If running an agency before the pandemic was difficult, heading one up while the world was in lockdown was a Sisyphean task. As Covid-19 descended upon the global ad industry, agencies scrambled to figure out ways to stay afloat during one of the most disruptive periods in advertising. Some resorted to massive layoffs, others folded or were acquired by bigger agencies and holding companies, but some rose to the challenge and were able to not just stay in business, but also chart a course to profitability while avoiding layoffs entirely.

The industry’s many bright minds devised solutions that withstood the tough new tests of the pandemic while adapting to new ways of working and doing business. Ecommerce rose to the top as people stayed in, and media, while greatly altered from its traditional buys, found new ways to address the changing habits of consumers. Those who were able to pivot quickly were able to grow. Agencies in all sectors—from b-to-b and media to performance and creative—took different paths to success and represent all areas of the U.S. and around the globe. Here’s a look at Adweek’s Fastest Growing agencies for 2021 and what they’ve done to navigate their way through a very challenging year. —Kyle O’Brien

HOW WE CALCULATED OUR LIST: To be eligible for Adweek’s Fastest Growing list, agencies provided three years of earned revenue, from 2018 to 2020, and had at least $250,000 in revenue in 2018. Participating agencies were required to certify the accuracy of their reported revenue figures, and Adweek performed additional auditing to determine the accuracy of the submissions. Due to privacy, figures are not disclosed. Agency descriptions are based on submission forms.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

1
1
1

Movers+Shakers
Creative
United States
2,227%
51-100 Employees
Address
1217 Wilshire Bl., #3327, Santa Monica, California
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
Movers+Shakers

Movers+Shakers was one of the first agencies to venture into the TikTok space, and it’s found booming success at the forefront of the social revolution.

Founded in 2016 as a collaboration between Broadway performer and director Geoffrey Goldberg and marketing expert Evan Horowitz, Movers+Shakers has grown exponentially through its smart use of culture and social media, elevating brands through TikTok and other platforms. The agency now has offices in New York and Los Angeles.

“We were one of the first agencies to identify TikTok as an emerging platform back in early 2019, when it was very fringe,” Horowitz says. “Our early work on TikTok became quite famous—it made TikTok famous.”

The agency first worked with cosmetics company e.l.f. to develop the #eyeslipsface hashtag challenge and a 15-second original song called “Eyes.Lips.Face.” Since that blew up on the then-fledgling social platform, Movers+Shakers has gone on to create successful campaigns for other brands, including Amazon, Mattel and Match.

The agency recently surpassed 150 billion views on its TikTok campaigns, but Goldberg and Horowitz note that it isn’t just a TikTok agency.

“One of the things that allowed us to keep growing is that we keep innovating and helping find new ways for brands to connect to culture,” Horowitz says. “We want to help them build cultural relevance, cool-factor buzz, and that’s why brands are really flocking to us in a big way.”

To keep up with that culture, the agency looks not only to social media, but also to microcultures and influencers, and it has started offering unique nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, to super fans in order to raise awareness and interest in brands through the bidding processand courting brand collaborations, as it did successfully with e.l.f. and Chipotle on a food-inspired makeup line.

Goldberg says the agency is building an agile model that lets it listen constantly to cultural conversations and activate campaigns quickly.

“That’s what’s led to a lot of these really cool campaigns, because they’re really culturally relevant,” he says.

For its ability to keep a finger on the pulse of culture and execute viral campaigns, Movers+Shakers tops Adweek’s Fastest Growing agencies list, with over 2,000% growth over the past three years. —K.O.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

2
1

Wpromote
Digital
United States
1,551%
201-500 Employees
Address
2100 E Grand Ave, El Segundo, California
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
Wpromote

Wpromote challenges every client to think like a challenger—even century-old Whirlpool, which the agency is helping accelerate as a direct-to-consumer business. Wpromote has built that mindset through the development of its talent, investing in every employee to turn them into subject matter experts through training and mentorship.

Chief relationship officer Mike Stone says Wpromote prides itself on giving employees clear career growth. They, in turn, recruit more talent, which results in Wpromote building teams that clients like Avail, Spanx and Transunion love. And all that leads to 1,550% growth over the past three years. The agency is growing rapidly, with nearly 700 current employees, and it projects to grow to 800 by the end of 2021 and hit about 1,000 during 2022.

“We’re able to bring in a lot of high achievers, and we can give them a path for growth within our business,” says Stone.

Wpromote’s success with talent, he says, goes hand in hand with tech. Its Polaris tool fuels the agency’s nimbleness, helping automate tasks like monitoring the pacing and planning of media budgets and how well creative is performing across platforms.

Ultimately, that leads employees to think more about the strategy and less about work that could burn them out. “[Polaris] leads to more strategic conversations with the client to get to a better growth outcome,” Stone says. —Jameson Fleming

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

3

KLIK
Digital
United States
1,006%
21-50 Employees
Address
4600 Fairfax Dr., Suite 902, Arlington, Virginia
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
KLIK

James Dressing founded KLIK in his apartment bedroom about three years ago after recognizing a blind spot among agencies: When they were fixated on creativity, they often forgot to consider data.

