The Martin Agency may be Walmart's lead creative shop, but Vimby, a 50-person agency in Van Nuys, Calif., creates more TV ads for the retailer. Likewise, two other West Coast shops, Pitch and Mekanism, have become mainstays for Burger King and Pepsi, respectively.
They’re not household names—even inside the industry—but they have assumed significant roles on major brands because they’re nimble and generally don’t charge as much as bigger players. At the same time, some marketers have moved toward playing the agency field, dispersing work among several shops where they used to rely on just one. Pepsi is a prime example. Today the company uses Mekanism, Pitch and even Funny or Die on its main brand, which previously was assigned to TBWAChiatDay.
“There’s more project work being doled out to agencies. Once that happens, the little guys have as much of a chance as the big guys to go for it,” explained Avi Dan of Avidan Strategies in New York. Also, with the explosion of online channels, marketers crave more content, which in turn creates new opportunities for nimble players, said Casey Burnett of Roth Observatory International. Here’s a closer look at three new kids on the block:
HQ: Culver City, Calif.
Key accounts: Burger King, Pepsi, Meineke
Backstory: Started as an entertainment marketing shop, forging brand partnerships for the likes of NBC and Nickelodeon. Ventured into advertising via Burger King and became the chain’s general market lead in North America late last year. Joined Pepsi’s creative roster three months ago to work on Wild Cherry Pepsi and pitch ideas on other brands.
HQ: San Francisco
Key accounts: Pepsi, General Electric, Disney (movies)
Backstory: Began as a production company working directly for marketers like Microsoft and Sega and morphed into an agency in 2009, with the addition of account, strategic and creative services. The Pepsi relationship started with Brisk in 2010 and expanded to include the flagship brand in late 2012. The shop’s “blue can” work has appeared on the last two Super Bowls and this year’s Oscars.
HQ: Van Nuys, Calif.
Key accounts: Walmart, General Mills, Hyundai (dealers)
Backstory: Opened as a website that featured video on youth culture trends and branched into advertising and branded content, with the backing of Mark Burnett and Hearst. Bills itself as fast, affordable and flexible, with access to a collective of filmmakers and production units in 80 local markets. Produced a staggering 1,600 TV ads for Walmart last year.