Small Agency of the Year, Southeast, Gold: Planit

Boutique Finance Shop Found Success, Unlikely Partners by Diversifying Offerings

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Planit may flaunt the typical boutique-agency decor -- bright orange logo, beer and energy-drink cooler in the lobby -- but the Baltimore-based firm's growth is anything but ordinary.

In the last year or so, the 17-year-old firm has increased its headcount by 25% to 40 employees, and it expects to grow its 2010 revenue of $5.6 million to $7.1 million in 2011.

The work: Fila website (top) and UnderArmour
The work: Fila website (top) and UnderArmour

Much of its recent success, as evidenced in hefty projects for brands such as Marriott and Fila, is born from a shift to become more results-oriented and diversify its capabilities and portfolio.

Creative Director Trevor Villet explained that 10 years ago, the firm was rooted in financial services, but it recently found strength in becoming less niche and more ripe for local and national business across industries. The turning point? A wakeup call in 2008 when the economy went south, the bottom dropped out, clients stopped spending and the firm felt the blow from what it described as a slow reaction.

"We've certainly hired specialists, done more in the way of social media, but really just oriented ourselves a lot more for clients in the form of being more results-based," he said.

The boutique recently won an agency-of -record bid from GBMC, a Baltimore hospital, with a scope that runs the gamut of traditional advertising, digital work and PR. It has also maintained a project-based relationship with Under Armour, a brand for which "the work has become significantly more interesting," said Mr. Villet, and one for which the work constantly shifts from banner ads, concept shops and product-video development. For client Marriott, the firm is building digital properties and aiding the company in establishing a presence on various social platforms such as Facebook.

The firm's success is defined not only by its diverse portfolio and growth but also the ROI it generates for its clients. For example, Planit reimagined Fila's web presence and e-commerce platform, contributing to a 41% lift in sales within the first five months of the site launch and turning an irrelevant brand into a strong category player. The average order cost has nearly doubled; in March, web visits reached a high of 250,000 and orders notched more than 1,300; the No. 1 and 2 top-selling products are directly tied to the global landing page features (skele-toes and body toning). The client's projection for 2011 is a 60% increase in web revenue.

Positioning itself as diverse and multifaceted at the local and national levels has served the firm well in winning new business. "More than one client has said, 'We came to you because you're not heavy in our industry; we've worked with agencies that have a lot of healthcare background. They know the politics we go through and we deliberately did not want that ,'" said Mr. Villet. "Planit has really become, in the last year, a much more comprehensive agency."

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