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CP&B Is No. 8 on the Ad Age Agency A-List

With Its MVP Gone, Agency's Bench Steps up to Prove It's Still in the Game With Winning Work for Domino's, Microsoft, Kraft Mac & Cheese

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GAME CHANGERS: (From l.) Jeff Benjamin, Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly help CP&B score sans Bogusky.
GAME CHANGERS: (From l.) Jeff Benjamin, Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly help CP&B score sans Bogusky.
CHICAGO ( -- For any agency, the departure of a creative leader is a major setback -- let alone a leader who has graced as many magazine covers as Alex Bogusky.

But MDC Partners' CP&B in 2010 managed to achieve what a lesser agency might not: Prove it has bench strength and a sound succession plan beyond the luminary for which it was known.

As if to emphasize that the agency is bigger than any one person, the shop adopted the moniker CP&B (formerly Crispin Porter & Bogusky) and elevated top creatives Rob Reilly and Jeff Benjamin while tapping creative Andrew Keller as CEO. And with the famed "B" out of the picture, several creatives have returned to the agency's original headquarters in South Beach to work under Ari Merkin, who rejoined as VP-executive creative director last spring.

But its influence is being felt far from Florida. CP&B is blossoming internationally, staking its claim in Canada through its July acquisition of Zig, which rebranded as CP&B Canada. It parlayed its domestic Mac & Cheese business for packaged-foods giant Kraft into a global Milka assignment and expanded its relationship with tech titan Microsoft, producing global creative and digital work for the Windows Phone.

A new attitude seems at work as well. CP&B wasn't one to focus on pitching new business in the past; often the shop would stand back and let work come to it. But in 2010 it pitched more than ever -- and won. In the last year, the agency added work for Bolthouse Farms and Vail resorts, and surprisingly, MetLife, the kind of staid account the flashier CP&B wouldn't have normally attracted.

See work from CP&B on Creativity.

With the new business came new hires. CP&B went from 884 employees in 2009 to more than 1,000 in 2010.

But while Mr. Bogusky might be gone, what never left CP&B was its creative brashness. Take for example, Domino's, for which the shop helped stage one of biggest -- and riskiest -- turnaround stories of the year. In late 2009 Domino's admitted it produced crappy pizza and announced it was updating its recipe with a daring and forthright campaign. "We talked to consumers and said our pizza wasn't good enough," said Russell Weiner, exec VP and chief marketing officer at Domino's. "That really put us back on the map."

The following quarter, same-store sales jumped 14.3%, and the momentum has continued: In the third quarter of this year, they were up 11.7%.

Or take Bolthouse Farms, for which CP&B made carrots cool. "We had an image problem," said Bryan Reese, Bolthouse Farms' chief marketing and innovation officer. "What we were up against is the sense that our product is uninteresting -- a vegetable that people begrudgingly have to eat."

CP&B's solution was "Eat 'Em Like Junk Food," which included a repackaging effort that made the bag look like other tried-and-true junk-food packages; baby-carrot vending machines in two test high schools; and, a creative hub set to metal music, wailing guitars and grumbling male vocals: "Baby carrots. Extreme."

With less than $500,000 in media spending, the campaign garnered more than $10.3 million in earned media. Videos from the campaign have been viewed more than 405,000 times on YouTube.

Then there's Mac & Cheese, which the agency stole from Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB in March. "Macaroni & Cheese had nothing wrong with it except that it had been marketed to kids for years," said Mr. Reilly. "We thought, 'How do we market a brand that has 75% of the market share?'"

Easy: A campaign letting adults know it's OK to love the product. And what's more grown up than grilling? CP&B developed a new product idea, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for the Grill, which started in test markets around Labor Day. Mac & Cheese sales were up 7.1% in the year ending Nov. 28, according to SymphonyIRI.

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