Sometimes when you want to find out what’s going on in the local marketing scene, you have to ask the real estate brokers.
Ian Strano, a vice president with brokerage Beitler Commercial Realty Services who specializes in Westside office space, is a busy man lately. Strano reports seeing an unusually high concentration of advertising agencies looking for space in Santa Monica.
“We see the move to the Westside just getting stronger and stronger,” Strano said. “We cannot service our clients fast enough.”
Indeed, there does seem to be a large number of outside advertising and public relations agencies that have opened branch offices in L.A. in recent months, especially in Strano’s back yard.
They include the Leap Partnership, Los Angeles, which opened its Santa Monica office just three weeks ago after luring seven senior executives from Venice-based TBWA Chiat/Day Inc. The agency is the first branch office of Chicago-based Leap Group Inc.; according to art director Chris Graves, the 10-person agency is helping handle some Chicago-based accounts and drumming up new business.
Then there’s LVL Communications Inc., a high-tech agency based in the Silicon Valley that opened its first branch office in Santa Monica in December. Agency President Ed Dilworth says there are currently eight people in the L.A. branch, but he expects to staff up to 15 to 20 by the end of the year.
Martin Creative, Los Angeles is yet another newcomer, having opened a temporary office in Culver City in October until its Santa Monica space is built out. The local branch of the Martin Agency, based in Richmond, Va., will move into its new digs later this month.
On the P.R. side, there’s Dan Klores Associates, a well-known name in New York that opened its first outside branch in Beverly Hills in January. Hayley Sumner, head of West Coast operations for Dan Klores, said her four-employee branch bagged five clients in only its first six weeks of existence.
Another relative newcomer is Cohn & Wolfe, an Atlanta-based agency that’s rapidly expanding its L.A. presence. Its Century City branch opened with two people in 1995 but really started growing last year when it added an entertainment division; the branch now has 15 employees and 25 clients, according to entertainment division Vice President Joan Carry.
The interesting thing about these agencies is that most of them are not part of giant communications holding companies. Rather, they are, for the most part, new branches of successful mid-sized agencies in other parts of the country. It’s also noteworthy that the CEOs of these companies chose to open their first new branches in Los Angeles.
“I think we felt there were many untapped opportunities here,” said Sumner, a partner with Dan Klores. “We really decided to come here because of those clients who said, ‘We’d be with you, but we’d really feel more comfortable if you had an L.A. office.’ ”
The moves might also be another indicator that L.A.’s economy is strengthening. Dilworth of LVL Communications said he was attracted to Los Angeles because of the growth of high-tech companies here, companies that are seeking agencies that understand interactive marketing.
Finally, there is a perception that L.A. produces a different kind of creative work than Madison Avenue.
“The West Coast agencies have done some very contemporary-feeling work,” said Martin Hughes, president and creative director of the Martin Agency in Virginia. “It’s a terrible generalization, but the East Coast work tends to be more traditional and strategic, while the West Coast work is more intuitive.”
There have been a few shakeups in the editorial offices of some of L.A.’s biggest publishers recently.
At Los Angeles Magazine, Publisher Joan McCraw is on her way out. McCraw told her staff last week that she would be departing, after Walt Disney Co. placed the magazine under the umbrella of New York-based Fairchild Publications.
The new publisher has not been named, and neither McCraw nor Los Angeles Editor Michael Caruso returned calls from the Business Journal.
At the Los Angeles Times, Metro Editor Leo Wolinsky and Calendar Editor John Lindsay have been named assistant managing editors, though more interesting to most Times-watchers was the announcement that Senior Editor Carol Stogsdill and Associate Editor Narda Zacchino were being shifted to new responsibilties.
The announcement followed weeks of speculation of a major shakeup at the Times it’s yet to be seen if there will be further changes under new managing editor Michael Parks.
Meanwhile, the recent purchase of three sports magazines by Petersen Publishing Co. was the first major deal by the company’s new management.
Richard Petty’s Stock Car Magazine, Dick Vitale’s College Basketball Yearbook and Bob Griese’s College Football Yearbook will now be produced at Petersen’s Miracle Mile headquarters, following their acquisition from CS Communications.
“Those magazines are associated with some very visible, active, promotionally minded celebrities, so it was a very nice fit,” said company President Neal Vitale.
Petersen, acquired in September by an investor group led by new Chief Executive D. Claeys Bahrenburg, appears to be on the upswing. It reported advertising sales growth of 8.3 percent in 1996 over the previous year, and said ad pages were up 5.8 percent.