Now that black is in, are black agencies out?

The African American market surges, but black agencies battle mainstream shops for the opportunity to deliver their message.

agencies, many of them in partnership with larger white agencies, may be blocked from pursuing new business.”

Billings for Spike DDB, for example, rose from $10 million to $45 million with new Pepsi and Frito Lay accounts as well as assignments with TNT. The agency was also the first African American-owned agency to create an ad specifically for the Super Bowl, with its Pepsi commercial featuring The Parker’s Mo’Nique.

There were other winners among the BE firms. Billings for Matlock jumped from $25 million to $38 million with the acquisition of BMW, Nationwide Insurance Co., and Turner Broadcasting System. Prime Access Inc. (No. 12 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $28.3 million in billings) in New York acquired Cendant, Volvo, Hyatt, and Johnson & Johnson corporate diversity business. Muse Cordero Chen & Partners (No. 6 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $80 million in billings) of Los Angeles won the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and DHS Five-A-Day account. And Dallas’ The King Group Inc. (No. 15 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $23.8 million in billings) landed Kinko’s and re-acquired the Texas Lottery.

E. Morris Communications (No. 13 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $28 million in billings) saw a turnaround with new accounts from Tyson Foods, A
bbott Labs, new assignments for American Family Insurance, and additional work from Wal-Mart. “We changed our focus and grew current client business,” says President and CEO Eugene Morris. His company has also become more selective in its pursuit of new business, particularly opportunities that came with a request for proposal (RFP). “We are one of the few industries that gives away its product — our resources, our people, and ideas — for nothing. Going forward, I will only do that if there is a dramatic upside or the ability to round out our portfolio. It isn’t fair to invest the very same resources in a company for free when we have clients who pay us for this service.” E. Morris’ billings jumped from $18.7 million to $28 million and netted the Chicago-based agency $4.2 million in revenues. Morris, one of the few to reveal revenues, notes “most agencies exaggerate so much about billings that the number is almost meaningless. The real question is, ‘Did they make any money?’”

Admittedly, there were some agencies that lost money. El Paso, Texas-based SWG&M Advertising Inc. (No. 11 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $32 million in billings) dropped $4 million, despite securing accounts from USPS, Shell Oil, Fuddruckers, and SBC. “Our business is both general-market and minority and we saw pullbacks in both areas,” says President and CEO Robert V. Wingo. Equals Three Communications Inc. (No. 7 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $70 million in billings) dipped from $80 million. But the Bethesda, Maryland-based shop has joined forces with Spier New York, a leader in publishing marketing, to form Nclusive Communications to target multicultural publishing markets.

On the corporate front, Ann Fudge, former president of Kraft Food Inc., became chairwoman and CEO

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