Minneapolis firm Colle McVoy wins AdWeek’s Agency of the Year honor

In 2009, the best-known advertising agencies in the Twin Cities joined forces to promote “MinneADpolis” as a thriving city for creative ad work.

But in the years since, some of the more familiar names on Twin Cities ad scene disappeared in acquisitions, consolidations, mergers and even closures.

One legacy firm, though, is reaffirming Minneapolis’ place as the city of advertising, a title many industry veterans still believe is true. On Tuesday, Adweek, the top trade publication for the nation’s ad and marketing industry, awarded Colle McVoy its Agency of the Year award for the midsize category, marking the first time a Minneapolis agency has won an Adweek top honor in roughly 30 years.

“I’m excited for the recognition, not only for Colle McVoy, but for this creative community,” said Chief Executive Christine Fruechte, who has led the organization for more than 15 years. “I have great pride and great respect for the design firms, the [public relations] firms, the creative agencies in Minneapolis that have been here for decades.”

Fruechte, who also sits on the Star Tribune’s board, called the award the biggest in the 88-year history of Colle McVoy, one of the companies behind that 2009 campaign.

Adweek defines midsized companies as those with between 101 and 250 employees. The award — which goes to a firm that is setting the standard for where the industry is heading in 2024 — factors in revenue growth, strategy and use of technology, the company’s best and most effective ad creation as well as its work culture.

Revenue is up 25% so far this year at Colle McVoy, Fruechte said, though she declined to disclose specific information. The client list at Colle McVoy — which New York-based Stagwell owns and publicly trades — includes Goodyear, Perdue Farms, U.S. Bank, Target, gummy-maker Haribo and La-Z-Boy.

The award comes at a time when the ad industry is at its most complex, with agencies trying to grasp how to best use AI, manage smaller budgets from clients and navigate hybrid work preferences within an industry that relies heavily on collaboration.

“It’s a very difficult time,” said Jessica Henrichs, president at Colle McVoy. “Margins are thin, clients are considering taking work in-house, budgets are constrained. … This is a challenging time for marketing and advertising. We were really intentional about creating a new model that answers to the pressures that advertising is under, that answers to a new way to build relationships with our clients and deliver work that really is different and unique and helps drive their business.”

There’s also competition on various fronts. Small boutiques can focus on being experts in one particular service while giant holding companies flex their resources and mush together subsidiaries to service client needs.

Colle McVoy, with about 225 employees, purposefully kept payroll a certain size to maintain flexibility without sacrificing talent. It offers a full suite of services under one roof to give brands a helping hand at multiple levels of business, from ideation and product design to mixed media content creation, Fruechte and Henrichs said.

The advantage, they said, is the ability to outcompete smaller firms but still have a close-knit group that doesn’t worry about being unfamiliar with each other’s roles, responsibilities and skills.

Aside from a shift into a virtual work format in 2019, which softened the transition into remote work at the onset of the pandemic, the firm in the last few years regrouped its talent into four distinct teams, providing opportunities for employees to contribute to campaigns for brands of various sizes and industries.

That approach — in addition to becoming certified as a B corporation, meaning the company meets various accountability, transparency, environmental and social standards — has allowed to the firm to attract employees from different backgrounds and at various stages of their careers.

The award from Adweek validates the strategy direction Fruechte and Henrichs have taken.

It also reminds the industry as whole the creative talent flowing through the city.

“There’s so much creativity in this marketplace, and the more we can celebrate that and people know about it, the more talent is going to be drawn to this special place called the Twin Cities,” Fruechte said.