“Agencies really didn’t understand business models well,” says the founder and CEO of KLIK, which now has 49 employees. “They had a really tough time working with data to understand how to hit cost of acquisition goals, performance metrics and awareness numbers.”

KLIK started out with education-technology clients and has ventured into the fin-tech, CPG and nonprofit spaces. Dressing is proudest of his agency’s work with United Way, which focused on reevaluating the nonprofit’s media approach to increase donations at the lowest possible cost.

KLIK helped United Way boost its donations with a TikTok campaign starring Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson. The agency also helped the nonprofit during an end-of-year giving campaign. As a result, the organization saw six times more donations, a $500,000 increase in individual donations and more than 14,000 content clicks. Among KLIK’s other success stories with clients are leading Golden Gate University to a 50% decrease in cost per lead and boosting online education platform GetSmarter’s leads by 66%.

“The goal at KLIK is to help clients better fit their business model into the marketing space from a data-first standpoint,” Dressing says. —Emmy Liederman

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

4
2
1

Whtwrks Inc.
Full-Service
United States
820%
6-10 Employees
Address
111 West 111th Street, A, New York, New York
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
Whtwrks Inc.

Whtwrks is a strategy, production and creative agency whose mission is to depict people of color in a positive and genuine way. The founders describe it as a Black business that connects culturally with consumers, and brands see an inherent value in having Whtwrks’ expertise in the space.

Whtwrks co-founder Martin Ekechukwu tells Adweek his agency has grown because it presented itself “more obviously as being Black-owned with a core expertise in culture, cultural storytelling and authenticity.” It utilizes its unique point of view to help brands better reach Black, brown and Asian audiences.

To keep the agency’s growth strong, Whtwrks plans to showcase its award-winning work to raise the profile of the business, while adding additional team members to help handle the increased workload. “We have not needed to expand out our business development thus far because of how much incoming we receive,” says Ekechukwu. —K.O.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

5
2

RingoFire Marketing and Advertising
Full-Service
United States
746%
51-100 Employees
Address
1105 W Bramlett Rd, Greenville, South Carolina
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
RingoFire Marketing and Advertising

RingoFire isn’t shy about letting its clients know the founders started the shop without ever working for an ad agency. In fact, they gave themselves the moniker “unagency” as a nod to their paths through brand marketing and corporate offices to the creation of the Greenville, S.C.-based agency.

“I managed many agencies when I was at the corporate level, so I knew what I liked and didn’t like about them,” says founder Brian Stearns, who is a partner alongside brothers Richard and Marco Carrizales. “I decided to kind of build something that was more like a support system consultancy with agency-type people.”

Stearns says RingoFire, which quickly outgrew its office and has moved into a four-building campus at an old weaving mill, has been doubling its revenue every year since it was founded, while tripling revenue growth in the past year due to its clients’ successes during the pandemic—the agency works heavily with home improvement and consumer goods brands. In total, its three-year growth amounted to a staggering 746%.

RingoFire, which bills itself as a full-service agency with a full production studio, works with Lowe’s, specifically on some of its house brands like Cobalt and Project Source, and it recently launched its first national TV spot on Discovery for Apex Tool Group. —J.F.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

6
2
3

NP Digital
Digital
United States
585%
201-500 Employees
Address
750 B Street Suite 1400, San Diego, California
Region
US Headquartered (2+ offices)
Agency Size
Multiple Offices/Agency Network
NP Digital

Neil Patel, a marketing consultant and trusted source of all things SEO, has been tapped by some of the world’s biggest advertisers—Amazon, Facebook and Google, to name a few. But after being overwhelmed by client demand, Patel decided to start his own agency in 2017.

So, working alongside co-founder Mike Kamo, he introduced NP Digital, which has grown from a consulting firm to a one-stop-shop for performance marketing services like SEO, paid social media and paid search. The company is not beholden to shareholders, which CEO Michael Gullaksen says has contributed to its ability to innovate and grow.

“Coming from a consultancy background to a media background is a very unique way to approach performance marketing,” he says. “Not being tied to legacy, nondigital heritage helps us grow a little bit faster than performance agencies that are part of holding companies.”

Clients of NP Digital, which brands itself as the “alternative to the agency status quo,” include Adobe, Party City and Fiji Water. The company expects 2021 revenue to hit $70 million, a 112% increase from 2020.

“Over the last few years, agencies have been so focused on profitability, which has created a difficult relationship with clients,” says Gullaksen. “We deliver a high-quality product while focusing on client satisfaction and our employees.” —E.L.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

7
1
2

We Are Rosie
Flexible Talent Supplier
United States
556%
21-50 Employees
Address
1450 W Peachtree St NW # 200 PMB 29069, Atlanta, Georgia
Region
International
Agency Size
Single Office
We Are Rosie

We Are Rosie was founded by Stephanie Nadi Olson in 2018 with a mission of supporting its people while providing a workplace that treats everyone with dignity and access to opportunity. It is a flexible talent platform that pairs Fortune 500 brands and their agencies with independent marketing talent, who can be hired for numerous projects.

