French | West | Vaughan: Agency Business Report 2012

Chairman and CEO Rick French says the revenue drop of 2% last year was on par with expectations given client budgets.

Principal: Rick French, chairman and CEO
Ownership: Independent
Offices: Raleigh, NC (HQ); New York; Los Angeles; Dallas; Tampa, FL
Revenue: $13,325,710
Headcount:
72

Chairman and CEO Rick French says the revenue drop of 2% last year was on par with expectations given client budgets.

Though the agency remains under agreement with Coca-Cola, billings were reduced after a long-time contact retired.
 
“It's really the first time in our history we were actually down,” he says. “It's somewhat scalable because it's more challenging to grow the baseline as we've grown larger. We made up most of the Coke business, but not all. We had higher operating costs because we opened a Los Angeles office in spring.”
 
Remaining profitable

Despite the net decrease, the agency was still profitable, and French expects significant growth this year.
 
“We're on an absolute tear,” he reports. “We won eight or nine accounts in January and February – some sizeable.”
 
Athletic brands Arena North America and Skins International named the agency AOR in early 2012.
 
Clients span diverse industries, including financial services, entertainment, and consumer products, including Wrangler (the agency's longest-standing client). Wins last year included AOR assignments with Gear4, SAS, Strata Solar, Royal Bank of Canada, and TigerSwan. Business with Justin Boots expanded internationally.
 
Brian Sher and Stella Stolper (both producers) are partners in the Los Angeles office, which won business on VH1 projects last year and this.
 
Talent acquisitions included Arik Abel, VP of digital services, and media director Craig Becher.
 
French notes the shift to digital has really taken hold. “Certain clients are more interested in bloggers than journalists [and in] cross-pollinating positive blog coverage to other digital and social media channels,” he explains.
“Conversations with clients and prospects are focused first and foremost on increasing penetration in the digital space.”
 
French says the skill sets required to remain relevant are “shifting dramatically.” He's looking to hire people who can provide content for a variety of digital platforms.

“We're hiring digital experts – almost digital anthropologists – who understand how to mine digital information,” he adds. “Getting in front of the digital opportunity is best accomplished by hiring really smart counselors who can help clients understand where the digital realm is going.”

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