Carmichael Lynch Spong: Agency Business Report 2013

Carmichael Lynch Spong, which prides itself on being a more creative alternative to the average PR firm, had a steady year in 2012.

Principal: Doug Spong, president
Ownership: Interpublic Group (but operates outside of Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Minneapolis and New York
Revenue: $10 million to $65 million
Headcount: 60

Carmichael Lynch Spong, which prides itself on being a more creative alternative to the average PR firm, had a steady year in 2012. The agency, which does not disclose specific revenue numbers due to Interpublic Group restrictions, says its performance was in line with forecasts, but fell just short of its goal.

“We had an aggressive goal and it was still a good year,” says president Doug Spong. “We set high expectations for ourselves.”

He explains the agency saw business pick up in the second half of 2012, as it was named AOR for pillow- and mattress-maker Tempur-Pedic late in the year. The firm became AOR for energy company FirstEnergy and First Bankcard and Merrick Pet Care also named Carmichael its first AOR in April. Other major clients include Trane, Sherwin-Williams, and H&R Block. The shop lost its longtime Cargill Salt AOR account after a change in management at the company, Spong adds.

“There was a lot of wait and see from clients in the first half,” he says, “but then they decided, ‘We have brands to build and products to sell, so we better get going.'”

The firm also reported a turnover rate of 12%, nearly half of the industry average of 20% to 25%. It kept senior staff together and promoted Grete Lavrenz to senior principal and Lindsey Rose and Debra Hays to managing counselor roles.

Emily Buchanan left MSLGroup to join Carmichael as senior principal, chair of brand marketing and social engagement. 

Content creation plans
Carmichael also worked to improve its data and analytics prowess, as well as its brand strategy. It is also helping brands as they create more original content, Spong notes.

“Many clients view themselves as media organizations more than CPG companies, for instance, and they create content,” he says. “They're finding a way to not just engage, but also activate a consumer online through social networking, digital, or apps.”

However, that isn't to take away from the agency's bread-and-butter creative work. Spong cites campaigns for Merrick and Jack Link's Beef Jerky, in which the agency created beef jerky portraits of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney that even got the then-GOP contender's attention on his campaign plane.

“If we're doing our jobs, then we're bending pop culture in some way,” Spong says.

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