Mekanism Opens Chicago Office

Independent Shop Has Opened Two Shops This Year

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Mekanism is getting more aggressive on the expansion front, and is now opening a Chicago office.

The 125-person shop, which has production roots but has grown into a full-service agency, now has four offices. The Chicago office, located in the West Loop, officially opens today and is the second office opening this year. The agency in February announced it would open a Seattle office after winning Alaska Airlines. It also has offices in New York and San Francisco.

Mekanism's goal, said President-CEO Jason Harris, is for each of the four offices to have 50 employees that span a variety of disciplines. "The old model used to be have an outpost and clients would fly or you'd fly to them. The new model in modern advertising is that it's all about collaboration and working closely with clients. It's much faster and iterative so you need to be in person with clients."

In other words, Mekanism doesn't want to just open service offices with account people that service one or two accounts. "Service offices don't work because if you're not collaborating with the creative team and only meeting with clients and getting feedback, I don't think that's a good enough reason to open an office," Mr. Harris said.

Mekanism's Chicago office started in part because Beam wanted employees close by, Mr. Harris said. Staffers began working out of a WeWork office space but the need for an official office grew, especially after the agency was given the freedom to handle MillerCoors, which it won last year, wherever leaders saw fit. The office now has 25 employees.

Rick Thornhill, who joined Mekanism in mid-2015, will lead the agency on the account side. Mr. Harris said that founder and executive creative director Tommy Means, who is based in San Francisco, will oversee creative for the time being, though the agency is looking for creative leadership in Chicago.

The MillerCoors account includes innovation work. Earlier this year the agency launched the first campaign for Henry's Hard Soda, with a campaign that encourages drinkers to live "Hard-ish." It also handles digital work for Jim Beam out of Chicago, an account won in 2014.

Chicago's agency market is dominated by big holding company players like Leo Burnett, FCB DDB and EnergyBBDO. Few agencies in Chicago have opened their doors in recent years, though former executives from FCB and DDB opened O'Keefe, Reinhard & Paul in 2013. "The client is the number one reason we're expanding in Chicago, but I also do see it as a market in which an independent creative agency can do well," said Mr. Harris. "There's not a lot of competition for agencies like ours."

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