When Space150 founder Billy Jurewicz was asked to summarize last year, he was succinct: “2013 sucked” he wrote in the Minneapolis Egotist blog.
After a major client cut its advertising budget at the same time Space150 cut its workforce early in the year, the Minneapolis digital marketing agency was forced to make its first-ever layoffs.
“We took a deep breath. Faced fear straight on and refocused, reinvented and re-claimed,” Jurewicz recalled.
Employees were asked to “make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains” and to believe in management after going through two rounds of layoffs early in the year.
“Now, as I like to say, it’s time for re-venge,” Jurewicz wrote.
In May, the 14-year-old Space150 reported a record first quarter with the addition of five clients and growing relationships with many of its existing accounts, which include Buffalo Wild Wings, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, American Express, U.S. Bank and Target.
Jurewicz and Space150 have come a long way since the days when his south Minneapolis bedroom was his office and Minnesota Viking head coach Denny Green was his only paying client.
Today Space150 has 120 staffers with offices in New York and Los Angeles and expertise that stretches from brand and digital strategy to creative, design and cutting-edge technology.
“They are what an advertiser has in mind when you think of a modern ad agency,” said Bob Ruhland, vice president of marketing for Buffalo Wild Wings. “They are not embedded in traditional media. They look at building something that fits the client’s objectives as opposed to something off the shelf.”
Space150 used animation and short videos, for instance, to help Buffalo Wild Wings promote its B-Dubs Sauce Lab, which features limited production barbecue sauces such as Ghost Pepper and Salted Caramel.
For its Jack Link’s account, the agency came up with the idea last Halloween to ask consumers via Facebook and Twitter if they would like to “trick or treat” the jerky’s Sasquatch mascot. Then the agency responded with customized videos or photos to each participant who weighed in.
The result was a 400 percent increase in Twitter mentions, 87 percent increase in Facebook comments and 95,000 new Facebook fans.
Jurewicz said his agency’s exposure to tough times a year ago helped drive positive results and client satisfaction today.
“We went through a hard year last year, but we were forthright about it,” he said in an interview in his North Loop office. “It was a rally cry for our team and our culture. That energy created a positivity and really good work.
“That set the stage for this year — big wins and no layoffs.”
Space150, which did not disclose its revenue to the Star Tribune, also shuffled management responsibilities. Jurewicz, the CEO, dropped day-to-day responsibilities at the agency to focus on big-picture solutions for clients. David Denham became president and assumed the day-to-day role. Marc Jensen became managing partner as well as chief technology officer, and Brian Ritchie took the new role as executive creative director.
“Billy’s best asset is that he’s always six months ahead of the rest of us, and that was getting diluted,” Denham said. “So I took over day to day. Marc is the voice of the agency to the community, and Brian could step up with creative.”
Five rules of operation
Space150, which is named for Jurewicz’s first office, Suite 150 in the Colonial Warehouse building, where the agency remains today, has five basic rules for its operation.
The first is to be able to internally build the campaign that is pitched to clients and not rely on subcontractors to execute it. The second is to have expertise in the technology that is part of the pitch. Third is the ability to collaborate with other agencies.
“A lot of clients these days work with two or three agencies,” Denham said. “You’ve got to be a collaborator. In the end it’s about the client’s success, not the agency’s success.”
Ruhland of Buffalo Wild Wings said he appreciates the collaboration.
“We have separate agencies for digital, social, brand, PR and loyalty,” he said. “Space150 is comfortable in their own skin and comfortable in their relationship with us. They understand our voice.”
The fourth rule at Space150 regards data collection and analyzing the results for clients.
“That helps them focus on promotions, coupons, regions and ZIP codes that generate revenue,” Denham said.
The fifth rule is to help a client build interaction with the customer and create back-and-forth engagement.
“You build communities to get connections directly with people,” Jurewicz said.
“Five years from now, tablets will be the medium of choice. Television as a navigation system [for advertising] will be antiquated. We’ll have TV on steroids. I don’t know if we’ll even call it television anymore. Advertising will be about immersive storytelling that allows people to fill in details of the story with you and delivering it with technology.”