How Charlotte Advertising Legend Nancy Haynes Impacted Charlotte Media


Nancy Haynes began her career as a fourteen-year-old with a Saturday morning show on Rocky Mount, N.C. radio station WEED.  Yes, really.

She’s concluding it as the doyenne of Charlotte advertising.  Over her 57-year career, she had a tremendous impact on media planning and buying in Charlotte, the state, and, some would argue, the East Coast.

“She understands the advertising business better than almost anybody I’ve ever seen,” says Mike Collins, her business partner and the host of WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins.  “People have traditionally looked at raw numbers and thought, ‘I’ll put my ad on the Number 1 radio station in town, the top television newscast, or the biggest website, and I’ll have success.’ But you won’t have success if the right people aren’t going to those places. She’s been able to use data in a way that other people didn’t conceive of doing.”

Haynes’ had such an impact on advertising in Charlotte, that several billboards have now gone up around the area paying tribute to her legacy;

With Haynes’ retirement, Haynes and Collins are closing their Charlotte advertising agency, Collins, Haynes & Lully. Heather Myers, owner of Tri-AD Media Communications LLC in Charlotte, is the new ad agency of record for CHL clients.  Myers shares Haynes’ philosophy of reaching the people who count for your business.  In other words, if you’re selling a dog bed, it would be a good idea for your target to own a dog.

Haynes honed her expertise over time to become the region’s best-known media consultant, strategist, planner, analyst, and beta-tester for media-related software.  She’s been a frequent source for journalists, quoted in The Wall Street Journal online and American Demographics, among other outlets.  As a very early adapter of new technology, she often used new techniques before local ad reps had heard about them.

Along the way, she’s had job highs or lows, depending on your point of view. At the height of disco fever, she promoted a club whose owner blew $100,000 on the floor alone, complete with lights that flashed in time to the music. The club didn’t survive but Haynes says the project was  “absolutely fun, fun, fun.”

Less fun, fun, fun but just as satisfying: Haynes discovered a now-defunct agency’s secret plan to advertise beer to underage minors and stopped it cold.

From WEED to Strategic Media Planner

Haynes dropped out of college to become the receptionist, copywriter, traffic director, and deejay at WEED.  She was engaged to be married but ran off with the station’s program director, Bob Chesson, dumping her wedding dress in a Salvation Army box.

Eventually she married Chesson and arrived in Charlotte, only to discover no one would hire her as a broadcast personality because her husband also worked in radio.  She became a copywriter for a small ad agency and, soon after, media director, a title she barely understood.   But she was a quick study, and when the agency’s owner decided to close it down, he convinced her to open her own firm.

Her first big project was an ad campaign covering two states for the Carolina Chevrolet Dealers Association.  Later, she placed the N.C. ad campaign for Diet Coke’s debut and bought her first ad in the Super Bowl.

She has worked with homebuilders since 1984, at one point handling media placement for Centex Homes from New Jersey to North Carolina.  Some clients, such as Invisible Fence, have stayed with her for decades.

There have been bumps.  In 1997, Haynes, Mike Collins, and the late WBT radio personality Henry Boggan tried to launch their own radio station.  They raised the capital, but no one would sell them a signal on the FM dial.

Two years later, Haynes and Collins opened their ad agency with marketing expert Sandra Lully. They succeeded, but Lully’s health deteriorated and she retired in 2000.

As for that would-be client who wanted to market beer to teens?  Haynes threatened to report the client to the ABC Board if they proceeded.  The client never knew Haynes discovered the illegal plan because it appeared on the back of a recycled document they sent to Haynes.  Confronting them “was one of my most gratifying moments,” she says.

A Media Innovator

When Haynes first began, the only advertising options were print, billboards, AM radio and broadcast TV.  She was out front exploring innovations for clients as soon as they were introduced, from Cablevision to Pandora to a polygon-geofence for smartphone ads.

Haynes’ process has worked for Alan Beulah.  “She was truly a partner,” says Beulah, division vice president of M/I Homes in Charlotte.  “She was always open to new ideas and making us think outside the box, doing things that were a little bit different and really trying to maximize our money.”

Haynes will continue to offer advice and remain of counsel to Tri-AD Media Communications.