Create NYC enjoyed a decided advantage when agencies, client teams and most everyone else pivoted to virtual work in March 2020: The company has been virtual since its founding 12 years ago. That head start likely contributed to the firm posting solid numbers during the year, with revenue surging 35% (from $17.8 million in 2019 to $24.1 million). Create NYC also jumped its staff size from 44 to 57, with another nine people joining in the first three months of 2021.

Asked to share a big-picture assessment of the firm’s recent fortunes, however, EVP, account services Lauren Wetmore and founder and president Natalie McDonald focus on the addition of
AOR services.

“We launched [the service] with some specific brand types in mind: biosimilars and late-life brands, but ultimately brands with limited resources,” Wetmore explains. “Traditionally we have acted as a complement to an agency of record, but we set out with these clients to maintain our efficiency model and our flat-fee deliverables. Then we added on some of the more full-service pieces that they were yearning for, such as strategic partnerships, planning and creative concepting, all without losing the core part of what they loved about us.”

Create NYC

McDonald agrees, adding, “Clients were very happy because they were able to do more with less in 2020 and we were ecstatic because we were rethinking our model and how to better service longstanding clients who knew and loved us.”

Create NYC grew its account rolls to 110 assignments (34 AOR and 76 project-based) at the end of 2020, up from 86 (27 and 59, respectively) at the end of 2019. The firm counts Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Gilead, Sanofi and Pfizer among its client base.

Amid the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other individuals, issues around diversity, equity and inclusion were, for obvious reasons, a focus for many agencies in 2020. At Create NYC, that topic took on a particular focus around the issue of working mothers.

McDonald and Wetmore estimate that half of the agency’s employees are working mothers. “There is a lot of data that indicates women are leaving the workforce,” McDonald says. “In response to the pandemic, we brought in a child-life specialist to help our moms and dads. We provided a grocery stipend. We gave out masks.”

For working mothres, she believes that it’s the little things that count. “For many of them, having the continuity of being virtual went a long way, even as the kids were hopping into their offices while they were home-schooling.”

McDonald is optimistic for the rest of 2021 and beyond, with a small caveat. “We have strong renewals, sales are strong and we expect double-digit growth,” she says, adding that the firm is hiring accordingly. “But we’re mindful that we spend as much time building infrastructure and refining process as we do executing and selling the work. We want to be careful with our model and ensure that we remain healthy as an organization.”

. . .

The idea I wish I had…

The Science Will Win campaign for Pfizer by Grey New York. This was a video series that went viral across social media by speaking to the uncertainty of the times — and of the need for the certainty of science to get us through it. It was so simple and yet so powerful. — Laura Wetmore