Agencies In Strange Places: 14th In A Series

Ad Age looks into the glaring Fort Lauderdale sun and sees Zimmerman Advertising, a bright spot in South Florida’s agency lineup.

Zimmerman Advertising launched in 1984 in a 400-square-foot space in a strip mall with used office furniture. Its expertise was pretty much limited to car-dealer ads. Mr. Zimmerman slowly grew his business, taking on bigger clients and acquiring area firms. Two decades later, Zimmerman is a beast of an agency under the Omnicom Group umbrella, with 22 offices; more than 1,000 employees; a burgeoning roster that includes Nissan, Six Flags, Crocs and Friendly’s; and projected billings of $2.5 billion in 2008.

AdAge ties this company’s success to its flamboyant founder, Jordan Zimmerman.

Jordan Zimmerman, 52 years old, tan and barrel-chested, is about to bench press 225 pounds. This is the self-imposed, militarylike ethic with which he starts each day just before 4, when his alarm clock goes off and he hurries to one of two gyms in Boca Raton. The onetime competitive bodybuilder, who was “Mr. Florida,” eats the same breakfast every day: oatmeal with fruit, scrambled egg whites and a juice made of leafy green kale and seaweed.
When he pulls into the offices of the ad agency he founded at around 7:30, he is usually the first to arrive.
“If I told someone 20 years ago that I was going to build a company like this in South Florida, they would have said I was crazy,” Mr. Zimmerman told a bleary-eyed reporter while grunting his way through a rigorous workout. “But you have to be a bit off in order to succeed in this business.”

And succeed he has…

This cowboy-boot-wearing registered Republican is known to friends as “JZ,” and while you wouldn’t confuse him with the rapper, he is every inch the mogul — he owns a stake in the NHL’s Florida Panthers — and he knows a bit about the good life. He collects Bentleys and Ferraris and flies only by private jet. He summers in the Hamptons and rubs elbows with the likes of Don King. He has even hosted President Bush at his waterfront home in a Boca Raton gated community. And he has a personal chef named Dudley, who wears a uniform with the letter Z emblazoned on it.

One of the keys to Zimmerman’s success–other than the drive of its founder–is the agency’s reliance on metrics. “JZ” dreamed up something called “Brandtailing” while in business school. His method purports to build brands for the long haul while driving purchase today.
[UPDATE] Adweek’s 25th annual Agency Report Cards segment gives Zimmerman a “B-“. Which might not be great, but it’s better than Wieden’s “C+”.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. go to the adweek article, click on “wieden + kennedy” in the list, and jump to the bottom of the article. final grade: B

  2. @td – I see that now, but how confusing can you get? They issue a C+ on the front page, and only those curious enough to click see a revised grade. That’s poor design.

  3. let’s give adweek a d- for its poor design.

  4. Not a fan says:

    Zimmerman has made every cent they’ve earned by squeezing every drop of spirit out of their talented employees and promoting their hacks, and by churning out oceans of cheap and cheesy client-friendly executions.

  5. not a fan,
    your statement applies to the overwhelming majority of agencies in adweek’s list.

  6. Does anyone remember the furor over the comments section on the Miami Herald website regarding an article about this dump of an agency? If not, follow this link for a refresher course – it has to be the most loathed place in the business by current and former employees.

  7. standing by earlier comment. just look at the threads at ad blogs for places like draftfcb, euro rscg, jwt, gsd&m, etc.
    as always, we have our elite shops like goodby, cp+b (which is rumored to be a sweatshop), w+k, etc.
    then there’s the rest of us.

  8. Dallas Star says:

    Imagine such a poorly run, poorly written, and poorly edited rag like Adweak passing judgment over the agencies of America. The fact that Zimmerman and W + K are graded remotely on the same level is a joke.

  9. Not a fan says:

    Compare Zimmerman’s creative output to Doner, Grey, other milquetoast behemoths. Zimmerman is the worst hands-down. Actually, Grey looks like a creative-driven boutique compared to Zimmerman.
    If it seems like I have a personal grudge against them, i don’t, but i can’t stand an agency that is this arrogant about being advertising’s dollar store, and treats their employees worse than dirt.
    Just like bad cops make all cops look crooked, bad agencies foul the game for all of us.

  10. Perhaps, not a fan.
    But comparing Zimmerman to Grey is pointless. They both suck—what is gained by determining which piece of shit smells worse?
    Zimmerman is continuing a trend most notably presented by Draftfcb; that is, the agency that gets results cheap. Additionally, remember that Zimmerman has risen from being a local car dealer agency. In that respect, their evolution far exceeds that of most Madison Avenue shops.
    Definitely don’t mean to defend the shop. At the same time, why fret over them? Zimmerman doesn’t hurt the industry anymore than Jack Kervorkian hurts the medical profession. The ad industry has always had a level of hack agencies. Let’s not define ourselves by the worst in the bunch. Think of them as Arena Football versus the NFL.

  11. Boss1marc says:

    Jordan Zimmerman bought my company in 2002. Up until then the company generated over 50 million in sales every year. with around 5 million in net profit. After about 2 1/2 years we grew it another 12 million per year but lost money every month. Jordan thinks he knows business but he does not. his people do everything for him while his private jet settings to favorite vacation spots run into each other. Jordan is not what he seems to be. This is just my opinion.

  12. Former ZimmerSlave says:

    I worked at Zimmerman Advertising for about 5 years and you have to take the agency for what it is: a white-collar sweatshop. At the same time, the “sink or swim” atmosphere made me a stronger, leaner and better marketing professional (if perhaps a meaner and more jaded one.) Is it a great agency? Of course not. Does it produce great people (if they survive for a while?) Yes. The trick is to not stay for too long: then you are just lost in the sauce of suck.