Defiant Torossian takes pride in pushing buttons

Say the name Ronn Torossian and words like "aggressive," "brash," "competitive," and "egotistical" come to mind.

Say the name Ronn Torossian and words like "aggressive," "brash," "competitive," and "egotistical" come to mind.

And Torossian, CEO of 5W PR, likely won't even argue with you about most of them. He says he couldn't care less what his contemporaries think about him or his firm.

"A lot of people in the industry have a perception of who we are," he explains. "I'm happy that very few of them really know who we are. 5W will always be described as the most aggressive firm in the country. For me, that means working harder than the other guy."

Still, over the past four years, Torossian perceives a change in what people think.

"Our peers are recognizing we're not just a loudmouth agency," he says. "We've had that perception for a while because I'm a different type of CEO. I'm not active in PRSA [or] in industry organizations that don't do much for the industry. I don't know what PRSA does. I don't know what any of these organizations do."

The agency's clients range from Pamela Anderson to the government of Israel. More often than not, Torossian says, the client's personality mirrors that of 5W.

"All our clients are risk-takers," he says. "Anyone who's not willing to take a chance with their brand probably isn't a good client for us."

Last year, 5W scored what could probably be described as one of the biggest product placements in history when Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt appeared to the world wearing a shirt from Belly, a 5W client. Torossian won't discuss details on how 5W secured the no-fee product placement, but says it involved months of back and forth with various people in the Pitt-Jolie camp and shipments of a variety of different products to Africa. "It was a phenomenal placement," he says.

Torossian says his unwillingness to "play in the sandbox" with his competitors makes it easier to compete against them for clients.

"One of the challenges I've had is that my peers don't understand me," Torossian says. "I'm not mellow. I'm not close friends with Dan Edelman or APCO. I don't want to be. There are very few people in this industry I have relationships with because it makes it easier to be competitive with them. There are other firms I respect and like, [but] I'm really good at what I do, and that bothers some people."

When 5W started four years ago, it was a one-man operation. Today, it has 75 employees - that number is expected to surpass 100 this year, Torossian reports - and closed 2006 at $9.5 million in business. Torossian is projecting 5W will reach $11 million in 2007.

Joe Fisch, president & CEO of United States Beverage, a marketer of domestic craft beer and specialties, began working with Torossian when he was with another firm. Fisch decided to switch agencies in hopes of finding one more like his company.

"We're a small company, and we wanted to partner with an up-and-coming aggressive agency that had very entrepreneurial ideas," Fisch says. "I found 5W went the extra step. Ronn is very aggressive in strategic planning and making sure the plan is executed."

When the company wanted to reposition its Seagram's wine coolers brand, Fisch says other agencies said it couldn't be done, but Torossian believed it could.

"Ronn said we have to go young and run a much more contemporary platform," Fisch recalls. "Ronn was instrumental in turning my mind around by saying we can be aggressive with a much younger consumer."

Fisch says Torossian's aggressiveness and dedication have been the foundation of a relationship that goes beyond agency and client.

"I use Ronn not only for PR and brand strategy, but as a consultant for my company," Fisch says. "He's honest and doesn't pull any punches. When he says something, he gets it done."

Ronn Torossian

2003-present
CEO, 5W PR

2000-2002
VP/group director, MWW

1998-2000
AVP, G.S. Schwartz & Co.

1997-1998
Spokesman, World Likud (Jerusalem, Israel)

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