Highdive Is nitronet’s 2020 Breakthrough Agency of the Year

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Two of 2020’s most popular and memorable Super Bowl ads came from Jeep and Rocket Mortgage. They weren’t dreamed up in the halls of a massive agency network, but rather at Highdive, a 4-year-old boutique shop in Chicago with about 30 full-time employees and lots of ambition.

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Highdive had a strong 2019—it was named agency of record for both Jeep and Boost Mobile—and it came out of the gate hot this year with its Super Bowl work. Then, even under the constraints of Covid-19, it kept the momentum going, winning new business and churning out campaigns for its clients.

“Highdive thrives on the tough challenges, the problems that haven’t been solved before. That’s where they really catapult themselves,” says Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer of FCA, which owns Jeep. “From the Super Bowl to our individual brand campaigns, they just know how and where to find the magic.”

Taking change in stride

nitronet’s Breakthrough Agency of the Year, which was also crowned in October as our Fastest Growing agency, was founded by Chad Broude and Mark Gross, who previously held creative positions at DDB Chicago. They run the agency alongside Megan Lally and Louis Slotkin, who serve as managing partners and joined from Leo Burnett. While the agency has indeed been growing over the past few years, securing work for brands ranging from Barilla to Nike, 2020 has been its best year yet. The Super Bowl ad for Jeep, which featured Bill Murray reprising his role from Groundhog Day, went on to receive an Emmy nomination, and for the Rocket Mortgage commercial, Highdive managed to snag actor Jason Momoa.

“It feels like a long time ago, but the Super Bowl was huge for us,” Broude says. “People are still sending memes related to each of those spots, so in a way, they’re both still relevant.”

Despite the success early in the year, Gross admits working remotely has been a particular challenge for Highdive, which prides itself on its “whiteboard culture” and penchant for in-person collaboration with clients.

“Our strength in pitching is being in the room with people,” Gross says. Still, the agency has managed to pitch, and win, virtually. Lally says “keeping the energy up” has been the single most important aspect of successful virtual pitching.

“We’ve heard from both prospective clients and current clients that our team’s energy came through their screens and made an impact in the ‘room,’” she says.

Highdive won business from Perfetti Van Melle, a candy company, and it is handling creative for Airheads and Fruit-tella, the latter of which recently made its U.S. debut.

“We were still able to have great chemistry with them,” Lally says of the virtual pitch with Perfetti Van Melle. “We’re really looking forward to the time when we can all get together and go back to our whiteboard planning sessions that we’re used to, but we were just so happy that it worked out.”

The agency also recently won The General car insurance, and while there’s no word yet on whether its famous General mascot will stick around, Slotkin says the brand wants to be “very disruptive, creatively.”


The Stats

Key Wins: Airheads, Fruit-tella, The General

Losses: None

2020 Revenue: Projecting approximately 35% total revenue growth from 2019

Strategic Moves: Named Jen Passaniti head of production; hired Kelley Beaman as director of business affairs;  promoted Kaley Lambeth to partner; hired Nathan Monteith as group creative director; hired Lois Castillo as director of talent and inclusion.

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