After 18 years as a member of the Interpublic Group (IPG) of agencies, HackerAgency is now an independent—albeit slimmed down and without its long-time client, AT&T.
The 2018 edition of the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Book of Lists still ranks HackerAgency No. 1 in the Seattle market, with revenues of $53 million (circa 2016) and 45 employees. No. 2 is the Garrigan-Lyman Group, with revenues of $19.9 million and 85 employees, followed by WONGDOODY at No. 3, with revenues of $17.7 million and 70 employees.
A November report, also in the PSBJ, said that the agency had laid off 65 employees, or about half of its staff, and had more planned. Efforts are underway to verify the maximum and current employee levels, as of the beginning of the year.
The Hacker Group, founded by MARKETING IMMORTAL Bob Hacker and his wife, Jo Anne, in 1986, sold the agency to FCB-parent True North Communications in 1999. Two years later, IPG bought True North and all its properties for a reported $2.1 billion in stock. in 2014. Hacker Group became the HackerAgency, after merging with three FCB agencies in Munich, Prague and Shanghai.
HackerAgency president Spyro Kourtis said, in a recent statement, that “while the Hacker Group has had a great partnership with IPG and FCB over the years, we’re excited to bring the power of our reestablished independence to our clients…(who are) increasingly demanding agile agency resources and talent that focus on performance and are willing to put skin in the game. We believe being an independent is the best way to do this, unburdened by the complexities of a holding-company network.”
On the subject of AT&T, Kourtis said, “Having to say goodbye to friends and colleagues is never easy… (but) we remain optimistic for the road ahead as we strike out independently.” The change reportedly involved AT&T moving its direct-marketing account (one of the largest in the U.S.) away from Hacker following the telecomm giant’s merger with DirecTV.
In a blog post on the HackerAgency website, staffer Nasima Sadeque said the agency is “celebrating our new identity as an independent agency. In a time where the advertising industry is dominated by the ‘Big 4’ (holding companies): WPP, Omincom, Publicis and Interpublic Group, we are happily returning to our once-independent roots…”
“While holding companies form large international networks, and manage to a single P&L, they are striving for profit, efficiency and success, not just for their clients, but for their shareholders. Wall Street is watching. At the same time, clients are dealing with similar pressures for their own margins and efficiency. This push and pull can present a challenge for people in the middle (client and agency alike) who do the work. Indie agencies that thrive in this era of big networks are focused… and flexible partners…”
HackerAgency is not the only organization to leave the IPG stable in the past year. Dailey Advertising, a Los Angeles creative shop, opted to buy itself back from the holding company in February and Dallas-based TM Advertising followed suit in May.