It was a bounce-back year and then some for Orange County advertising agencies, which saw growth in revenue and employee count in 2021, after a challenging 2020.
The 20 largest agencies in Orange County reported a collective 43% increase in 2021 revenue from 2020, totaling nearly $945 million, according to this week’s Business Journal list.
The companies on last year’s list reported a 6.8% decline in 2020, amid the onset of the pandemic. In 2021, only one firm on the list reported a year-over-year decline.
Local agency payrolls in 2021 increased by 3.1% to 1,528 employees.
Two firms were responsible for much of the recent gains seen on the list.
Agency Ingram Micro of Irvine, No. 2 on the list, saw a 257% growth in 2021 revenue from the year prior, due to more cloud-related work, and, officials said, international expansion.
Previous data on the Business Journal’s ad agencies lists reflected just the U.S. revenue for the firm, an offshoot of distribution giant Ingram Micro, OC’s largest company by revenue.
Without Agency Ingram’s revenue figures, the list would show a nearly 18% increase.
Revenue in 2021 for Costa Mesa-based SCS doubled from the year prior to over $68 million, after it acquired Atlanta-based agency Swarm, according to Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Roach.
“We saw significant revenue increase across those accounts while also seeing an influx of client business along with some new accounts that together contributed to a significant revenue jump,” Roach told the Business Journal.
As the world is becoming increasingly digital, so are ad agencies’ tactics.
Idea Hall, a Costa Mesa-based ad agency that also provides PR and marketing services, has mobilized the power of micro- and nano-influencers, CEO Rebecca Hall said.
“Who do you ask when you need a new dentist? You ask your girlfriend, your mom—somebody close to you. That’s the role the influencer plays,” Hall told the Business Journal.
One of the agency’s clients, San Diego-based portable device charger company FuelRod, sold out their products on Amazon after the agency launched an influencer campaign with micro influencers who promoted the product as Disney “fanatics” and frequent fliers.
The full-service ad agency, No. 17 on the list, said while they saw increased demand for emerging digital services, there was decreased demand for traditional media ads, according to Hall.
Costa Mesa-based Casanova//McCann has pivoted to short-term project work from long-term assignments, CEO Ingrid Otero-Smart tells the Business Journal.
In recent years, “more clients are moving in the direction [of project work],” said Otero-Smart, whose company placed No. 6 on the list.
Casanova saw a 6.3% of 2021 revenue growth from the year prior, at $25.5 million, after gaining five new accounts and seeing growth from existing clients.
Recruiting talent has been a challenge for companies nationwide, and the ad industry is no different.
To retain employees, Hall said her agency is offering reimbursements for wellness-related purchases such as gym memberships, massages, fitness equipment, guided meditation apps and therapy.
“A healthy employee is a happy employee. And a happy employee does great work.”
For Casanova, the area’s largest Hispanic-owned ad firm, hiring challenges are coupled with the struggle to find “bilingual, bicultural” people, Otero-Smart said.
To retain the talent it has, Casanova has been keeping a fun and fresh work culture with recreational opportunities such as monthly cooking classes, weekly happy hours and biweekly cafecitos, also known as coffee breaks.
“We want to make sure that people feel this is a good place to work.”
Creating an environment that offers mentorship and encourages learning has also been a means of retaining and acquainting new hires, despite the challenges of remote work.
“It’s easier when you’re at a desk and you can turn to the person next to you and say ‘hey, how do you do this?’ It’s much harder when you have to look at someone’s calendar and schedule a [meeting] to ask a question.”
The agency currently has about five open positions and is hoping to bring in more female leadership into its creative department, Otero-Smart said.
Casanova’s number of local employees grew 9% last year to 60.