Small Agency Of The Year 76-150 Employees, Gold: Via
From its little corner of Portland, Maine, the Via Agency rang in its 25th anniversary last year by scoring account wins including Lowe’s Home Improvement and Arm & Hammer and pumping up its revenue to $26 million from $22 million. And while the Via team is still grappling with the loss of Chief Creative Officer Greg Smith, who died in April, the shop is looking toward the future.
“We have grand ambitions,” says Via Agency CEO Leeann Leahy. How grand? Founder and Chairman John Coleman wants to “be the best agency in the world,” she says.
Via’s creative was strong last year, contemporizing the LL Bean brand with the “Be an Outsider” campaign including a New York Times print ad printed with ink visible only in the sunshine—so you had to go outside to read it. The agency followed that up with spots featuring families playing badminton in the snow or canoe racing blindfolded that goosed sales 30 percent within two weeks after they broke.
For Perdue, Via took a brand associated with a founder and modernized it with a big social push and charming spots pairing Chairman Jim Perdue with his sons. The result was an 85 percent rise in dollar sales for one of the products promoted.
Via restructured how it operates last year, breaking down its hierarchal structure by streamlining its creative department and reorganizing its client teams into “pods.” Each pod is led by a client strategist, planning lead, creative lead and project manager.
To improve diversity, the agency introduced “VIAlocity,” a network of remote creators and planners who are employed by the agency and can choose to hop on assignments as they choose.
VIAlocity allows Via to employ working parents and veterans, and even a national park ranger during the recent government shutdown to work as a consultant on client L.L.Bean.
“I started VIAlocity as an experiment to see if it would help our diversity initiatives, but actually it’s much bigger than that because it’s about helping us understand new operating models for the future,” Leahy says.