9thWonder has launched in Houston as a marketing, media and creative content agency dedicated to everyday products and services most agencies don’t covet. With seven offices, more than 250 people, more than 100 clients, and a team of award-winning practitioners, the new agency targets two service gaps in the marketing world—a neglected majority of everyday products and marketers’ unfilled need for independent agencies with reach and scale.
“The 9th wonder is those essential products and services that make our lives amazing and connect our world—things like rice, mattresses, electricity, healthcare, vitamins, and much more,” said Jose Lozano, CEO of 9thWonder. “Our name refers to the ideal we can achieve with clients—making their everyday product or service the best of its class by inspiring people to embrace the wonder of what it does for them. There’s no one championing them. In fact, most agencies run from them because they don’t have celebrity status and they need more complex business solutions.”
9thWonder is the culmination of a long-term development effort Lozano began three years ago as CEO of The Company agency, when he commissioned quantitative and qualitative research with dozens of CMOs on exactly what they wanted from an agency partner. To a person, they said they wanted the energy, flexibility and speed of independent agencies, but they needed reach and scale with one responsible party.
So, Lozano curated top indie talent by acquiring agencies with complementary specialties—digital, social, media and creative. Each agency became a partner in The Company collective, operating independently while collaborating with and owning a piece of the other partners. After acquiring creative agency Phelps in April, Lozano beefed up business development to sell the collective explicitly. But while CMOs conducting significant agency searches loved the people and ideas, they couldn’t fathom hiring multiple shops.
“We immediately realized we needed an agency with one name, one vision, one purpose and one team,” said Lozano. “We needed to make it real.”
The result is a multi-national agency with many specialties that can think and mobilize like a small independent. 9thWonder emphasizes multi-service, on the recognition that full-service midsize agencies aren’t a viable solution for most CMOs because procurement demands the use of multiple vendors. Financially, 9thWonder operates as a partnership, with each partner owning shares in the agency. Each 9thWonder office will feature account, strategy and creative along with one or two specialties, and the agency will draw from across them all on every account.
“We’re structured to support the modern CMO’s needs. And that’s not always everything under one roof,” said Tony Stern, partner and global creative lead at 9thWonder. “We’ve made it easy to use some of us or all of us. Regardless of the assignment, we will always bring our entire team of specialists into the conversation, so we can understand the business problem from all sides and how communication will be absorbed through all channels. There’s one hardened rule: Nobody gets to touch a client until they fully understand how that company makes money and what daily business challenges they face, and they fully believe in the fundamental value of the product.”
9thWonder brings together a team of accomplished professionals. For example, Stern has won a myriad of One Show, Clio, Andy, Effie and Communication Arts awards, and led content initiatives for the likes of Apple, Google, and nearly every car account imaginable. Similarly, Lisa DePoy, 9thWonder partner and global strategy lead, has led marketing client-side for such companies as JCPenney and Brinker International
“Everyday brands require a deeper level of strategy,” said DePoy. “Big celebrity brands build off their brand awareness and tweak to the insights and trends. However, most brands, the ones that make our everyday lives work and flourish, require a multitude of insights – not just from trends and culture, but from their businesses, industry challenges, consumer behavior and connections – to uncover the wonder of the product.”
Already, several former clients of The Company, including Direct Energy, Phillips 66 and Riviana Foods, have made increased commitments to 9thWonder.
“As one agency with a single point of view and management structure, 9thWonder can do things for us that a collective can’t,” said David Kozak, vice president of marketing at Direct Energy. “We’ll get more direct access to a wider range of top talent, because offices won’t be serving their own P&Ls first. We expect that to give us smarter approaches faster.”