The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

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By The Drum, Editorial

December 7, 2023 | 7 min read

NinetyEight is a new kind of agency staffed by a team of virtual digital marketing specialists and working for clients based across the US. The last year saw the agency pick up its biggest clients to date - Meta and Bumble - and double its revenue. The agency also collected the Agency of the Year (less than 10 peole) award at The Drum Awards for Agency Business. Here is the award-winning case study.

NinetyEight is a digital marketing agency founded and run by a team of Gen Zs. Since 2020, the agency has been a pioneer for getting the voice of Gen Z at the forefront of digital marketing. We specifically do this by reaching Gen Z, the Gen Z way: through unfiltered digital media like TikTok, engaging in emerging trends with influencers, empowering the Gen Z community, and building brands to rally behind.

Based in Los Angeles, NinetyEight operates virtually with a team and clientele who are globally based across the US, Asia, Australia, and the UK. As an independent agency, we operate on a decentralized organizational structure where feedback and input are encouraged from everyone, regardless of title. Our culture fits in accordance with the values of Gen Z, who are multi-dimensional – taking on roles across 3 main agency departments: Client Services, Strategy + Insights, and Social Media Content Creation. Leadership at NinetyEight consists of a C-Suite which is composed of 3 Co-Founders who manage the operational and business development aspects of the company.

In the past year, NinetyEight has won our biggest clients to date, Meta and Bumble, helping them reach Gen Z across TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We’ve also bridged the gap to Gen Z with other clients including PepsiCo, Paul Frank, Turo, The Legacy Lab, ThinkLA, Girl Code, artworxLA, and more. Our massive growth in clientele drove us to double our revenue and client retention in 2022 from 2021.

In the past year, we went from a team of 4 full-time members to 6 full-time members. We have achieved many successes with this team including our social media work with Paul Frank which received a 2022 Nyx Award Grand Winner in the Social Media - Social Engagement category. As a leader in the Gen Z Marketing space, NinetyEight has been featured in major publications like the New York Post and Fast Company. We have been guests in multiple podcasts like Hello Content and Social Pros. Co-Founder, Gia Lee, has also received a Top Women in Marketing award as a Marketer to Watch (30 and under) by PR Daily and Co-Founder, Celine Chai, was added as the first Gen Z Board Member for ThinkLA – a prominent LA marketing and advertising collective.

What separates NinetyEight from other Gen Z Marketing agencies lies not only in our Gen Z team and founders, but in our proprietary Gen Z research community, the Koi Pond. The Koi Pond is a Gen Z community that provides unfiltered, no-BS opinions to our clients. In the past year, we have doubled the size of the Koi Pond across the globe. Through the Koi Pond, we’ve delivered unparalleled qualitative insights for clients like PepsiCo and ThinkLA, 6 months ahead of top research companies like GWI. The Koi Pond has also helped guarantee virality through content testing and feedback. This has been particularly crucial for clients like Paul Frank whose TikTok audience we grew from 500 to over 90K followers in a year with $0 in media spend.

We worked with 98 in a trademark sprint looking to unlock branding that appealed to modern, young consumers. 98 was an incredible asset to our trademark/branding search process. They delivered quickly which is essential in a fast-paced environment but kept it organized and very extremely communicative/collaborative throughout the process. The work was thoughtful and tapped into trends that legacy agencies don’t get to. We developed territories, dove in, refined, and evaluated. I also love that the team leveraged a network of young voices (the koi pond) to make sure their recommendations were preliminarily vetted with the audience we were trying to reach. Looking forward to working with them again! - Ryan Buesser, Director of External Innovation at PepsiCo

At this point in my career, I’ve had around 5 years of experience in social media management and marketing and not once have I felt so supported, encouraged, and understood by an employer. Not only have I been given the space to grow within my field as a strategist, but I have been given many opportunities to expand my abilities beyond my title that align with my passions. As a graphic designer by trade, I’ve been able to push my creative abilities to produce content that I’m proud of and has a real-world impact. I received my B.A. in World Arts & Cultures and have been able to apply intensive research methodologies I learned in college to the work we do at NinetyEight.

The work I’ve done here has inspired me to pursue my own personal research project that explores the relationship between cultures and digital spaces. While I have grown as a professional during my time at NinetyEight, I feel that I’ve grown just as much as a person. They have challenged me in positions that fostered collaborative efforts and leadership roles. This has translated into my own personal development, as I no longer shy away from group activities and projects, but embrace them and see the value in them. I truly don’t know where I would be today without NinetyEight and my incredible coworkers, who I can safely say, have become lifelong friends. I am proud to be a part of such a driven, passionate, and innovative workplace. - Rachael Previti, Social Media Strategist at NinetyEight

I’ve had the pleasure of working at NinetyEight for nearly two years now, and in no other time of my life have I experienced such an overwhelming amount of personal and professional growth. This is in large part due to the unmatched level of support I receive from my team. Despite being fully remote, I regularly feel seen by my team thanks to weekly all-hands meetings and biweekly 1-on-1 check-ins with my manager. Building a culture of support and care takes intentionality and effort, and NinetyEight has always risen to the task.

With this culture, staying at NinetyEight is never a question. It’s a given. My day-to-day work at NinetyEight remains refreshing and rewarding. I can never quite anticipate where my day is going to take me, and I mean that in the best way. We’re encouraged to dive down rabbit holes they present themselves, which often leads to new insights or projects we would have never expected otherwise. For example, we’re encouraged to take time away from work to play around with the company TikTok, experimenting with trends and features. Last year, one of my TikToks went viral on the company account, drawing in several new business opportunities and eventual clients (including one of our largest clients to date, Meta). This would have never been possible if I wasn’t given the freedom and space to be creative.

To this day, NinetyEight regularly challenges me to grow as an Account Manager. As someone that can be resistant to change, this healthy push from my team keeps me learning new skills and taking on new projects, when I may not have been brave enough to do so on my own. A key component of this is trust. Unlike other companies I’ve worked with, NinetyEight fully trusts me to take on new tasks and roles. This sense of trust not only gives me the space to develop new skills, but it also makes me proud to work here each day. - Truman Rae, Account Manager at NinetyEight

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