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CP+B Branches Out to California

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Thirteen-year-old Cris pin Porter + Bogusky is opening its first office outside its Miami hometown.

Despite a sputtering economy and entrenched com petition, the shop kicks off operations in a former Venice, Calif., firehouse this week.

"Like it or not, Los Angeles, like Miami, mirrors where Amer ica is going," said CEO Chuck Porter, 55. "There's a vibe that's very, very current, so it's an important place for us to have an influence."

Copywriter Sally Hogshead, 31, whose résumé includes stints at Fallon McElligott and Martin Crea tive/L.A., will head up the new office. The unit will kick off with seven administrative and creative staffers, with additional account-service and media hires within the next month.

Hogshead dissolved a creative partnership, Robaire and Hogs head, with Jean Robaire in late July, citing a desire to grow a full-service agency. "I'd outgrown the boutique structure," she said. "I want a bigger playing field and bigger creative challenges."

Porter and his partners, Alex Bogusky, 37, Jeff Hicks, 35, and Jeff Steinhour, 36, have set an ambitious 12-month bill ings target for the California operation of $60 million, exclusive of existing CP+B West Coast accounts such as Giro Sport Design and Shimano American.

"New business is mission one," said Hicks. "This is not a satellite that handles overspill. We're already in a lot of hunts."

The westward expansion has been planned for at least five years, according to Porter. Earlier this year, Canadian network Maxx com bought 49 percent of CP+B, providing the impetus (and the funding) for the move.

"Part of the reason we did the Maxxcom deal was to make expansion easier," said Porter. "This represents the fruition of that investment."

With Maxxcom underwriting the move, Bogusky was able to court Hogs head, whose business savvy and drive had impressed him years before. "Sally's approach mirrors my own," he said. "She understands creative as the most powerful communications tool."

Bogusky and Hicks believe the West Coast is fertile ground for their creative. "Our work plays very well to a lot of smart pop-culture brands based here," said Hicks. "It makes total sense for us to be servicing them."

The shop, best known for its work with Arnold on the American Legacy Foundation's anti-smoking campaign, also counts among its clients BMW's Mini and Schwinn Cycle & Fitness. It has 95 employees in Florida, and claimed billings of $165 million last year.

"Everything is a risk," concedes Hicks. "But nothing good comes from not taking risks."