State of the Glam’ City: Los Angeles

By Matt Van Hoven 

Written by an ad agency CEO, who shall remain nameless, here is what you’ve been waiting for &#151 a rundown on LA’s digital agency situation.

La La Land &#151 Home of fun, sun and fish tacos! A double double from In’n’Out complete with biblical scripture right smack on the bottom of your cup. Think you east coasters have it tough? Try getting from Santa Monica to the Valley at 8am. You ain’t got nothin’ on LA. The only place on earth where you schedule your life around our WWII era traffic grid and get an IOU from the government for your state tax refund.


What does LA offer the agency world? Well we basically have 2 main industries out here &#151 Entertainment and Automotive &#151 and both are sure to make you question that degree in advertising before your 3 year unpaid internship is up. We also have a lot of people that ‘should be’ in entertainment directing, producing or acting in the next $100 million opening weekend blockbuster but are relegated to the second tier ‘ad agency’ world.

The following list is definitely not comprehensive but does list many of the LA agencies everybody’s come to know, love and hate all at the same time. You see LA is almost it’s own bubble (much like NYC) and we kinda like it that way. So for a glimpse inside the bubble before our state goes bankrupt, read on…

Here’s your list of Traditional Agencies in the LA area; yes I know this isn’t an all inclusive list but here are the major companies. These companies are all ‘full service’ meaning they have one Flash designer on staff that has qualified them as interactive experts. If you want to bitch, do it in the comments.

&#151 Deutsch LA &#151 Picked up PlayStation after Chiat got too cocky (as usual); work out of LA office often rivals that of NY office.

&#151 DDB LA &#151 Activision big client; should be doing more exciting work for their clients like Droga5.

&#151 Chiat Day / Tequila &#151 Like most ‘typical’ Chiat work, new G commercials seem to have been ‘ideated’ during a creative circle jerk. Does anybody outside of advertising even get the commercials? This shop does great work for Apple but ended up getting thrown to the curb by PlayStation; probably cockiest agency in the known universe; still can’t get traditional creatives to work with Tequila (their interactive group).

&#151 Saatchi & Saatchi &#151 Toyota main client; hurting due to cutbacks in automotive; lots of great people there so hopefully they turn it around. Didn’t shine when losing recent Toyota Why Not? campaign to Attik (Dentsu).

&#151 Team One &#151 Lexus main client. If you’re hiring in the LA area, you can expect to have more than a few people from Team One sending resumes over within an hour of posting (McElroy being the other).

&#151 McElroy &#151 Used to have Nestle account; not sure if they’re around anymore.

&#151 Mendelhson Zein &#151 Carl’s Jr main client; bought Spacedoghouse to leverage ‘interactive’; not sure old school way of thought will give way to the new.

&#151 David & Goliath &#151 One of the best lesser known agencies in LA; picked up Kia in 1999.

&#151 Ogilvy &#151 Think they do Mattel work; not sure about anything else.

&#151 Secret Weapon &#151 Love those Jack in the Box commercials? Here’s the company that does them. If you’re on the east coast, all you need to view is>here &#151″>this clip to get a sense of the great creative that comes out of this shop. This commercial in particular spurred a legal battle with Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s.

Continued after the jump.

More: “The State of The Square State: Denver

Entertainment, Traditional
Our very own little cottage industry focused mainly on the Entertainment world. Most of these Entertainment based companies do traditional work and then throw in interactive (banners / site development) at cost or sometimes free in hopes of building their ‘digital’ capabilities. Oh wait &#151 the traditional agencies do this too.

&#151 Trailer Park &#151 Great movie trailers, not much else; brought in Y&R honcho to go outside of ‘entertainment’

&#151 Crew Creative &#151 Mostly movies sites; nothing special

&#151 Ignited &#151 Started by Activision big-wig. Branching out from packaging, print, etc. and now doing alot more media

&#151 Petrol &#151 Great print / OOH work, interactive is severly lacking; mostly gaming companies. Carpet bombs awards programs specific to gaming; hope they’re not charging their clients for that.

Entertainment, Digital
This list usually comprises boutique shops that run from 5-20 employees; mostly Flash, mostly burnt out from “hurry up and wait” entertainment mentality, mostly only exist anywhere from 6 months to 2 years with average employee term 3-6 months.

&#151 RED Interactive &#151 Great flash shop; does agency production work and just about every UFC site out there; how much longer will employees work 18 hour days there?

&#151 Hybrid Studio &#151 Mostly cookie cutter movie sites, nothing special; creative director is difficult and prone to childish tantrums in the office. Parent company Visionaire Group has a widget platform (Xtreme Widgets).

&#151 Neoganda &#151 Mostly movie sites and production work for Agencies; very small shop.

&#151 65 Media &#151 Small boutique; did some great Simpsons work.

&#151 Ted Perez & Associates &#151 Nothing special cookie cutter movie sites; doing agency production work.

DIGITAL &#151 OLD SCHOOL &#151 Pre Bubble
These are the old guard agencies that survived the Bubble Burst and were either acquired or still going on strong. How much longer can they try to justify their 2004-2007 billings in a Recession?

&#151 Whitman-Hart &#151 Old DNA Studio &#151 roots were in entertainment; Friends and Family special account as CD was married to a department head at Universal; did a lot of Universal work (duh!); Was doing work for Scion and Best Buy.

&#151 iCrossing (Proxicom) &#151 The search firm buying a holdover from the dot-com bust; who would’ve thunk it? Proxicom is EXPENSIVE. Wonder how much that will hurt them trying to navigate a recession.
&#151 Sapient &#151 Even more EXPENSIVE! What exactly do a lot of their on-site ‘consultants’ do?

&#151 Meredith (Genex) &#151 Has a cool culture but not because they want to but because they have to with the very boring work they do; mostly automotive clients so remains to be scene how much they’ve gotten hit in the downturn.

&#151 Apollo Interactive &#151 Jack in the Box keeps the LA office afloat.

&#151 RPA &#151 Honda main client; layoff rumors abound.

Most of these agencies were born out of the Bubble Burst. Thriving in LA ecosystem as Old School agencies outprice themselves in the market.

&#151 2Advanced &#151 Eric Jordan &#151 owner &#151 great designer but not so much on the DJ end. Has EA and Activison as big clients; remains to be seen if they can actually hold a client longer than a year; 2A rivals Chiat Day on cockiness meter.

&#151 Zugara &#151 Hit during downturn with Lexus/Toyota clients; does alot of kids (gen x and y) and gaming work.

&#151 Blitz &#151 Very talented shop born out of E Studios; lost GE work but picked up project with Google (now defunct Lively); like Google shop tends to be ‘run’ by engineers.

&#151 BIG Interactive &#151 Inmates are running the asylum.

&#151 Schematic &#151 Hottest shop in LA right now but have they grown too big for their britches? Jury out on whether they can compete against other digital firms versus the architectural firms they’ve been beating up on.

&#151 Exopolis &#151 Doing alot more video work as of late; did pretty impressive Xbox Live intro.

The true ‘Production Shops’ that are now butting heads with Traditional Agencies. Most of them are now trying to build Interactive Capabilities to stop being the BDA’s bitch.

&#151 Anonymous Content &#151 Roster of A+ plus directing talent.

&#151 @Radical Media &#151 Also has great roster of talent and does great production work.