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RightMinds' Chris Thurston and Bill Chapman work to brand Richmond.

The Marketers

In 2001, RightMinds tried to put Richmond into words. And in the process, the agency's co-leaders, Chris Thurston and Bill Chapman, became ubiquitous.

They didn't do it by taking on one project; they did it by taking on many. The two unabashed Richmond-boosters worked on advertising accounts for Richmond International Airport, the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the city's grand old bus system, GRTC. Their firm also designed a logo and a Web site for the Go Fish public-art project.

Most splashy of all, in October RightMinds unveiled Richmond's new "Easy to Love" identity, which the agency helped develop with nine civic sponsors. The carefully orchestrated debut of that slogan (in full: "The Historic Richmond Region Is Easy to Love") and brand was a marvel of public-relations panache.

"It's been an exciting year, the enthusiasm internally, the enthusiasm externally, to what we're doing, to our model, to who we are as an agency," says Thurston, who merged his agency with Chapman's in 1999. (The agency changed its name from Thurston Chapman to RightMinds this year.)

Chapman, 38, and Thurston, 37, were both award-winning up-and-comers when they decided to become a team. They graduated from Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico County — Chapman in 1981, Thurston two years later — and in 1987 graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Mass Communications. They had a common vision for a new kind of advertising agency that would, rather than simply focusing on advertising, integrate solutions ranging from advertising, public relations and marketing to photography and Web design.

The duo's unique approach has won kudos from the advertising industry and from area business leaders.

Chapman and Thurston rolled out their company's new name just as the economy began souring, advertisers began cutting back budgets, and marketing professionals began looking for ways to cut costs.

"Not only has our timing been appropriate, but it's the timing of the whole region," Thurston says. "There is unprecedented regional cooperation. [Civic leaders] want to raise the bar in terms of the professionalism of the presentation of the region and really hold a higher standard." — Laura Bland

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