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The Martin Agency named top advertising agency in U.S. for second year in a row

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The Martin Agency has done it again. Adweek has named the Richmond-based advertising firm as the top ad agency in the nation.

The agency received the honors from the influential industry trade publication for the second consecutive year, making it only the third firm to win the U.S. award in back-to-back years. The Martin Agency also won the nation’s top award in 2009.

“One of the hardest things to do in any high level competition is to repeat. I don’t think we had any expectations this year that we would win again. Certainly, you hope that [because] we put in a lot of hard work,” said Kristen Cavallo, The Martin Agency’s CEO.

“When we heard we won back-to-back, we were excited — excited not only for the people who work here and the clients who support us but for Richmond as a community because it is just pretty amazing,” she said. “It puts the agency in a pretty esteemed set of ad agencies.”

Adweek cited multiple reasons for naming Martin its agency of the year again, including its work and revenue growth.

“The work illustrates The Martin Agency’s recipe for success: stellar strategy, brand purpose-fueled creativity, a production team with rapidly expanding capabilities and a Cultural Impact Lab that helps brands not just enter the conversation, but also win it,” the magazine said on its online edition of the article posted Sunday night.

Adweek noted that The Martin Agency’s revenue rose 15% this year in new and existing clients, after growing 30% in 2020. The agency also landed new clients in 2021 including Terminix, Snapchat, Coinbase, Busch Light and Sabra Dipping.

The agency’s revenues have grown 47% in three years, Cavallo said.

Martin received the top honor in 2009, 2020 and this year for different reasons, she said. In 2009, it was because of significant growth after taking on accounts for Walmart, Pizza Hut, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft. Last year, the agency pivoted during the pandemic.

“And then this year it was really the caliber of the work,” Cavallo said. “Everything we heard was that the work that we had created was just superior for the competitive set that we were in.”

Danny Robinson, the agency’s chief creative officer, said the recognition wasn’t for certain ad campaigns but for the caliber of work across the board.

“Often agencies win because they have one or two accounts that they do stellar work for and breakthrough work, but we’ve done work for the majority of our clients that have been successful for their business and recognized for the craft and that’s how we won this year,” said Robinson, who became the first Black person to hold the chief creative officer position in the Richmond-based ad shop’s 55-year history when named to the role last year.

“There’s been a different blend of the secret sauce this year and creative was the base,” he said.

Adweek noted the success of Geico’s “Scoop! There It Is!” ad spot featuring Tag Team joyfully scooping ice cream while former Richmonder Nicci Carr is cutting vegetables in the kitchen and then dancing to the hip-hop duo reworded version of their 1990s hit. The magazine also mentioned the accomplishment of the campaigns for Axe Body Spray that helped the Unilever brand grow revenue for the first time in nearly a decade.

The magazine also highlighted the agency’s diverse executive committee — 63% are women and 38% are people of color. Agency-wide, 25% are people of color , up 4% from 2020.

The creative department had been 70% male and 30% female in 2018. But that is changing, the agency said. It has hired 53 employees in that department since November 2020, of which 55% are female and 35% are people of color.

Martin hired about 145 people in the past year, which Cavallo said she believed was the largest increase in the agency’s workforce in one year including the year it won Walmart account. Martin has about 400 employees.

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