2 Baltimore ad agencies among leaders in growth


Two Baltimore advertising agencies were among the four fastest-growing ad shops in the Southeast during 1994, according to a survey in the trade journal Adweek.

Trahan, Burden & Charles Inc. and W. B. Doner & Co. ranked third and fourth, respectively, among the top 15 agencies, which included southeastern offices of New York firms like BBDO Worldwide Inc. and J. Walter Thompson Co.

TBC's billings rose 22.6 percent to $90.7 million, while billings of Doner's Baltimore office jumped 15.4 percent to $107 million. Doner has a co-headquarters in Southfield, Mich., an office that was named Adweek's Midwestern agency of the year.

"Doner [Detroit] seems to have won just about every piece of new business it has pursued" since late 1993, the magazine said. Doner's overall billings jumped $25 million to $450 million last year.

The two local agencies had similar 1994 success but got there by very different means.

TBC President Robert Matz said 17 of the 22 percentage points of his agency's growth came from existing customers, mostly in the entertainment and computer fields, while Herbert Fried, chairman of Doner's executive committee, said Doner's push came from new clients.

"Basically, it revolved around the Promus Companies, which is Harrah's casinos," Mr. Matz said, saying that the nationwide advertising account has expanded as more states have legalized casino gambling. "They have grown a lot in the last two years. There has been an explosion in casino gambling.

Mr. Fried said three big new accounts boosted Doner's Baltimore operation. Doner won the nod from First National Bank of Maryland to create a campaign for its photo credit cards (local TV watchers know the nearly omnipresent ads as the ones starring Dickensian-looking ruffians impressed by a credit card that "cahn't be pinched"); reclaimed the advertising business for Colt 45 malt liquor and National Bohemian beer, which Mr. Fried said Doner had lost five years ago after a corporate takeover; and won the account to promote the expanded sportswear and skiwear lines of Hunt Valley-based Fila USA, whose advertising vice president is a former Doner executive.

The relationship "was not key, but it was certainly helpful," Mr. Fried said.

The magazine said the only cloud over Doner's growth in 1994 was that most of its new business came from regional rather than national accounts. But with a new account announced this year from Coca-Cola, the magazine said, that could change in 1995. Both local agencies say they are hopeful for the still-youthful year.

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