Eventually, after the team had practiced its pitch countless times, it won the account for San Diego-based Chicken of the Sea, a company eager to recast tuna as a health food. Later, the agency won McKesson Corp., a San Francisco distributor of hospital supplies. Most recently, the agency took over Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, a non-profit that acts as the city’s official tourism marketing agency.

Positive results

Lisa Ryan, executive director of national advertising at Kaiser in Oakland, said Campbell Ewald has kept up the quality of the “Thrive” campaign even though the agency has won many other clients.

“They have done a good job of not compromising and that’s tricky when growing a business,” Ryan said. “They go out of their way to maintain a high level of attentiveness because in a way, we put them on the map.”

Zepeda said the agency has doubled its work force and could have grown even more if not for corporate changes spurred by the loss of Chevrolet. To mitigate job losses at the 700-person Detroit headquarters, media buyers, digital ad designers and social media experts who formerly worked on Chevrolet have performed full-time jobs by long distance for L.A. clients.

David Logan, professor and associate dean at the USC Marshall School of Business, said that in large companies, innovation usually happens in offices far from headquarters and in reaction to a crisis. He said it was clear Campbell Ewald would have to look for new clients and become more experimental in its creative output.

“The biggest enemy for any business is unexamined assumptions. When you lose the breadwinner client, you look at those assumptions,” he said. “Almost always, people will look back and say it was the best thing that ever happened.”

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