If your company is about to be sued for dumping environmental waste, or if there’s a hostile takeover bid looming on the horizon, you probably don’t want to call the folks at Jericho Communications. If you’re launching a new microchip and you want someone to put together a spec sheet and line-up industry analysts, you probably don’t want to call the folks at Jericho. But if you’re the senior marketing guy at a packaged goods company and you want an off-the-wall PR idea that will catch the eye of even the most jaded reporter, Jericho should probably be at the top of your list.
Jericho’s specialty is a dying art, the good old-fashioned publicity stunt. Last year, the firm attracted national attention to client Cape Cod Potato Chips via a tie-in to the last episode of Seinfeld and imported a real live shaman from the rainforests of Brazil to promote an online herbal retailer. This year, Jericho asked some pretty strange questions to learn the differences between Met and Yankee fans (Yankee fans are five times as likely to have a subscription to Playboy, and six times as likely to own a gun). And president Eric Yaverbaum authored his second book, PR for Dummies.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Jericho isn’t serious about what it does, however. The firm has a strong bottom-line focus, and its creative concepts are not plucked out of thin air: they combine emotional appeal—an attempt to provoke a reaction from the intended audience—with their commercial message. The agency has been successful in attracting alumni from larger, more conservative firms—this year Hill & Knowlton veteran Marc Wasserman joined to run the new Seattle office, and former Fleishman-Hillard exec Finley Shaw came on board to run one of the firm’s consumer groups—because it combines strategic insight with a willingness to take risks.
The payoff is another year of 30 percent-plus growth, with new business from clients such a Jose Cuervo and Stoliichnaya and The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company, which includes the Teletubbies. Jericho continues to handle ongoing assignments for a host of dot-coms, including BuyerZone.com, DietSmart.com, and AccuWeather.com, and for mainstream clients such as IKEA, Bell Atlantic, and Progreessive Auto Insurance.