Ownership: The Ruder Finn Group
Offices: New York and Boston
Revenue: $12.45 million
RF|Binder Partners ended 2011 slightly up in revenue with $2.9 million in new business despite losing long-time client Bank of America.
“We knew it was coming,” says CEO and founder Amy Binder. “When CEOs go, agencies go. We more than replaced it.”
Last year, revenue was up 1.2% with a 5% profit margin. Key wins included AOR assignments for Tupperware, ACE Group, and Baskin-Robbins (owned by Dunkin' Brands, another AOR client). Existing work expanded with Johnson & Johnson, McGraw-Hill, Dunkin' Brands, and Cargill.
Frank Walton and David Kalson both left, but weren't replaced, leaving a management team of 12 executives and senior MDs in addition to Binder and vice chairman Joe Fisher. Walton, most recently chief performance officer, started his own consultancy and is still of counsel to the firm. Kalson, former executive MD, became CEO of Ricochet Public Relations.
The digital team expanded, as did CSR and crisis offerings. New hires included Greg Willis, senior community manager, and senior director of CSR Kathleen Rafferty.
There are five dedicated digital strategy specialists, though all account people have digital/social media responsibilities. About 50% of the firm's time is spent on digital and social media work. Binder notes specialists are typically hired out of corporate marketing divisions rather than agencies, providing different perspectives to the group. Binder is looking to deepen food and nutrition and financial services expertise and expects to hire three to five senior practitioners.
“People seem more relaxed about talking about changing jobs, so recruiting is much better than it has been,” she observes.
Binder expects a 25% revenue increase this year. “There are some big RFPs out, million-dollar pieces of business,” she says. “We're in the third round of three very large pitches.”
Owning the digital world is the biggest challenge Binder sees for the agency and industry overall.
“Our industry is best positioned to tap into digital because of our skill set,” she explains. “My sense is clients are looking everywhere and anywhere for good solutions and they realize credibility is very important given reputations can be built and torn down in seconds. It's a matter of if we can seize the opportunity.”