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Agency A-List 2014

180LA Is No. 8 on Ad Age's 2014 Agency A-List

Shop Grew Its Headcount By 43% And Its Revenue By 34%

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They call it "the barn."

Every November 180LA's partners lock themselves in a barn for two days, drink tequila, ruminate on the previous year and plan for the coming one. If that sounds like the agency's version of the Rolling Stones' hiding away in southern France, then 2013 was 180LA's "Exile on Main Street."

"We've been busting ass for almost seven years and finally hit our stride in 2013," said Mike Allen, global CEO and managing partner of the Omnicom shop.

Its breakout year really began with a single video released in October 2012. Expedia's three-and-a-half-minute "Find Your Understanding" spot traced a father's travels to his daughter's nuptials as well as his inner journey to accept her same-sex marriage.

That campaign captures the type of work 180LA's executive triumvirate -- Mr. Allen, chairman Chris Mendola and chief creative officer and managing partner William Gelner -- dream of creating while tucked away in the barn. As Mr. Mendola explained: "We evaluate against a single-minded focus on how to get the world talking."

That mission has led to business results for Expedia and the agency itself. In 2013 the shop grew its headcount by 43% and its revenue by 34%, and it added Pepsi, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and HP to its client roster.

From l.: Global CEO Mike Allen, chief creative officer-managing partner William Gelner and chairman Chris Mendola
From l.: Global CEO Mike Allen, chief creative officer-managing partner William Gelner and chairman Chris Mendola Credit: Photo provided by 180LA

"180 has a storied history of creating work people talk about. That's absolutely critical to me," said PepsiCo's president of the global beverages group, Brad Jakeman. Pepsi handed the shop its first work starring Beyoncé; it has awarded it the brand's soccer-related fare in World Cup-fevered 2014.

Adidas has been a client for seven years, and Ryan Morlan, its global director of brand communications, called the agency's account team "almost equal to our own family members. Not a week goes by without at least five phone calls."

PepsiCo's Mr. Jakeman concurred. "Sometimes I'll receive a text in the middle of the night from Chris [Mendola] who had an idea or is worried maybe the work is not as good as it could be. That shows we're working with people who care," he said.

Now after years of getting people to talk about its work, 180 is generating chatter for itself -- a fact that could be somewhat bittersweet for its early clients.

"While we congratulate 180LA [on being named to Ad Age's Agency A-List], selfishly we're somewhat saddened they'll no longer remain our single best-kept secret," said Mr. Morlan, sounding like a die-hard fan whose favorite indie band has hit the mainstream.

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