for more!

We made more strides in DEI.

When it came to diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2023, the good news is we don’t just talk the talk at Crowley Webb. I mean, we certainly did talk. A lot. We had a lot of learning and discussing opportunities. Including the incredible five-part READI (Realizing Equity, Access, Diversity, and Inclusion) sessions presented to us by our amazing friends at Buffalo Prep in which we covered everything from macroaggressions to systemic racism in this country (spoiler alert: it’s rampant and unless you’re actively working against it, you’re unfortunately contributing to it). We talked on end about how we can all be better. How we need to be better. Starting with those uncomfortable holiday dinner table conversations. We were better equipped to handle Uncle Jerky, armed with facts and a commitment to being anti-racist. Because being anything else is just being racist.

This year, we also definitely walked the walk. Specifically with our Chroma program in which we donate marketing services to minority-owned businesses in need. In addition to working on brand refreshes for Sadie’s Relish and Nia’s, we forged a partnership with the Erie County Level Up program to identify and work with companies in WNY.

We also developed our first-ever DEI scorecard to hold ourselves more accountable in fostering a more diverse employee base.

Oh, and we literally walked the walk when we walked in the Buffalo Pride parade for the very first time. While we’ve been involved in the parade to varying degrees, we wanted to make a more definite statement about our support of the LGBTQ+ community and be part of the fantastic spectacle. And it was fantastic. I hugged more strangers than ever before and proudly waved our flag like a madman. See you all there next June!


We spread the word about the need for diversity in clinical trials.

Praxis has long had a strong relationship with CISCRP (the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation) and helped them spread the word on the importance of clinical research participation. Earlier this year, we again partnered with them – and pharma colleagues Lilly and Otsuka – to make a statement about the importance of diversity and inclusion in trials. Featuring those involved in research as well as those who’ve participated, we explained that if a treatment is to work for anybody, it has to work for everybody. In addition to the full-length video being showcased on CISCRP’s website, we created a slew of social cutdowns in an effort to reach as many potential patients as possible.

Robots did not take our jobs. Yet.

Unless you have been living underneath what could someday be a thinking rock with a metal brain, AI has been the talk of our industry for the better part of the last 14 months. But will it really eventually put us out of work? Will it replace the process of thinking, breathing creatives who throw pencils at the ceiling until they have that “ah ha” moment and a pencil inevitably hits them in the fleshy head? Have you seen Terminator 2 (the only one worth seeing; okay, maybe 6 is watchable)? Why don’t you go ahead and ask your fancy pants ChatGPT any or all of these questions? Because maybe it’s the optimist in me (see the very first line in this article) but I still think AI will prove to be a tool for us. A very powerful tool, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think it’ll replace the need for human ideation. It’ll help with execution, but the power to point it in the right direction will ultimately prove to be human brains, not robot ones. But what do I know, I’m a human. Or am I? Maybe your fancy pants ChatGPT wrote this whole thing while I watched Terminator 2 for the 79th time. The world may never know.

But until we have all the smoldering answers to the aforementioned burning questions, have a look at this year’s Crowley Webb holiday billboard which pays homage to what may prove to be artificial panic. Yummy!

We gave back.

While we’d much rather be out there doing than talking about it, it wouldn’t be polite to let the good work done by our GivesBack crew this past year go uncredited. The group that fills each and every month with good-deed-doing opportunities. What did we do? We painted an officers quarters room on the USS Little Rock in Buffalo’s own Naval Park. We hosted our very first bake sale and bubble hockey tournament (these events were not one in the same). We collected more than $3,400 for various organizations. We donated Thanksgiving meals to 12 Buffalo Prep families – our most meals to date. We provided a full set of home goods for two refugee families in need, and holiday gifts for another. We are organizing our second very own day of caring, supporting nine amazing organizations across Western New York later this month. So maybe the question should be, what didn’t we do? We didn’t make quilts. There’s always 2024.

Jim Hettich’s last waltz.

Talk about news that the guy smack dab in the center of this story doesn’t want to be news. Jim would sooner talk about Taylor Swift than about his retirement. But it doesn’t mean we can’t. He’s been with us for 25 years. Served as CEO for 20 of those. His career with us (and career as a whole) will be well documented very soon. And just recently, we documented 25 reasons Jim’s so great. So I’d like to take this time and space to talk about what Jim’s meant to me.

Now, I won’t bore you with stories about how Jim’s been an incredible father figure to me (he’s been to dozens of us) or he’s been an unrelenting mentor to me (he’s been to dozens and dozens of us). I’ll just tell you a story about how we sing.

About a decade and a half ago, Jim floated the idea of us singing our very own versions of classic carols at our holiday party. And so began writing and performing “original” songs at annual retreats, monthly agency meetings, retirement parties, Halloween parties, and every holiday party since. We even recorded 50 (yes, 5-0) Zoom performances during COVID (thanks, Ellen) so everyone could continue to *ahem* “enjoy” our singing.

Sure, this wasn’t always good news to our people when we took to the mic. Especially during those first few years before I learned how to sing (I’m still not very good). But it was always a special time for me. I got to write songs with Jim (though he’s taken to writing almost all of our content the last few years). I got to practice with Jim, and I’d always push him to “do one more,” part of me wanting to be sure we had it, part of me wanting to spend just a few more minutes with my friend. I got to have special time with this incredible man, mentor, father figure, and friend. A CEO who wasn’t afraid to look silly in a Beatles wig he insisted we wear. A friend who never wanted to stop singing with me, even when I was terrible. This is the stuff I’ll remember most about Jim. Our time together practicing and singing was always good news to me.

It’s time I’ll never get back and time I’ll never forget.
So I’ll thank you in advance for permitting me one final Sunday Serenade. You know, for old times’ sake.

And the rest of the good news.

Let’s send you and our year off with the remaining bits of good news bound to make you feel fuzzy where it counts.

Until next year!

In 2023, CW celebrated:

  • Ten new babies
  • Eight weddings
  • Seven new pets
  • Five new houses
  • Three engagements
  • Two new folks on the AAF Board
  • A few new cars
  • A couple stolen cars
  • A move to DC
  • A move to NYC
  • A first-place bowling team
  • A free vacuum due to an Amazon mistake
  • And a partridge in a pear tree