Why CP+B Decided To Bail On Building An L.A.-Area Agency

Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s success failed to translate to Los Angeles, where, after three years, billings were still only half of what the agency had projected they would be after just one year. During that time, the Miami-based agency, which had hoped the L.A. presence would boost its national image, gained worldwide recognition for work for Mini Cooper and Ikea.

So, as executives were looking at a three-year commitment for new space, CP+B decided to pull out everything but media from its Venice, Calif., office and put all of its focus on its booming Miami headquarters, said chairman Chuck Porter. “We opened in L.A. because there’s a lot of talent there,” Porter said. “We also thought we’re way, way, way over on the East Coast, and there are probably some clients we want to do business with for whom we were pretty geographically undesirable. We thought we could generate more clients in L.A.”

CP+B isn’t the first shop to unsuccessfully attempt to export its culture and services to build a West Coast operation. “This is a challenging geography,” said Catherine Bension, president of Select Resources International in Santa Monica, Calif. “There haven’t been a large number of West Coast-based opportunities. Clients that are national and global and headquartered on the West Coast don’t come up very often.”

The idea of scaling back operations had been discussed for some time, said Mark Simmons, managing director of the Venice office. “The reason why CP+B set up office [three years ago] has really gone away,” he said. “CP+B is in a different place as a business now. It’s proven its case.”

Bension agreed that CP+B no longer needs a regional outpost. “Crispin is a brand-oriented agency, which would speak to not doing local, regional work,” she said. “Most clients, if they’re looking at that, would want to go to the mothership.”

CP+B’s Venice office had the misfortune to open one day before Sept. 11, 2001. The agency’s stated goal was to build $60 million in billings within a year. Ironically, the shop wound up landing sev-eral non-West Coast accounts, such as Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders Books & Music (a $15 million account won last September) and Buca di Beppo in Minneapolis ($4 million, won in September 2002). “We didn’t plan it that way, but those were the clients who called,” said Porter.

Ten media staffers will remain in Venice; the other 16 employees have been offered positions in Miami, and about 10 have agreed to make the move, said Porter. He said the agency hopes to solidify its culture by working out of a single office.

Simmons said there is a “strong likelihood” that he would remain with CP+B, but said the details are being ironed out. Tim Roper, who took over from Sally Hogshead as the Venice office’s creative director in March 2003, said he also expects to return to Miami as a cd.

Roper said he agreed with the decision on the office. “You’ve got this amazingly successful agency—why splinter your resources?” he said.

Accounts are expected to shift to Miami during the next two months. Borders evp, chief marketing officer Mike Spinozzi said he was fine with the move and welcomed the opportunity to be in the same time zone as his agency. Other clients the shop said will make the transition include AeroMéxico, Rock the Vote, the Surfrider Foundation, and project-based accounts such as Unilever and General Mills.