Principal: Elise Mitchell, CEO
Offices: Fayetteville, AR; New York; and Chicago
Revenue: $15.9 million
"Our network now spans 110 countries and is run on the principle of collaboration," says CEO Elise Mitchell, thanks to the firm becoming part of the Dentsu Aegis Network of digital, media, and creative agencies. "Working closely with our sister firms has been of tremendous value."
Network collaboration opened the door to pitch Nissin Foods, which was among last year’s biggest global wins. Other new clients included SourceGas, which named Mitchell AOR for PR and then marketing AOR later in the year, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, and Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The firm also works with quite a few educational institutions and formalized an education practice last year.
New business also came in from existing clients, including Walmart and P&G.
Though overall revenue was up from $15 million in 2013 to $15.9 million last year, headcount fell from 85 full-time employees (with 30 project employees) to 75 full-time employees (and 35 project staffers). Mitchell attributes this to "the natural ebb and flow of talent, reorganization of a few teams, and the strategic elimination of a handful of positions" due to shifts in client needs.
A ramp-up in the consumer insights practice began last year after John Gilboy, formerly SVP of consumer and business insights at Taylor PR, was hired to lead the practice out of the New York office.
"We can now provide clients with trend reports by industry that give them greater insight into business opportunities," Mitchell explains. "Our consumer insights team answers the ‘so what’ and ‘now what’ questions. Clients are really looking for that."
Bolstering digital and social capability is an ongoing priority. Mitchell notes the need for visual storytelling is increasing, and clients want an agency that can create and manage content across all channels.
Susan Saronitman, a former senior director on Walmart’s comms team, joined as SVP. Mitchell says her role includes oversight for both content marketing and insights. Plans this year include elevating strategic creative capabilities.
"Increasingly, clients want big ideas that solve a business problem," Mitchell says. "We’re actively recruiting a chief creative officer this year who will work closely with our insights group to bring solutions to clients before they even ask for them. We’ve always been creative, but we see an opportunity to provide even higher-level strategic creative ideas."
The Dentsu agency is also actively seeking to acquire new firms.
"We have a very refined strategy for acquisitions that involves both scale plays and specialized additions," she explains. "We hope to make acquisitions in one or both of those categories in 2015."