In 1999, Paine PR (then Paine & Associates) beat out—and shocked—a handful of far larger firms for the Hyundai public relations account. In 2000, the agency proved that was no fluke, adding more big name clients to its roster, ranging from Iomega—a seven-figure technology account—to Levi Strauss & Co., which selected Paine to handle its Dockers and Slates brands. With explosive growth in its Costa Mesa headquarters and a new office in New York, Paine has clearly regained some of the momentum the firm appeared to lose in the late 90s.
The foundation of the firm’s success is its culture, and founder David Paine is a fanatic on the subject. He was proselytizing on the subject of work-life balance long before it became fashionable, and even developed a proprietary software system to project and balance employee workloads to ensure they aren’t over-stretched. The firm also has a generous profit sharing plan and a culture that encourages risk-taking and eliminates hierarchy and bureaucracy. Turnover is among the lowest in the industry.
Paine’s approach may not appeal to everyone, but it’s attracted a roster of blue-chip clients that includes Polaroid, Suzuki, Hyundai, Miller Brewing, Toshiba Medical, and Bausch & Lomb, as well as the recent wins identified above. Other additions in 2000 included BlueLight.com (Kmart’s Internet venture), DirecTV, and BigVine.com (backed by American Express). Best known for developing big-ideas creative programming for consumer products companies (now supplemented by a creative department offering design and advertising capabilities), Paine is also quite capable in the corporate realm, and boasts industry expertise in the healthcare and now also the technology sectors.
With growth for 2000 of better than 50 percent, Paine estimates fees for the year of better than $7 million. One of the things that makes that possible is that Paine has been able to attract key people—new hires in 2000 include Valinda Accetta as technology director and Paul Kokinakes as president of the new creative service company—and being able to hold on to the people it already has.