Entering 2020, the agency then known as GCG Marketing had big plans. It was set to move into new, custom-designed offices in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 18, then debut its new name and branding shortly thereafter.
Then COVID hit, bumping the construction completion date back to July and the name/brand plans into limbo. “In retrospect, it was probably the worst year in history to go through a rebranding and a move into a whole new building,” says president and CEO Neil Foster.
The agency now known as Agency Habitat came out of it in a better place, and with a solid year of results to boot. On the back of new assignments in the skincare realm from Urgo, Endo Aesthetics and Solta Medical, revenue jumped 42%, from $6.5 million in 2019 to $9.2 million in 2020. While head count dropped from 50 at the end of 2019 to 43 at the end of 2020, Foster expects that number to snap back up to 65-70 before the year is out.
He also expects that many of those people will find their way into Agency Habitat’s new physical agency habitat at some point. The project started in earnest some three years ago, when Foster and company started looking for “something kind of industrial and cool, with high ceilings and a warehouse feel to it,” he recalls. But Foster didn’t want to do a typical office-space reboot, so he deliberately sought out an architecture firm with minimal corporate experience.
“The group we hired does restaurants and bars — places where people like to go,” he says. “We tried to put together an environment where people don’t look at it as work.” It has since been populated with “furniture and other pieces that could be in a nice living room,” Foster adds.
Beyond the creature comforts, Foster was insistent that the new building include the type of state-of-the-art digital production facility that few agencies, whether big or small, have at their immediate disposal.
“It feels like this is a broken part of the overall business model for today’s client needs,” he explains. “When you go to a production company, you spend a lot of time and money and you only get a limited amount of assets …. Clients know they need those assets and that they need to be up to the same quality of the overarching campaign and they need them faster. We’re equipped to do that now.”
The transition to the Agency Habitat name and branding ultimately wasn’t impacted by the pandemic chaos. “We did it through social and digital. It might even have had a little more impact than it would’ve, because people were online and reading,” Foster says.
Taken as a whole, the year’s changes have Foster feeling optimistic about the years ahead. With Agency Habitat/GCG set to celebrate a half-century in business in 2023, he relishes the challenges that come with the agency’s desire to punch above its weight.
“We’re always the David in the David versus Goliath scenario,” Foster says. “We’re OK with that.”
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The idea I wish I had…
Evofem Biosciences’ Phexxi Instagram campaign for its engaging content and creative use of influencers; Allergan’s Your Practice Our Purpose for its subtlety in communicating the company’s customer-centric approach; Sound the Excuse by TBWA\London for its clear message that no one should have to make excuses to look after her or his mental health; and Manscaped for its edgy approach to testicular cancer awareness. — Neil Foster