CRT/tanaka: Agency Business Report 2013

The niche-building strategy CRT/tanaka implemented two years ago has been "coming along nicely" in 2012, says Mark Raper, chairman and CEO.

Principals: Mark Raper, chairman and CEO (pictured); Mike Mulvihill, president
Ownership: Independent
Revenue: $13,009,202
Headcount: 61

The niche-building strategy CRT/tanaka implemented two years ago has been "coming along nicely" in 2012, says Mark Raper, chairman and CEO.

Richmond, VA-based CRT/tanaka surpassed its revenue expectations for 2012, experiencing 12.4% growth, with revenue reaching $13 million. First quarter 2013 has been the agency's best so far.

"We think we were smart about how we approached last year and continue to niche ourselves to a higher level, in fewer niches, which is the only way a mid-sized agency can compete with the big guys," says Raper.

Its corporate practice saw 30% growth due to the expansion of branding capabilities, which are now being driven by new hire Kelly O'Keefe, as chief creative officer.

Meanwhile the food, beverage, and nutrition practice continues to deliver steady growth. The agency's health and lifestyle practices were not as robust and CRT/tanaka is intent on being more effective in that segment.

In the past year, CRT/tanaka has upped its focus on applying research and human behavior to client work. "We aim to know more about the business of clients than clients do themselves," says Raper.

He highlights the agency's current work for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council as an example of this. It aims to double the sales of blueberries through a relaunch and is using research and health claims and is working with packagers and strategic partners to achieve this.

CRT/tanaka has boosted training across the agency, introducing a companywide annual retreat. Raper says attracting new talent has not been a challenge for the agency due to its workplace culture and paid-internship program.

The agency has struggled, however, with recruiting at the vice president level. It is yet to fill the role of vice president and general manager of its LA office, left open by Craig Rexroad at the start of the year.

New business contributed 60% to CRT/tanaka's $1.4 million top-line growth for 2012. This year so far, the agency has picked up engineering architectural firm HNTB; Valor, Spain's largest chocolate manufacturer launching in the US; nonprofit Teach for America; and the Virginia Credit Union in 2013. The agency resigned Cambria Suites at the end of 2012.

CRT/tanaka is planning to be "more aggressive" in building niches in the next year, which will include acquisitions in North America. Raper says the agency is already in talks with a number of potential purchases.

Digital and social media is another focus for the agency, with CRT/tanaka looking to exploit the growth in mobile. 

"We are on a mission – we believe you really have to reach the $20 million to $30 million range for the real fun to begin," says Raper.

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