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.

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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

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.