Small Roberts + Langer Packs a Big Punch

How a one-office shop managed to get four J&J brands under its belt

Big agencies generally prevail when major marketers consolidate their brand assignments at fewer players, as was the case with Johnson & Johnson’s recent creative review, which chiefly benefitted the likes of BBDO and JWT.

This time, there was one little engine that could, however.

Roberts + Langer DDB, a one-office shop in New York with 52 staffers and about $25 million in revenue, landed two brands that last year collectively spent more than $40 million in media: K-Y and Rembrandt. As a result, the Omnicom Group agency now handles four J&J brands—the others are Neutrogena and Lubriderm—and a corporate image assignment. Talk about punching above your weight.

Size has little bearing on Roberts + Langer’s success, however. Rather, this agency distinguishes itself primarily through the fundamentals of account service and relationship building.

“I’m a man of my word. If I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it,” said CEO Stone Roberts, when asked to explain his way with marketers. The gravelly voiced adman also is known for frankness. “If somebody asks me what I think, I tell him the truth,” he said simply.

Roberts and agency chief creative officer Andy Langer have been in the business since the 1960s and befriended many marketing players, some of whom are now in high places.

Roberts has known J&J global marketing chief Michael Sneed, for example, since the 1980s when he marketed personal products at J&J and Roberts was at Lintas, overseeing Carefree. Before that, Sneed’s wife, Ann, worked for Roberts at Lintas.

Langer also has a history with J&J. While at Lowe, he was worldwide creative director on J&J and architect of the black-and-white “Having a baby changes everything” campaign, which launched in 2002 and remains a template for corporate image efforts.

At the heart of it, advertising is still a relationship game, said consultant Avi Dan, who added, “I don’t think relationships last if you don’t deliver results.”

Naturally, Roberts + Langer’s work these days extends into digital and social, but you’ll only find TV and print ads posted on its website. The shop’s other accounts are Ralph Lauren (fragrance ads), Hunter Douglas and Chase Card Services.

The knock on Roberts + Langer is that it’s old school, from the surnames on the door to its location on Madison Avenue. Sure, this is no creative hot shop with a colorful name. But that’s OK. After all, one such agency—Mother—split with J&J in the spring, ending a six-year relationship. Meanwhile, Roberts + Langer, a J&J player like the Energizer bunny, just keeps going and going.