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2002 Rating: 2.5 stars

2001 Rating: Not rated

While lacking the top-tier client depth and media sizzle that some of its independent peers possess, Doner relied on a surprisingly well-rounded portfolio to help put the shop on the short list in a slew of new-business pitches last year.

Even with the loss of direct marketer America's Best and the PetSmart creative assignment going in-house, the Southfield, Mich., agency benefited from its lack of network baggage. It netted $177 million in new business, including the hard-won pet food account of H. J. Heinz Co., PacSun retail and Helzberg Diamonds. Doner's growth trend has doubled billings in five years to $1.4 billion to claim the title of largest of the independent agencies.

Doner's Mazda North American Operations connection and increasingly skillful use of humor and irony in spots for Progressive Insurance, Cox Communications and Cranium, not to mention live and animated critters (Serta sheep, Blockbuster Video's Carl and Ray, and PetSmart pets), tend to dominate Doner's reel. They often overshadow its more feminine and fashionable sensibilities (La-Z-Boy, Minute Maid Co.).


Doner likely will continue to draw underdog talent from the coasts. Watch for it to snag at least one big-name client from its discreet but well-placed connections. To continue to avoid any shuddering losses would be a stunning achievement in the still deteriorating corporate landscape.

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