LaForce + Stevens: Agency Business Report 2015

When James LaForce and Leslie Stevens founded their eponymous firm in 1995, work revolved around media relations and events.

CEO James LaForce
CEO James LaForce

Principals: James LaForce, CEO; Leslie Stevens, president
Ownership: Independent
Office: New York
Revenue: $13,595,525
Headcount: 88

When James LaForce and Leslie Stevens founded their eponymous firm in 1995, work revolved around media relations and events. Those services are still key to clients, though the agency has evolved to meet ever-increasing digital and social needs for fashion retailers, CPG, hospitality, and wines and spirits. It has even begun to get involved in paid efforts. 

"There are massive shifts in media consumption, but I don’t want to obsess over the number of Instagram followers to the degree that we miss a Today opportunity. It is key to remember that the digital pass along of a great feature in The Wall Street Journal is also a digital and social tactic that comes from an earned media placement," says LaForce.

Evolution of the firm
Though revenue was slightly down from $14 million in 2013 to $13.6 last year, LaForce says it was in line with projections. The agency had a strong 2013, but  H1 2014 was lower than projected. However the firm made up for it in the latter half of the year.

"There has been an evolution in how we market," he continues. "We are exploring more owned and shared channels, and dipping into paid strategies. We are working more closely now with ad and media buying agencies. It’s definitely new for us to get involved in paid social and paid media."

The agency has long-standing relationships with many clients, including Banana Republic and Swarovski, both 15 years, and Target, 10 years, respectively. Sixteen new AOR wins came in last year from brands such as John Hardy, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lilly Pulitzer, Marimekko, and Fiskars.

Corporate communications grew with programs for Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm. Quite a few clients, including Grand Hyatt Hotels, Limited Stores, and Veuve Clicquot, which had been working with pure social agencies, but gave their social business to the firm last year.

Work that ended in 2014 mainly included fashion shows such as: Concept Korea, BCBG, Parsons, and Herve Leger. The agency also concluded work with discount fashion site The Outnet.

Other than LaForce, the agency’s senior leaders are female and women outnumber men on the overall staff, which LaForce says is due to the fact that "much of our work is in fashion, beauty, and hospitality, where women tend to be the target audiences and many of our clients are women."

LaForce says new business opportunities abound this year. He’s selective about taking on new clients, in part because he wants to ensure the agency is properly staffed against all business. Other wins last year included Supima Cotton, Miami Cocktail, Fabthletics, Etsy, and JW Hulme. Plans for 2015 include increasing digital and social work, as well as global programs, and diversifying into new sectors, such as consumer technology.  

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