Meet the Los Angeles Digital Agencies

September 2013 Follow up: LA Digital Agencies – Beyond the Majors

Let’s start at the beginning.

First, by “agency” I’m referring to advertising agencies. The more knowledgeable reader will quickly note the difficulty in coming to a precise definition of what this is. Business models are changing by the microsecond, everybody’s trying to figure out how to use the mountains of data available. Creating the data is much easier than putting it to good use.

Before the InterTubes, agencies fell into two types and the bigger ones straddled: media and creative. A media agency earns their fees by selecting and place a client’s advertising throughout the various media outlets. Creative agencies design the copy, artwork, film, and audio. Online advertising has added a “digital” selection to the types of agencies, but that’s temporary and maybe already obsolete. What are you doing as an agency if you’re not doing digital? By pinging some folks in advance of this post, I saw mention of a new kind of agency for the first time: a “data” agency. I’m not sure what that is, but when a few independent people mention something new, I think it’s worth following.

The landscape of advertising agencies in Los Angeles is rich and deep. Many of us have been immersed for so long that some of our questions are along the lines of “What impact does the double digit small business advertising growth have on an agency?  Do they play in that space or are small businesses too small.” (courtesy Steve Barth) Great question. But by crowdsourcing angles for this post, I learned that most in the region need a more basic primer (including me!). If you’re going to understand the beverage industry you may as well make sure you understand the Coke & Pepsi presence first.

Worldwide advertising—online and legacy (J) is headed by four large camps: WPP, Interpublic, Omnicom, and Publicis. You can find them in the too-small graphic to the right under “Agency Companies”. Hopefully, Ad Age doesn’t mind me publishing a clip of an out-of-date 2009 copy of their Digital Family Trees infographic. Each of these groups has a wide variety of divisions and services and brands that have been acquired over the decades. They’re old, but they’re smart, so in 2012 they’ve found ways to extend their domination into worldwide digital advertising. So the scope of this blurb presents itself: taking a look at the LA presence of the big four groups… who’s here, where they are, and what work are they doing these days. Future posts will include the zillion excellent independents that call the area home

Next time this subject comes up, I’ll get more into the excellent independent agencies and answering questions like Steve’s above…

So in alphabetical order, here’s what the Big 4 are up to in the neighborhood:

Interpublic Group

Universal McCann Los Angeles (jobs link, blog): BIG media agency headquartered on Madison Ave. The company branding is “Curious Minds”. Mentioned in Mad Men (as “McCann”). Want big clients? How about Coke, Exxon, GM, Microsoft, and others?

Campbell-Ewald West Hollywood (jobs link, blog): Creative agency and one of the companies that practically invented the ad agency concept in Detroit in 1911. Chevy was an original client. They joined Interpublic in ’72 and lost the Chevy account in 2010. Sadness, I’m sure. They’ve got some cool stuff still going like Kaiser Permanente’s Thrive campaign and the USPS spots currently running.

Draft FCB Irvine (jobs, blog): “6.5 Seconds That Matter”. A creative agency sucked up into the Interpublic vortex in 2006. Clients include Boeing, Dockers, KFC, and Merck.

Initiative Los Angeles (jobs): A strong digital media agency, specializing in performance marketing. “Performance” just means nobody gets paid till someone clicks on or otherwise interacts with an ad, rather than simply viewing it.

Jack Morton West Hollywood (jobs, blog): “Experiential” agency, which I think just means that you touch stuff. Is this digital? I don’t know, but it’s part of Interpublic. Fill out form #766TY in triplicate to complain.

Omnicom Group

TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles (jobs, blog): Fresh work looks to be Gatorade, The Grammys, and Absolute. They’re also proud of their charity campaign for Zimbabwe. Their website is proof of their rep for quirky hipness. I’d be interested in getting your comments on it…

Tequila Los Angeles: Has been a division of TBWA for a while. I originally kept separate track of them, but it looks like their web presence has been engulfed by TBWA. I’m not having great luck piercing the veil of Design (capital D) with my browser.

DDB & Alma DDB Los Angeles (jobs, blog): The highest profile brands for a West Coaster in USA are Volkswagen and Clorox. I don’t recognize all the other brands they have prominently listed.

OMD Los Angeles (jobs): Well, they’re Ad Age’s “Media Agency of the Year” for 2011. Beyond that, I can’t easily see what they’re up to. I can say that a little less than a year ago there was a deluge of job postings for OMD’s LA office. They must be doing something right!

PHD Los Angeles (jobs): A media agency that’s heavy on the analytics.

Publicis Group

Saatchi & Saatchi Torrance (jobs): Here’s one of the local heavyweights. They’ve put together a very snappy digital business and are winning awards for social media now. Toyota Prius is among their work, so that puts a certain stamp on them. Their site has a fresh new look; I don’t know exactly when it changed. It’s powered by WordPress. That tells a lot about them…they’re ready to move to the new thing (when it makes sense) and not be burdened by a whole lot of baggage. Nice.

Team One El Segundo (jobs, blog): I’m pretty sure (Team One people correct this if wrong) that this advertising company was spun out of Toyota Motors after doing a ton of good work internally for the Lexus brand. Now they have diverse clients like Amex and Ritz Carlton on the roster..

Razorfish Santa Monica (jobs, blog): A digital native agency–meaning strong in analytics, platforms, and social. I have conflicting information about whether they’re still in force locally.


24/7 Real Media Los Angeles (jobs): “The Science of Digital Marketing”. 24/7 is a tech platform company that draws heavily on the other resources of WPP to integrate campaigns and optimize their digital delivery.

Ogilvy Culver City (jobs, blog): Another Mad Men-esque agency that goes waaay back. Ikea, Ford, Cisco, …. This is a well-heeled global agency.

Mindshare Santa Monica (jobs, blog): I have a difficult time getting through the website-speak to get at what they do…but it’s a digital agency.

MEC Los Angeles (jobs, blog): Ah, that’s more like it. The words “media agency” come right out for MEC. Mindshare, take note.

JWT Santa Monica (jobs, blog): Pretty cool site. Unique navigation, so it takes a minute to figure what’s going on. Can anyone readily tell if it’s built on Drupal or Joomla?