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Hal Riney & Partners, Inc., one of the most famous privately-owned
advertising agencies in San Francisco, CA, was founded in 1986 by chairman and
CEO Hal P. Riney himself. With the branch office in Chicago, Hal Riney &
Partners Heartland, reaches out to clients in different regions as well. Both
San Francisco and Chicago offices employ a total number of approximately 350
employees. Income/profitability -
As of July 1996, Hal Riney & Partners, Inc., had an approximate annual
billings of $475 million. The breakdown of gross billings by media are as
followes: Newspaper - $38 million; Business Publication - $4.75 million; Transit
- $4.75 million; Outdoor advertising - $19 million; TV - $275.5 million; Radio
- $42.7 million; Collateral - $9.5 million; Consumer publication - $57 million;
and cable TV - $23.75 million. Nowadays, the average percentage of earning
for advertising agencies is approximately between .05% to 1% of the total
billings. With a billing of $475 million, it would be logical to assume that
Hal Riney & Partners earns approximately $2.375 million to $4.75 million.
With the acquisition of several new accounts including Acer Group and Sprint
Spectrum, Hal Riney’s billing is now approaching $600 million. Management
The chairman and CEO of Hal Riney & Partners, Inc., is Mr. Hal Riney.
There are over 30 Sr. VPs and VPs holding various positions at the San Francisco
office alone. Some of the key personnel at the San Francisco office includes
Vice Chairman - James Travis; Chief Financial Officer & Executive VP - Lyn
Muegge; Executive VP & National Creative Director - Joe O’Neill; Executive VP,
and Managing Director - David Verklin; Executive VP and Corporate Development -
John Yost; and Creative Director - Gerald Andelin.
The Chicago office handles a set of different clients with its own
different personnel such as Barray Krause - Executive V.P. and Managing
Director; Jonathan Harries - Executive V.P. and Executive Creative Director;
Catharine Gerber - Senior V.P. and Media Director; and Paul Janas - Senior V.P.
and Creative Director. Hal Riney has recently added Scott Marshall as the
president on his pay roll after several unsuccessful search for new partners.
In the past 18 months, Hal Riney had also held conversations with Interpublic
Group (who owns McCann-Erickson, Lintas, etc.) and W.Y. Choi (a majority owner
of N.W. Ayer & Partners) in attempt to sale his agency. Clients -
Hal Riney & Partners serves a variety of clients from auto maker to fast
food restaurant. Current major clients include Acer Group, Alamo car rental
company, Birkenstock, The Walt Disney Company, Cox California PCS, GM Electric
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Saturn Corporation, Subway Restaurant, Mirage Resorts, Inc., The Good Guys!,
Pharmative Corporation, The Stroh Brewery Co., Progressive Insurance, Crystal
Geyser Water, Kinko’s Service Corporation, Sprint PCS (formerly known as Sprint
Spectrum), and Serta, Inc.
Sprint PCS, a recently acquired client, has an estimated budget of $20
- $30 million. Hal Riney’s first responsibility is to build the brand
personality and image advertising of Sprint’s wireless phone and communication
services. The account is being overseen by Riney co-executive creative director
Steve Sweitzer and creative director Dave O’Hare. Riney will also create
regional print and radio ads to tie into Sprint’s retail alliance, Radio Shack.
In addition to Sprint PCS, Hal Riney is playing a very active role in
Saturn Corporation’s launch in Japan with the seventh largest Japanese
advertising agency, Daiichi Kikaku. Saturn’s goal is to be No. 1 in customer
and dealer satisfaction.
Despite its success, HR&P had raised a rather controversial campaign in
the past. It would only be fair to present some of the unsuccessful campaigns
to achieve the objectivity of this assignment. One of those controversial ones
was the Swedish Bikini Team for Old Milwaukee Beer in 1992. The campaign was
charged and accused of being sexist by native Swedish and various feminist
groups in the US. HR&P withdrew the campaign and later resigned the account.
Corporate/Creative Philosophy -
Hal Riney has a special way to “talk to” the American people. He has a
unique way to profile people and make them seem real, thus give them credibility.
His voice was featured at several commercials such as the Bank of America
advertisement and the KQED Channel 9 in San Francisco. According to Michele
Kirk, the creative director at Macy’s Advertising, Hal Riney won’t pick up a
client that he has no faith in. His ads often give the audience a warm and
fuzzy feeling similar to the “feel-good” ads for Ronald Regan presidential
election in 1984.
The agency has recently revamped the creative department to expand the
number of creative brains available to work on each account and new business
pitch. Under the new construction, creative directors can pull any staff member
in the creative pool to work on any account on an as needed basis. Previously,
each creative team worked exclusively on two or three accounts. The team
approach eliminates all the hierarchy in the creative process thus the creative
team helps to get work approved quickly and efficiently.
