And to some, the five-year-old Modea ad agency, located in the Blue Ridge Mountain college town of Blacksburg, is probably one of the best-kept secrets in Virginia.
On the national advertising front, however, they have broken the barriers and are known as one of the fastest growing digital ad agencies in the country with a youthful image and an emphasis on creativity and fun. Their mission is to live up to clients' expectations and beyond by delivering a quality product built by a cast of young people who are the best of the best in their fields of technology.
Modea was highlighted in Inc. Magazine in 2010 who ranked it 221st among the 5,000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the country with revenues growing 1,335% ($3.3 million) in three years. Within the advertising and marketing industry, Modea ranks 27th in the country.
In their own words they described themselves: "Our secret recipe: We take brand builders who love technology and technologists who love brands, throw them into a blender, mix well, and pour out Modea."
It was the brain child of Virginia Tech graduates Aaron Herrington and David Catalano who were both 27 years old when they pooled their resources to begin the adventure in 2006 and hatched the name "Modea" by combining two words: "modern" and "ideas." It's pronounced mow-DEE-ah.
The company is exclusively digital, a full-service ad agency that has grown by leaps and bounds, expanding from three employees to the current 82 with plans to build a larger complex and increase to 200 employees. Quite simply, they want to be the best agency in the world, according to Herrington ... and they're well on their way.
That work ethic was rewarded this week when Modea won Advertising Age's "Small Agency Best Culture of the Year" award during the recent small agency conference in Denver, Colorado, as reported by MarketWire:
The agency has brought together brand builders who love technology, and technologists who love brands to create work that naturally fosters connections with its clients' consumers. With all 82 of its employees based in Blacksburg, VA, Modea has developed an agency culture based on accountability, passion for creating, and an entrepreneurial drive to invent. Since its founding in 2006, the agency has experienced 75-100% annual growth and was named the 221st fastest growing company in America by INC Magazine. Modea has been successful in drawing talent from across the country through its unique culture, its strong focus on creative, and its commitment to creating an unparalleled quality of life for its employees.Modea is hip, cutting-edge, unconventional, and dead serious. Modea's employees play hard and work harder, pitching ideas and thinking outside the button-down shirt box. Their average age is 29 with a median salary of $77,000. Every day is casual Friday ... and Fridays are for dress up, as decided by the employees.
A laid-back, informal atmosphere permeates the worldwide headquarters located in downtown Blacksburg with free-lunch Fridays, company-sponsored Happy Hours, a foosball table in the bathroom, and a never-ending supply of snacks and soda to help feed the creative juices.
The company hires programmers, web developers, artists, project and account managers, information architects, copywriters, and video producers. They recruit for careers, not jobs. They look for top tier talent from Atlanta, New York City, Los Angelos, DC, and other locations, and bring them home to Blacksburg.
Modea's blog is a lighthearted combination of quirkiness and insider tidbits, offering a peek into the energized atmosphere that makes up the company with photos showing a chili cook-off, soccer and baseball games, and celebrations classified as the Modean culture. Earlier this year, Matt Chittum with the Roanoke Times wrote an in-depth article about Modea that highlighted its Google- and Facebook-inspired casualness.
In March, Governor Bob McDonnell announced a $10 million expansion for Modea, to include a new campus-style building. By 2015 they'd like to be up to 250 employees. At the time Herrington commented, "We are thrilled to be able to locate our headquarters in downtown Blacksburg, one of the most well balanced places to live in the country. This long-term commitment will allow Modea to take our agency to the next level."
When they decided to expand, the decision was made to stay in Virginia even though they were wooed by Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas who wanted the high tech company and its jobs. Instead, they stayed where they began ... in the beautiful mountains of southwestern Virginia.
Think of it as another seed for Silicone Valley East.