Fame CEO Lynne Robertson is now also the agency’s owner.
In a deal announced last week, Robertson acquired full ownership of the retail-oriented agency from advertising and marketing behemoth Omnicom Group. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“I feel great going forward,” Robertson said in an interview last week. “We have a great roster of clients and a robust client pipeline.”
Robertson said Fame enjoyed a successful tenure with Omnicom and its TBWA network of agencies but wanted the ability to be more light-footed “in the rapidly evolving landscape of retail.” Being part of a holding company did not provide that.
“We needed to be a little more nimble and that was hard to do with our old structure,” Robertson said. “The more layers you have, the more difficult it is to pivot. Not having fiduciary links to a large company also allows us to invest in our business, our people and our technology.”
The Minneapolis ad scene has seen its share of consolidation in recent years. Today, most of the big agencies in town report to holding companies.
The most notable exception is Periscope, which at 523 employees remains the largest independent agency in town and one of the largest independent agencies in the nation.
Jennifer Johnson, an agency veteran who now teaches advertising at the University of Minnesota, said ad industry consolidation is akin to “the ‘too big to fail’ concept that people talk about in the banking industry.”
But consolidation has its limits, she added, particularly when it comes to overlapping clients.
“If agencies want to consolidate, they have to generally prove that their brands will not step on the toes of the other brands in the holding company,” Johnson added.
That Fame would decide to go it alone is not a surprise. The upbeat, aggressive agency has always been known to punch above its weight category.
When the fledgling hamburger chain My Burger wanted a branding, Fame not only helped design the outlet’s appearance, it became an equity investor and remains so today.
The agency performed a global rebranding for IMG, the sports and entertainment management giant, and helped launch brand campaigns for Healthy Choice foods and MinuteClinic, the retail health care concept.
Current clients include Best Buy, Target and Supervalu.
“Retail is in our bones,” Robertson said. “We know the basic tenets of the business, and we now have the resources to be flexible.”
Fame does more than brand advertising. It develops logos and in-store point-of-sale concepts to enhance the shopping experience.
But in today’s retail world, people are shopping on social media and on their phones and making decisions before they ever set foot in a store.
“Now it’s all about intersecting with people’s lives and creating an affinity with a brand,” Robertson said. “Consumers are engaging in all kinds of different ways now, and we have to know how to engage them.”
A couple of years ago, Fame took an assignment with Time Warner Cable, dressing up its stores and launching a media campaign to make shopping there more consumer friendly.
“A cable store is not a very exciting place. It’s where we go to return equipment and complain,” she said. “It’s a huge lost opportunity, so we were tasked to turn those stores into an experience.”
The result was a space that was more interactive and more contemporary. The added lounge seating made sure Time Warner products, from the Internet to home security, were highly visible.
“It’s important to have both design and creativity” for both customers and employees, Robertson said.
For what’s at stake — return on investment — Fame still has a light side.
Robertson’s biography on the agency’s website notes her familial relationship with Norway’s royal family and declares “King Harald V (if only he knew) would most definitely declare her accomplishments tiara-worthy.”
In touting its new independence, Fame announced: “Feels like we need a parade or special flag-raising ceremony or, at the very least, a tune on the kazoo.”