Re:Thinking Business (2011 BE100s Overview)

BE100s CEOs revamp their companies to reap profits through global business strategies, emerging technology, and training a more competitive workforce.

Advertising Agencies: Fighting for New Accounts
For decades, black advertising agencies had been considered the connection major corporations needed to reach a relatively untapped black consumer market. Ending the practice of retaining black ad agencies is an unfortunate pattern established by major corporations over the past 18 months. A number of black firms have lost long-term corporate accounts. In one high-profile example, Burger King ended its 27-year relationship last year with Brooklyn, New York-based UniWorld Group (No. 3 on the BE advertising agencies list with $21.2 million in revenues). As co-founder and CEO of one of the nation’s oldest multicultural ad agencies, UniWorld’s Byron E. Lewis remembers when black-owned agencies had to overcome numerous business and political obstacles in order to survive. He says today’s environment is no different: “We’ve seen the dramatic change over the last several years in the media and consumer behavior. African American and minority agencies must develop more online data-driven and digital capabilities to meet the criteria of future clients.”

Investing in digital media—an area where black consumers’ usage outpaces their white counterparts—is one way that Burrell Communications Group L.L.C. (No. 4 on the BE advertising agencies list with $21 million in revenues) has stayed relevant. The firm, the 2011 BE Advertising Agency of the Year, hired Google alum Donald Moore as president of Burrell Digital. Moore was part of the team that launched travel blog for American Airlines in 2009. Their digital prowess led cable network giant Comcast Corp. to tap Burrell as its African American agency of record in March. “It’s about going beyond surviving and thriving,” says Co-CEO Fay Ferguson. “Digital is where the industry is now and you really cannot service any client well unless you have a digital capability.”

To attract more clients, Los Angeles-based Walton Isaacson (No. 8 on the BE advertising agencies list with $12 million in revenues) decided to let its creative work speak for itself. Walton Isaacson used computer-generated graphics in three TV spots for Lexus’ five-door hybrid CT 200h. “This new CG process provided us with an opportunity to showcase the vehicle in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish with the time and budget limitations that exist with a traditional commercial shoot,” says Aaron Walton, who co-founded the agency with Cory Isaacson and counts NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a silent partner. Walton Isaacson has worked on big general market campaigns for Lexus, Dunkin’ Donuts,, Pepsi, Jim Beam, and Unilever’s Axe, Ponds, and Degree. The 5-year-old agency’s diversified portfolio includes the launch of two products: a record label, wli Beats, and a digital Web series with Fox Digital.

To reflect these firms’ new approach to generating business, our editors now rank the agencies by revenues instead of billings.

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