Small Agency of the Year, 1-10 Employees, Gold: Mistress

With a Willingness to 'Sit With Anybody,' Venice Hotshop Raked in $1.8 Million in Business in Its Very First Year

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In an agency environment with increasingly bizarre agency names, Mistress still stands out. But Christian Jacobsen, one of five founding partners, said that it's more than just a name that grabs people's attention. "[It's] also our position in the agency world and what we represent."

Mistress partners (l.) Christian Jacobsen, Damien Eley, Jens Stoelken, Scott Harris and Blake E. Marquis
Mistress partners (l.) Christian Jacobsen, Damien Eley, Jens Stoelken, Scott Harris and Blake E. Marquis
So how exactly does an agency behave as a mistress? The agency's founding partners all built experience working at agencies that typically pitched and held out for agency-of -record business, Mr. Jacobsen said. But Mistress doesn't just aim for AOR status; rather, the agency is open and willing to "sit with anybody."

"We noticed the business has changed, and thought it was a great time to build an agency for how the agency world works now. We thought, 'Let's just create an agency that follows the state of the business.'"

Mistress was founded in February 2010 with five partners: Mr. Jacobsen, Damien Eley, Scott Harris, Blake Marquis and Jens Stoelken, a group that collectively logged time at Ogilvy & Mather, Kastner & Partners, Mother and BBDO.

"The great thing about five partners, short term, is it enables you to have incredible talent in the earliest stages of our company," said Mr. Jacobsen. None of the founding partners are from Los Angeles. "We just liked L.A. as a market. We love the ability to touch the world of entertainment."

The work: Hot wheels for Real, (top) and Red Bull.
The work: Hot wheels for Real, (top) and Red Bull.

Since opening its doors in Venice Beach, Calif., Mistress has doubled its head count and pulled in $1.8 million in 2010—not quite a full year's worth of work for the young agency. Its client list includes ESPN, Red Bull and Mattel's Hot Wheels and it's also increasingly picking up more content-driven business, especially online. Noted Mr. Jacobsen, "we're not married to any particular media." Makes sense, coming from Mistress.

For ESPN, one of Mistress's first projects was a global TV campaign for ESPN's ScoreCenter app, which allows sports fans to customize the app to follow their favorite teams.

For Hot Wheels, Mistress helped the brand reach a new demographic: grown men who rediscover toys after they have children. As part of a "Hot Wheels For Real" campaign, Mistress developed TV ads and digital and long-form content surrounding a life-size Hot Wheels jump and world-record attempt at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Indianapolis 500. Following the event, Hot Wheels presented a 30-minute TV special on ABC (and ESPN globally) showcasing the world-record attempt.

Hot Wheels has since become one of the agency's biggest clients, recently expanding its role to more of a lead creative agency in an effort to help the toy brand's strategy and growth. Not a bad relationship for a Mistress to have.