Spong: Agency Business Report 2015

After rebranding the agency from Carmichael Lynch Spong last April, the Interpublic Group firm finished 2014 as "one of the best years" in a while.

Doug Spong
Doug Spong

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

After rebranding the agency from Carmichael Lynch Spong last April, the Interpublic Group firm finished 2014 as "one of the best years" in a while, with a high-single-digit revenue increase year over year, says president Doug Spong.

New business contributed to 30% of revenue last year, but the firm lost accounts with nutritional product company DSM, lighting-control company Lutron, and First Bankcard.

In April, GNC ended its one-year relationship with Spong, which handled social media tracking and analytics for the company, and fired creative AOR and Spong’s sister IPG shop Carmichael Lynch. The health and nutrition products retailer ousted its CEO and senior exec team late last year.

Playing to its strengths
Spong says the firm tends to win in its strengths, such as home, food, and retail. Some of the companies it began working with in 2014 included Lamps Plus, La-Z-Boy, Masonite, Arla Foods’ domestic cheeses Dofino and Castello, Voyce, and Jetcraft.

The agency has been in and out of higher education over the years, and worked with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business on a positioning and branding initiative.

In Q1 2015, the firm brought on four undisclosed new clients in food, financial services, and healthcare. Spong sees a lot of opportunity in the latter sector, particularly on the medical device side since Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, and Boston Scientific all have offices in Minnesota. The firm may also dive into more professional services, such as architecture, engineering, or financial services.

Executive departures included senior principal and New York office director Lori Robinson; senior principal Maria Reitan; and design director Michael Skjei, but the agency hired new staffers to strengthen different practice areas.

This February, the firm appointed former Target comms exec Eric Hausman as principal and client leader for its Sherwin-Williams business. A month later, it tapped Sheldon Clay from sister agency Carmichael Lynch to be the firm’s first group creative director and partner.

In addition to creative, Spong is focusing on social engagement, having launched a social media command center to engage visitors in Minneapolis during Major League Baseball All-Star Week in 2014. It incorporated this 24/7 tech into work with other clients, such as Thermos and MasterBrand Cabinets.

Throughout 2015, Spong says Emily Buchanan, senior principal and chair of brand marketing and social engagement, will "continue to evolve our thinking and how we’re staffed and make sure we have the right skill sets to meet changing markets, so our people are PR people at the core who think holistically about paid, earned, shared, and owned."

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