In addition to the reconstruction of his creative department, Hal Riney
has his own corporate philosophy. Riney believes the client’s relationship with
an agency is like a marriage. He believes the problems don’t get solved by
being ignored. They have to be raised and discussed. The ones who work through
problems will become stronger for the experience. In other words, if the
agency were a person, which would you encourage your daughter to marry?
Successful Campaigns -
Hal Riney’s successful, “the Saturn Family,” campaign began in 1990 by
focusing on the Saturn’s employees who work in Spring Hill, Tennessee. For the
past two years, the campaign has focused in on the customers - giving the
consumers a sense of who the people are, what they do for living or for fun, and
how they feel about Saturn cars. The campaign has boosted Saturn sales of more
than 20 percent from 1992 to 1994, as well as the establishment of brand
personality. The campaign promotes a homespun portraits of the people, not the
cars. One of the recent “Saturn Family” ads featured hundreds of Saturn
volunteers building thousands of dollars worth of playground equipment in 12
sites around New York. This “family” campaign has been going on for over five
years, and it is likely the campaign will remain the same. There is no reason
to change a campaign when it is effectively reaching the audience.
Aside from Hal Riney’s media use, he was also a member of the creative &
political team who created the “feel-good” commercials for Ronald Reagan in 1984.
It is hard to determine how “good” of a president Reagan was, but the
campaign did bring victory to Reagan in 1984 in the presidential election.
However, when the Reform Party presidential candidate, Ross Perot, asked Riney
for an official campaign role, Riney denied the offer. Regardless what Riney
did in 1992, his “feel-good” campaign for Reagan was a proven success. New
Business wins/losses -
HR&P’s headquarters office in San Francisco has lost some of its luster
in the past two years or so, while its Chicago’s office has done well with new
business wins. Recent loss of accounts include Peets Coffee & Tea Co., Eddie
Bauer, Inc., and Aspen Skiing Co., all with a $5 million in billings. HR&P also
lost the $25 million First Interstate Bank account after Wells Fargo’s buyout of
On the bright side, HR&P Heartland is continuing its business with Kinko
Corporation, the nation’s largest chain of document production and business
service stores, after a four month agency review. Plus, not to mention First
Union Corporation, with an expected billings of $30 million, named Hal Riney &
Partners as its new corporate advertising agency. HR&P will be responsible in
producing and developing campaigns to promote the financial services company and
the expanding lines of business.
HR&P also added Acer America Corporation, a computer company, on its
account list. The advertising agency’s main goal is to raise brand awareness
among consumers. Its solution is a witty campaign far removed from the tech-
and-spec approach of most computer advertising. Skyy Spirits Inc. as well
awarded HR&P, San Francisco, a $5 million account, to handle advertising for
brands like Skyy Vodka, which was previously handled by Monte Sandy & Needham
Advertising in Walnut Creek, CA.
Other new acquisition includes Sprint Spectrum with an expected billings
of $80 million, Cox California PCS and GM Electric Vehicle with estimated
billings of $25 million respectively. Subway Franchise Advertising Board also
retains its five-year partner, HR&P/Heartland, to handle its advertising with
an estimated billings at $85 million after a few months of review. Special
HR&P, Inc. specializes in brand building. A success example of its
brand building capability is Saturn Corporation - the homespun feeling. Mr.
Riney knows what his clients want and like. Hal Riney’s ability to talk to the
American people and his ability to talk to the “lower denominator” of the
society have won him several accounts as well as keeping them. Hal Riney has
been wanting to retire and to sell off his agency for a few years, but his
clients threaten to withdraw their accounts if he quits. I believe his ability
to cope with clients and the general public have enabled him to stay in business
since the opening of HR&P in 1986. Primary Competitors -
In a recent sales pitch with Subway Restaurant, HR&P was one of the
three finalists who competed for the account. The other finalists included New
York based agencies - Deutsch Inc.; Devito/Verdi; and Partners & Shevack.
Riney was awarded the account after a lengthy agency review. HR&P was also
competing with two other agencies, Lois/EJL Advertising and Mendelson/Zien
Advertising, in the Los Angeles area for the $25 million Cox California PCS, a
unit of Cox Communication, Inc., account.
It is hard to identify the primary competitors for HR&P since most
advertising agencies are competing with one another to an extent. For instance,
HR&P recently won the $5 million Skyy Spirits Inc. account from Monte Sandy &
Needham Advertising. MS&A Advertising is a small agency with only 14 employees
based in Walnut Creek, CA. Just a month ago, Hal Riney was competing against
several San Francisco agencies such as Atlas & Co., Black Rocket, Team One
Advertising and Citron Haligman Bedecarre for the $7 million Powerfood
(PowerBar) account. The size of the competing agencies for Powerfood ranged
from 10 employees (Atlas & Co.) to 200 employees (Team One Advertising, a sub-
division of Satchi & Satchi). Thus, it is hard to identify who the main
competitors are based on the billings and the size of the agency.