Sit down with the founders of most agencies and you’ll inevitably hear about the wins and accounts that have contributed most to the bottom line. But Splice Agency cofounder, client partnerships Paul Hagopian is keener to speak about an assignment that hasn’t netted the company a single dime.

From the outset, Splice has had a tight relationship with hometown Emeryville, California, and the surrounding East Bay community. The relationship recently expanded to include an engagement with Project Open Hand, an organization that delivers medically tailored meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses.

“We donate almost an entire team to do its branding and identity, and support its collaboration with Dine Out for Life, a day in April when restaurants donate 25% of their revenue,” Hagopian says. “We don’t live in isolation. Yes, we have a drive to take care of our own, but we have to be good humans, too.”

That humanistic attitude sits at the heart of Splice’s culture, one that prioritizes relationships. That’s why the company went out of its way to celebrate the promotion of Marianne Merritt Kaiser, one of its first hires, to creative director. “It is always a big moment for an agency when you start hiring or promoting strong seconds,” Hagopian says.

Overall, staff size surged from 27 full-timers at the end of 2018 to 39 at the end of 2019. Cofounder, strategy and innovation Jonathan Peischl touts the addition of director of brand innovation Andrew Miller as particularly important to the firm’s growth ambitions. “Andrew is leading the charge of our expansion in technology,” Peischl says. “He has a specific strength in Veeva execution, but he’s also an expert in website design and UX.”


The hiring spree was prompted by a sharp spike in business. Splice generated $8.7 million in 2019, up 61% from $5.4 million in 2018. To put that in context, the agency brought in $250,000 during 2016, its first year as a business operation.

Most of the 11 assignments added during 2019 came from existing clients. Santen, for example, added corporate work and its global medical affairs and surgical glaucoma business to Splice’s existing slate.

“It started out as commercial, then it went to medical, then to European affiliates, and then eventually global,” recalls cofounder, creative direction Kevin Stokes. “Once we prove ourselves, clients realize what we can do and it goes from there. We don’t go hunting for it — it comes to us.” Similarly, Splice’s work on Grifols’ European campaign for chronic immune thrombocytopenia drug Tavlesse (the European brand name for Tavalisse) came on the heels of the agency’s work for Rigel on the U.S. launch.

The challenge for Splice now becomes extending its hot streak without overextending its people, even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “One of the kisses of death is when an agency keeps on taking on business without any thoughts about scaling and growing,” Hagopian says. “We are fussy in our hiring and it allows us to maintain the quality we want and the engagement that everyone wants to be part of.”

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

I’ve always liked AbelsonTaylor’s work. It does the job and there’s a lot to be said for that. Every agency has its own style. — Kevin Stokes