Near the end of MM&M’s podcast with TBWA\WorldHealth CEO and Omnicom Health Group chief client officer Sharon Callahan, she was asked about agencies outside the Omnicom family she admired. After rattling off a few of the usual suspects, she mentioned Brick City Greenhouse (BCG), citing its “really cool” and “really interesting” work.
Callahan isn’t alone in being impressed by what BCG and its three founders — client lead Renee Wills, creative lead Ashley Schofield and content lead Fred Kinch — have accomplished since opening their doors in 2015. It’s impossible to quantify word of mouth, but BCG pops up in conversations about up-and-coming agencies far more often than a company of its size usually does.
Perhaps that’s because BCG goes about its business very differently than its peers. While it maintains a small physical presence in Newark — at a Regus facility — BCG is for all intents and purposes a virtual agency. “We started out thinking that we’d need to be bricks-and-mortar, but we changed our minds when we saw how doable it was to go virtual,” Wills says. “I haven’t seen any limits on what we can do yet.”
BCG similarly breaks with agency orthodoxy by eschewing the billable-hours model, instead quoting clients flat costs. “Clients love this because it gives them a higher degree of predictability in their budgets and because there’s no awkward reconciliation at the end of the month or the quarter,” Kinch explains. “You know how it is — they see a whole room of people and look at it like it’s a meter running on a taxi. They feel more free to exchange ideas with us.”
The combination of the shifts away from billable hours and physical offices has made BCG more attractive to would-be employees, the three cofounders say. “Lots of financial pressure and a fixed way of looking at the world comes from all of that,” Wills explains. “As long as we’re adhering to our schedules and our internal timelines, how they get their work done is up to them.”
While the agency currently employs 18 full-timers, it taps into another 30 or so people on an episodic basis. Additions during 2018 included digital lead David Cherry, formerly EVP, chief experience officer at Sudler & Hennessey.
Recent results bear out BCG’s approach. The agency saw revenue nearly triple in 2018 to $6 million from 2017’s sum of $2.2 million. Contributing to that growth was new work from five clients, among them EyePoint Pharma (on eye-inflammation drug Yutiq) and Avrio Health (antibacterial drug Betadine and stool softener Colace). It also added corporate work for both Immunomedics and nonprofit Medicines Development for Global Health.
While all three BCG cofounders expect that 2019’s arc will resemble 2018’s, they’re quick to note they don’t have any particular revenue or head count number in their sights. “I feel like we’re creating a company people want to be a part of, whether as an employee or client,” Schofield says. “So long as we can continue to do that and make a difference in the world, size won’t ever be a question.”