In a business that's all about telling people what they want to hear, The Starr Conspiracy goes against the grain and tells its clients what they need to know—and nothing more.
“We’re going to tell the truth,” says Steve Smith, one of five partners in the Fort Worth-based marketing agency. “If we think they’re making a mistake, we tell them; if they’re a good client, they can handle it.”
Among other things, The Starr Conspiracy does rebranding work, messaging, media planning, and marketing research and communications. It caters to companies in specialized markets, particularly “human capital management” concerns like the Dutch recruiting software company MrTed and San Francisco-based rewards and recognition software developer Achievers.
It wasn’t easy to wrangle those client names out of the company. Unlike other marketers, the agency likes to keep things shrouded in mystery—hence the “conspiracy”—and protect the names of clients, who are often fierce competitors.
Founded in 1999, The Starr Conspiracy has experienced profound change during the past couple of years. It changed its name from Starr Tincup and added former Omnicom exec Paul Roberts as CEO. He’s leading the charge to segue to a more business-to-consumer marketing model in a business-to-business niche.
“The agency already had foothold and traction,” Roberts says. “I knew what it needed.”
The early returns are promising. Last year, he Starr Conspiracy had its best year ever. Capitalized billings grew 33 percent to $21.3 million last year, up from $16 million in 2010.
But it’s not always about the money. The Starr Conspiracy is currently doing pro bono rebranding work for the foundation of the James L. West Alzheimer Center. Melissa Mitchell, a board member of the Fort Worth-based memory care facility, became familiar with the agency when it did work for her husband’s company, Bennett Benner Petit Architects and Planners.
“They approach things with a sense of wonderment and curiosity for their clients,” Mitchell says. “We cannot say enough good things about them. We’re still building the brand, and we launch at the start of the year.” The agency also takes care of its own with unlimited paid time off, health benefi ts with no deductibles, the option to telecommute, and a mini-bar in the office.
Next year, The Starr Conspiracy will move to new digs, to accommodate its growth from 35 to 50 employees.