With a sweeping campaign for Kleenex, VSA Partners is no longer just a ‘design firm’

Excerpt from Crain’s Chicago, June 8, by Brigid Sweeney
Photo by John Boehm

Chicago design firm VSA Partners long has been known among the design cognoscenti, but it is about to become a lot more visible outside that realm.

The tiny design firm that grew into a full-service ad agency is the architect of everything from consumer brand packaging to social media campaigns. And this week it launches a high-profile campaign for Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex brand that VSA executives describe as groundbreaking.
The sweeping campaign is the latest major account win for 33-year-old VSA, which long was known for creating flawless logos and annual reports for clients like Harley-Davidson and IBM. Since adding a marketing division in 2012 and nabbing top creative talent from big agencies, the $81 million firm has gained $20 million in revenue and hired 46 more employees. The Chicago office numbers 206; including offices in New York and Detroit, total headcount is 315.

The mission today, CEO Dana Arnett says, is to offer a smart one-stop shop for clients who previously employed one agency to create their TV ads, another for digital and social media advertising, and still others for product packaging, store displays and data mining. As consumers increasingly bounce among brick-and-mortar and desktop and mobile browsing, brands require a unified approach instead of a mishmash dominated by never-ending cross-agency meetings.

“As channels continue to blur across devices and platforms, we believe you can’t afford to separate the functions anymore,” Arnett says. “Design becomes the red thread across all those mediums, so that the brand has both consistency and uniqueness.”

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