Sun victory is both a validation and a test of Bite Communications' ever-growing stature

Bite Communications' 10th anniversary coincides with its winning the Sun business, its biggest account yet.

Bite Communications' 10th anniversary coincides with its winning the Sun business, its biggest account yet.

The agency's US operation came to the Bay Area scarcely five years ago, just before the bubble sprung a leak.

Keeping its head relatively low in the downturn seems to have served the firm well, as it now exudes energy and vitality. Some others that flew high before the bust seem fatigued from that struggle to survive. When the tech PR industry began its recovery, Bite was part of a group of agencies, led by OutCast Communications and A&R Partners, who displayed a kind of optimism that stood out in a sector rife with negativity and senior staff shuffles.

Following Bite's acquisition of former powerhouse Applied Communications in 2003, Bite seemed to suddenly join the big leagues, to the surprise of some who were skeptical about the pairing. From an office of five, it has grown to 57 - and it's still hiring. The firm held onto Applied clients like VeriSign and Juniper Networks. Former Applied executive Burghardt Tenderich joined as GM of North America, and CEO Clive Armitage relocated to the Bay Area to run the business from the US, recalibrating the firm's center of gravity.

For every hot shop, there are its detractors. Critics claim that Bite wants to be seen as an edgy boutique, when its size belies that identity. Others say that Bite is great at pitching new business, but are skeptical about whether there is steak to go with that sizzle, citing the loss of Autodesk as one example.

But Bite's leaders say that it isn't about a label, but about pursuing top-tier clients and balancing strategy with great execution, all without losing its self-proclaimed authenticity. Identifying its mission is critical now, as the firm is facing its biggest challenge to date: Mastering the Sun business without becoming consumed by it, to avoid becoming "the Sun agency" at the exclusion of everything else.

It is reminiscent of when Text 100, its sister company, won part of the IBM business and took on the challenges and perils of fundamentally becoming something new. Bite is just getting used to its new swagger. It must navigate this transition with care.

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