“I determined I wanted to dedicate my life to supporting people who are marginalized by the rigid systems of work,” Olson, one of Adweek’s Women Trailblazers, told Adweek earlier this year.

The fully remote agency noted that it saw thousands of highly skilled marketers opt out of the traditional way of working—most of them from marginalized, underrepresented or underserved groups. So, it created a viable way for them to work on terms that work for them, and for brands to access that trove of talent efficiently.

We Are Rosie is now a thriving community of over 9,000 diverse and highly skilled independent marketers, helping companies like Bumble, Facebook and IBM maximize their agility, resilience, inclusion and creativity. New major enterprise client wins for We Are Rosie include Microsoft, Facebook, Diageo and IHG. —K.O.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

8
1

Amasa (tie)
Digital
United States
541%
21-50 Employees
Address
707 Broadway, Suite 905, San Diego, California
Region
U.S. Regional Agency ‚ West (AK, CA, CO, ID, MT, OR, UT, WY, HI, WA) (1 office)
Agency Size
Single Office
Amasa (tie)

To cut its customer acquisition costs on Facebook, Colgate-Palmolive turned to Amasa to drive down costs for its Hum IoT-enabled toothbrush. Within a few weeks, Amasa had cut that cost in half, says CEO Alex Brown. That success led to working on more services like CRM and media buying across Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok.

“We pride ourselves on being, in addition to a performance marketing agency, a very full-funnel agency,” Brown says, adding the agency dives into its clients’ entire business. “We just really want to understand the entire user experience and the entire customer journey from end to end.”

According to Brown, the agency, which has grown revenue 541% over the past three years, works with clients that spend at least $50,000 on media each year, but also has an incubator program for fledgling ecommerce businesses that can’t hit that threshold. Brown says the program, a 12-week boot camp that provides deliverables including a comprehensive analysis of the client’s business and recommendations on media buying, helps distinguish Amasa from its competitors.

Currently, the San Diego-based agency has about 30 employees, but Brown hopes to reach 50 in 2022 to support the shop’s exponential growth. —J.F.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

9
3
2
3

Digible Inc. (tie)
Digital
United States
541%
51-100 Employees
Address
3400 S Broadway, Suite 140, Englewood, Colorado
Region
U.S. Regional Agency ‚ West (AK, CA, CO, ID, MT, OR, UT, WY, HI, WA) (1 office)
Agency Size
Single Office
Digible Inc. (tie)

As the CEO of Digible, a Denver-based agency that specializes in multifamily and apartment marketing, Reid Wicoff wants to embrace industry innovation while ensuring every employee is aware of their value. Since founding the company in 2017, Wicoff has hired 53 full-time employees and over the past three years, revenue has grown 460%. He attributes that growth to Digible’s supportive work environment, which he says facilitates a feeling of job security.

According to Wicoff, “Will I be left behind?” is a common sentiment among marketing professionals as technology continues to develop, which is why he remains determined to craft a people-first culture.

“We need to make sure people are developed properly in the industry and know they have value,” he says. “That culture is a big part of why people love working here. In 10 years from now, you’ll see the same faces.”

Wicoff stressed that helping marketers take pride in their work is a crucial part of employee retention. As the company continues to develop, he is most focused on maintaining that supportive camaraderie while embracing technological innovation.

“We work for each other and not for ourselves, and people are encouraged to be super curious,” he says. “That’s a big part of what drives innovation and better strategy.” —E.L.

Rank

Name

Industry

Location

Growth

Size

10
1
4

Adesiem
Digital
United States
451%
6-10 Employees
Address
7733 Forsyth Blvd, Suite 1100, Clayton, Missouri
Region
U.S. Regional Agency ‚ Midwest (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, NE, ND, SD, MO, OH, WI) (1 office)
Agency Size
Single Office
Adesiem

Adesiem, formerly called Tenshi, set out to solve its clients’ challenges and help them build and execute large-scale advertising and marketing campaigns. In recent years, the agency has become more data-driven, leaning heavily on analyses and data science to produce results that exceed industry benchmarks in terms of returns on ad spend and revenue and business growth.

“Since 2018, we have seen an exponential growth in revenue, which has continued beyond 2020,” a company spokesperson says. “We attribute this growth to our proprietary systems, suites, processes and machine-learning AI that have been in development for half a decade.”

According to the agency, it consistently produces an average of 18 times return on ad spend across industries. Its business model is 90% retainer, with all services included, and the agency doesn’t hold its clients to yearly contracts, so the onus is on its teams to perform. Adesiem boasts a 98% client retention rate since its inception over a decade ago.

Adesiem has built a team of data scientists for heavy data analyses and built custom algorithms and systems to understand its clients’ customers at a granular level, to market to them, cut wasted spend and find new avenues of revenue growth. —K.O.