A lot of agencies work their butts off to get on the A-List, but none quite so literally as Fig.
One of the agency’s signature pieces of work during 2021 was Seat Geek’s daring derrieres, which put the underdog ticketing site on the map. Fig’s “Change is hard, but it’s worth it,” platform for Zillow bravely refocused the home-buying experience from transactional to emotional with a gorgeous campaign that soothed children—and their parents—over the strain of moving. Its humorous approach for Waze in Houston informed and entertained drivers snarled in traffic with tips, rhymes and even holiday-specific outdoor boards (“Waze knows how to keep road trips with relatives relatively short”). And a simple insight from Fig transformed the Museum of Modern Art’s “Permanent Collection” to the “Dynamic Collection.”
Though it’s been around nine years, Fig truly broke out in 2021, packing on seven new clients and 50 staffers, bringing its total to more than 110. Revenue climbed to $28 million last year. The shop says it turned away 72% of pitches that came its way and won 85% of the ones it chose to go after. It lost no clients. And though it didn’t ultimately win, dark horse Fig was a frontrunner earlier this year in the hotly contested review for KFC’s U.S. creative account that went to MullenLowe.
Even in losing, the agency was gracious. “I am sending congrats and a huge well done to MullenLowe U.S. on a hard-fought win,” wrote Fig partner and CEO Judith Carr-Rodriguez on LinkedIn. “We gave it 1,000% and I am super proud of our amazing Fig team. We remain huge fans of everyone at KFC U.S. and we will be cheering you all on from NYC.”
Niche to mainstream
In an interview, Carr-Rodriguez said the shop “got the sense we were moving from being seen as niche to mainstream by the industry” in 2019, thanks to a banner new business year including Benjamin Moore and Zillow. Then, only a few months after it signed a 15-year office lease, came the pandemic. Fig committed to zero layoffs and got to work proposing proactive ideas for existing clients, which resulted in more business—its roster is now “massively skewed” toward agency of record accounts, said Carr-Rodriguez.
Rather than retrench, the shop built its team, bringing on nine executive-level hires last year, including Asan Aslam, executive creative director; Samantha Deevy, partner communications strategy; and Benton Roman, executive producer. The hybrid working environment adopted by the industry also freed New York-based Fig to go after talent in wider geographies.
Mark Figliulo, founder and chief creative chair of the agency, credits the shop’s growth to the fact that it is willing to invest in both talent and tools. Foremost among those tools is Story Data, Fig’s proprietary storehouse of data assets that the agency uses to help determine the right approach for the client’s “story.” Among other things, it allows a marketer to differentiate itself in a category by analyzing visuals, language and other factors to learn how rivals are approaching messaging.
Carr-Rodriguez said Story Data brings rigor to the sometimes touchy-feely world of creativity by offering hard data for chief marketing officers at publicly held companies to “justify their decisions to the board and give them confidence to do better creative work.”
“Empirical data can help a client choose a [creative approach] that might feel risky,” said Carr-Rodriquez, “but doing the same thing as everyone else is the riskiest thing a brand can do.”
Enter Zillow, which took a sharp turn from others in its category under Fig, positioning moving as a sometimes scary transition to a sunny new chapter of life. “We are not Nike, we are a big brand with a moderate budget and we wanted an agency that would come up with the creative big idea and handle production and think about cross-channel and [for whom] we were big enough to have the right people in the room,” said Aimee Johnson, chief marketing officer at Zillow. She said that while the company had plenty of access to Figuilio and other top talent, she was impressed that the shop’s bench was deep enough that “when he left the room, the right people were there.” She added: “Fig is helping me solve business problems. There is no ego there. Their problem-solving connected to their vision is something quite unique.”