Portland is known the ad world over for Wieden+Kennedy and Nike. But there is another Portland lurking beneath the Swoosh. It’s mostly a tangled world of small shops fighting for table scraps and relevance beyond Oregon. Mostly, I say, because there’s yet another unheralded Portland agency world that is thriving.
Three of Portland’s five largest agencies are direct response marketers. At the top of this list is R2C Group, with $42.75 M in revenue and 125 Portland employees; followed by Direct Marketing Solutions with $35.5 M in revenue and 275 employees; and Pacific Marketing and Publishing with $7.25 M in revenue and 76 employees.
According to The Portland Tribune, “This isn’t the supposedly sexy world of brand building — throwing money at the airwaves in the hope that some of it sticks. This the grinding, small-ball world of remnant inventory and quick, cheap ads. Every click and every cent is counted, but the budgets and profits still amount to millions of dollars.” A fact which explains why R2C Group is one of the few shops in Portland that is consistently growing and hiring.
“We call what we do transactional branding,” says Steve Diamond, the Executive Creative Director. “We build a brand in through transactions. Everyone has an understanding of what Nordstrom’s is, but it’s not from their ads it’s from having transactions with them. I can’t tell you what their tag line is.”
Mr. Diamond makes an interesting point. As a Nordstrom shopper, I’ll say it’s the brand experience that keeps me coming back. My interest is in the product and helpful customer service available at Nordstrom, not the transaction. If there is a blow-out sale on cashmere v-necks, then I’m interested in the transaction. The rest of the time, no.
While it’s easy to find fault with the coarseness of much direct response advertising (along with promotional advertising and poorly constructed brand advertising), there’s no denying that measurable results are highly desired. R2C Group’s revenue is outstanding—they’re making $342,000 per employee. As a guy from the brand camp, I’m interested in what I can learn from their methods.