Agency of the Year 2014

2013 U.S. Agency of the Year: 72andSunny

Nearly doubling revenue and pulling in marquee clients such as Smirnoff and Starbucks

Photo: Jeremy Goldberg

The long wood table that 72andSunny partners John Boiler, Glenn Cole, Robert Nakata and Matt Jarvis share as a desk inside their Playa Vista, Calif., office says a lot about the agency and its recent success. You see, the desk is made of slats from the old floor of Pauley Pavilion, home court of UCLA’s basketball team, another perennial Southern California winner. This desk doesn’t symbolize winning, though—but rather, how you play the game.

“One of our big inspirations is John Wooden,” explains Jarvis, the agency’s chief strategy officer, referring to UCLA’s legendary head coach. “He never talked about winning or losing—he talked about performing at the highest level you’re capable of. And so, that has been a huge influence on how we look at channeling our competitive spirit in a way that’s productive, long term and sustainable.”

And though Wooden didn’t fixate on winning, he still won more than 80 percent of the games he coached—a fact that makes him an extraordinary and appropriate role model for an agency completing its most successful year ever. In 2013, 72andSunny not only expanded relationships with core clients Samsung and Target, but it also landed coveted slots on the creative rosters of world-class brands ESPN, Google and Starbucks. In addition, the shop dethroned JWT as lead global agency on Smirnoff, the biggest selling spirits brand in the world. In the process, U.S. revenue soared 81 percent to an estimated $85 million.

Creatively, the MDC Partners shop with the quirky name took big swings, particularly with Samsung and Activision Publishing, producing high-profile ads that blended celebrities with brands in unexpected ways. One long-form Samsung ad captured Jay-Z in the studio with producer Rick Rubin working on Jay-Z’s latest release, Magna Carta Holy Grail—of which 1 million Galaxy owners got an exclusive early download.

Another Samsung ad made great use of LeBron James in a warm family setting, with his wife using a Galaxy phone to film father and son at play. Finally, for Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, 72andSunny partnered with Eminem, who supplied music for the game and a video that teased the November launch. Call of Duty even one-upped itself: The launch ad featured the music of Frank Sinatra and a four-second cameo from Megan Fox, who subsequently blew up as a global trending topic on Twitter twice within 24 hours of the ad’s release.

Clearly, the shop, which Adweek has crowned U.S. Agency of the Year, feels comfortable on a big stage, whether launching another $1 billion video game franchise or tweaking Apple in a series of Samsung ads that created a tech war reminiscent of the classic cola wars of the 1980s and ’90s. The only difference here is that Samsung actually overtook market leader Apple in global market share of cellphones. Pretty impressive for a nine-year-old agency with just three offices.

Then again, three of 72andSunny’s founders—CEO Boiler; CCO Cole; and design director Nakata—grew up at Wieden + Kennedy, a world-class agency known for taking big brands to even greater heights. Boiler and Cole credit their experience at Wieden for raising their game. “We play our best under the big lights, and you get used to it after a while, being raised the way we did, working on global Nike stuff and other big brands,” says Boiler, a former executive creative director who spent 11 years at Wieden. Cole, whose tenure at the shop lasted 10 years, adds, “I certainly can’t think of a better training ground, that’s for sure. And I can’t think of a better mentor than [co-founder] Dan [Wieden].”

Clients certainly notice that effect. “The thing I like best about them is they’re all in,” says Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “They throw themselves into the business and a partnership in a full-contact sort of way. They’re smart, they’re creative and all jacked-up to do something great. Our business requires that kind of engagement, and they’ve always been up to the challenge. I love that about them.”

Yes, these sons of Wieden certainly have flourished since opening 72andSunny (a reference to the ideal weather conditions for humans) in May 2004. Over time, the agency has earned a reputation for creating buzzworthy campaigns for challenger brands like Carl’s Jr. and K-Swiss.

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