Johannes Leonardo Is Ad Age Small Agency of the Year, Silver | Special: Small Agency Awards – Advertising Age

Meet the new darling of the New York creative scene: Johannes Leonardo. The New York-based agency is still a small shop, but it’s gaining an outsize reputation for cutting-edge work.

The company, which is backed by WPP, opened its doors in November 2007 and has had a very good 2012. Its client roster filled out with brands including Coca-Cola, Google and Bacardi and it was also honored as the “creme de la creme” across the WPP network for its work with WNYC Radio. Revenue increased 400% from 2009 to 2010. In 2011, they expect revenue to be up 120% from last year if things go as planned.

Co-founders Leo Premutico and Jan Jacobs

Co-founders Leo Premutico and Jan Jacobs


“Our new business chart looks like a tidal wave,” said general manager John McCarthy. The work at the shop, whose moniker is a mashup of its co-founders’ names, Jan Jacobs and Leo Premutico, stems from one overarching philosophy: The customer is the medium.

“We can talk about mediums and silos and digital and television and print,” said Mr. Premutico. “But the most powerful medium we have at our disposal is our consumers.”

Consider Johannes’ work for Google’s “Demo Slam.” The campaign invited consumers to show off Google products by uploading videos onto the Demo Slam website, which saw almost 1 billion total impressions from 4.8 million visitors.

When the agency was tapped by the Clarins Fragrance Group to launch a luxury brand, it created an entirely new word, “womanity,” and a website to go along. Online, users submitted images, words and music about what womanity means. Submissions were then integrated into the site in a mosaic. Over 2.4 million unique visitors came to the platform.

For agency executive Mr. Premutico, who along with Mr. Jacobs was previously part of the creative firebrand duo at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, a smaller agency has meant closer contact with clients. “There are no layers between us,” he said.

Coca-Cola, one of the shop’s blue-chip accounts, has particularly liked that aspect, said Guy Duncan, global group creative director at the beverage giant. “We always get to see the CDs and their top team,” he said.

Expectations are high, too, for the work that’s going to be coming out of Johannes in the next year.

“The work they’ve turned out for us has been fresh, surprising, and it raises our creative bar,” said Mr. Duncan, who said Johannes understood the brand’s sensibilities and its long history, despite being a new partner. “We can’t reveal too much about the work yet, but we’re very excited.”

The challenge will be keeping that closeness to the clients as the roster expands and the shop’s headcount increases. The agency is growing — 50 people now work there — but Mr. Premutico is adamant that the way it works will not change. “We’ve tried to keep our culture the way it was when it started. We don’t even feel like we’ve grown.”

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