Viamark currently has 12 agency franchises across the east
coast. Its total headcount of 35, including a corporate staff of
nine employees split between Boston and North Carolina. The
majority of clients range from $100,000 to $2,000,000 each in
annual billings, said Glenn Anderson, a Viamark partner and
franchise owner. Though he wouldn't share specific revenue for
privately held Viamark, he said the agency has seen year-over-year
growth for the past three years: 13% in 2010, 31% in 2011 and 8% in
Viamark opened in North Carolina in 1995 and in 2004 began
testing the "franchise" concept. Initially, it gained traction in a
few locations along the east coast. "We got traction very quickly
in 2005, 2006 and 2007," said Mr. Anderson. "Within two to three
years there was no doubt that the model would be successful. People
were coming on with good relationships and representation in their
But when the recession hit in 2008, Viamark stopped offering new
franchises. By 2011, though, most of its existing 11 franchises had
come through the recession with some growth, so the partners
decided it was a good time to reinstate the expansion process. They
brought on a CFO; hired franchise consultants and built a new web
platform for franchises.
Here's how it works. As with McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts, each
of Viamark's franchisees controls its own P&L and pays annual
and monthly franchise royalties based on revenue. Each taps into
Viamark's infrastructure for automated services like bookkeeping
and billings, but like Mr. Facenda they all pay for their own
overhead, as well as creative, media and production resources as
needed. If Viamark partners accept the owner after a months-long
vetting process, that owner then sets out to win local business.
Viamark declined to disclose its franchise fees, but Mr. Anderson
noted that less than 10% of its franchises fail within the critical
first six months to a year.
"We're not going after Coca-Cola or Chevy's
national advertising," said Mr. Anderson. Among Viamark's largest
clients, he lists Maola Milk, Planet Fitness franchises, regional
Mills stores and a handful of Bojangles' franchises.
While the franchise model might satisfy a niche for local
clients that are looking for a good deal but aren't necessarily
hankering for groundbreaking creative, it still has potential
shortcomings. For example, there's an inherent risk and loss of
control in entrusting one's brand to an independent operator.
Charles Day, president and founder of The Lookinglass
Consultancy, also noted there's a "natural cap" on the level of
creativity the franchises can achieve with a remote creative team.
"Great work comes out of really talented and committed people
working collaboratively and following some ethos," he said.
However, "if this is well-run and they really are able to provide
economy of scale and consistency and reliability of service, it
will absolutely fill a niche in the marketplace."
Mr. Facenda said the economy of scale advantage is part of the
sell. "If we can get good creative to a client that really works,
as cheap as possible, it's better to spend on the buying. That's
[my] pitch," he said.