Peppercom: Agency Business Report 2012

Peppercom exceeded expectations of 15% growth, ending 2011 up 23% overall, 21% in the US.

Principals: Steve Cody and Ed Moed, cofounders and managing partners
Subsidiary agencies:
H20 Associates
New York (HQ), San Francisco, partnership in London
Global: $15.13 million; US: $14.36 million
Global: 84; US: 78

Peppercom exceeded expectations of 15% growth, ending 2011 up 23% overall, 21% in the US. Cofounder and managing partner Steve Cody attributes much of that to a new service called Audience Experience.
“Last year, we had a fundamental mind-set change,” he explains. “We're putting ourselves in the shoes of [every audience] clients have and literally experiencing the brand from outside in.”
Customer service expert Emily Yellin, a former New York Times correspondent, joined as a strategic consultant working on Audience Experience. It's been sold to many larger clients and Cody says it's also won new business, including retailer Michael C. Fina, “because rather than talk about Peppercom, we talk about how we experience the prospect both online and off.”
Burgeoning partnerships
The firm acquired H20 Associates, an eight-person Web design and interactive shop, early in 2011 and formed a partnership with the UK's Flagship Consulting after closing its own London office, which was narrowly focused on mobile apps. Cody aims to take a “significant minority stake” in Flagship in Q2 and own it fully in a few years.
Headcount was up 24% (13% from H2O, 11% new Peppercom hires). H20 founder Jason Dodd was named senior director of creative services. Nikki Bodnar joined H20 as director of creative services. Brian Mieth was hired as Peppercom's first senior director of new business.
Digital and creative services also drove growth. Cody notes his firm's ongoing focus on listening to clients' audiences and understanding where and how they wish to engage. He says the agency will push back if clients want to engage for the wrong reasons. 

Organic wins fueled about 60% of growth. The agency also landed six new AOR wins, including b-to-b clients and LendingTree.
T.J. Maxx was won and lost after the social media account was reallocated to IT. Other losses included Fischer International, Humanscale, and Ricoh.
Cody, who is currently looking for social media and deep green experts, admits that finding talent hasn't gotten any easier.
An offering called Comedy Experience, which uses stand-up comedy techniques to boost presentation skills and morale, recently launched and has helped several clients.

Cody is optimistic, expecting to end 2012 up north of 20%.

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