Here’s a story you didn’t see often last year—an agency that fired one of its biggest clients, didn’t lay anyone off and grew revenue 15% anyway.
Empower, a Cincinnati-based mainly media independent, likes to do things differently, billing itself as the “unholding company.” About 10% of business comes from creative and 15% from data and analytics intelligence along with sizable mix of search and programmatic buying on the media side.
Dumping long-time client LasikPlus knocked growth down from what would have been 20% but was worth it for removing headaches, says President-Chief Operating Officer Rob FitzGerald. Easily offsetting that were seven new business wins, including American Standard, GoDaddy, The Body Shop, RoC Skincare and additional digital business from existing client PetSmart.
On the creative side, Empower gave 2020 a well-publicized sendoff with a #Flush2020 campaign for American Standard. That meant creating custom-designed toilet paper rolls printed with images from the worst parts of the year—like murder hornets, COVID and being stuck on mute—to be given away via sweepstakes. The contest generated 450 million social and earned media impressions for a brand whose awareness level is usually in, well, the toilet.
For The Body Shop, Empower overhauled U.S. search and shopping ad strategy to eliminate wasteful overlap with global efforts, switching to a product-specific focus among steps that nearly quadrupled return on ad spending.
And for PetSmart, Empower did a June Pet Appreciation Week buy that included a national roadblock on all 17 Discovery networks and additional placements in connected TV, delivering what the agency estimates is a million-dollar media value at a fraction of the cost and almost doubling sales projections.
That’s diverse work for an agency of just over 200 people, but the flexibility is essential, says Chief Investment Officer Cathy Shaffner. “The lines are blurring. When you get a linear-first or just programmatically first digital client in the door, to drive their business successfully like we do, it just spans out quickly.”