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Holmes Report
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Holmes Report


Mike Mulvihill, 804-675-8100

Richmond, New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Norfolk


CRT/tanaka was created last October when Carter Ryley Thomas, the fast-growing Richmond-based firm best known for its progressive workplace culture, acquired New York creative boutique Patrice Tanaka & Company. The merger created a midsize agency with fees of more than $10 million and national capabilities (there are offices in Richmond, New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, N.C., and Norfolk, Va.). But chairman and CEO Mark Raper doesn’t want to stop there. He plans to build a $25 million agency over the next five years, establishing CRT/tanaka as the premiere independent in the market.

                There’s no doubt that he has a solid base upon with to build. Both CRT and Patrice Tanaka were among the best-respected firms in the country before the merger, and the fact that they shared many common values suggests that the cultural foundation is strong. Tanaka and her management team bought themselves out from the Chiat Day advertising agency, while CRT was formed when Raper and his partners extracted themselves from the Virginia office of Earle Palmer Brown, so they have similar roots. More important, they worked together for a couple of years as members of the Lumin Collaborative of independent PR firms, getting to know each other well along the way.

                So far, the merging of the two cultures appears to have gone smoothly, with the combined entity ranking among our 10 Best Midsize Agencies to Work For. The values—what’s best for the group comes first; work for and trust each other; seek responsibility, and share recognition and rewards; respect and value individuals and their differences; keep a balance between family and work—are clearly deeply embedded. Said one respondent: “While CRT/tanaka is a new entity… the company culture has remained intact. In fact, in many ways, it has only gotten better. We continue to live our values, strive to improve our communities through community service and pro bono work and most importantly, achieve great work for our clients.”

                In fact, both Raper and Tanaka are keen to point out that the merger was conducted primarily for the benefit of those clients, who will now have access to a broad range of services. CRT was strong in consumer and healthcare public relations, both areas that are strengthened by the Tanaka acquisition, and in the corporate realm. The consumer practice is now led by Tanaka, who brings particular expertise in cause-related marketing, and spans several industry sectors, including fashion and beauty, retail, food, consumer electronics and communications technology). The health practice is led by Brian Ellis in Richmond and has worked for Rx and OTC pharmaceuticals, as well as providers and payers, device companies and professional associations. The corporate practice is helmed by Michael Whitlow and includes business-to-business marketing, financial communications, public affairs and employee engagement expertise.

                There was growth from several of the firm’s major clients in 2005 including Bristol Myers-Squibb, Philip Morris, Sprint Nextel, ITT Industries, and HoMedics, and there were plenty of new clients too, including Altec Lansing, Atkins Nutritionals, Brooks Software, BabyCenter, Chadwick’s of Boston, Efficient Frontier, Longwood University, Owens & Minor Medical, Target House, Thomson Financial, and Wines from Rioja. With the acquisition, CRT’s revenues were up 87 percent; organic growth across the two brands was a healthy 13 percent.

                CRT/tanaka scored high marks in our Client Satisfaction study. “CRT is the perfect agency,” says one respondent, who likes the “big agency thinking and
execution without big agency attitudes and bureaucracy.”

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