22Squared Marks Its 100th Anniversary as “Independents"

Employee-owned creative company reflects on its “Independent’s Day” centennial and what the next century looks like

ATLANTA, GA., February 22, 2022— Free. Solo. Unbothered. Independent. At 22squared we believe in creating a world of freedom, experimentation, courage, equity, individuality and imagination, so we can foster a culture of real inclusion and unparalleled creativity. We’re not just an independent agency, we are a collective of “independents” driven by a common mission. If we’re doing our jobs right, everything we create, no matter how big or small, is an opportunity for us to make our clients’ brands impossible to ignore by adding value to people’s lives.

We’ve weathered the highs and lows that come with nurturing and protecting that spirit of independence, as culture and technologies evolved. And so, even as we look towards the next 100 years, we’re excited to take a moment to celebrate our 100th Independent’s Day.

A Look Back

Founded in February 1922 in Atlanta, by visionary James Greene, who, unsatisfied by the traditional corporate model, established a new kind of company where all shareholders were required to be an active employee. 22Squared has remained fiercely independent and committed to this ethos with current employees acting as shareholders (60% of which are women), to this day.
As we navigated the incredible changes that have shaped our industry, including the birth of television, color television, mobile technology and the onset of the digital age, we’ve also changed (and challenged) the way advertising speaks to its audiences; by talking with versus talking at. We helped brands not just reflect culture, but engage with communities meaningfully. Our work, our culture, our values and our people are testament to the spirit that continues to drive us and to the belief that creativity is a force for good.

Recent Transformation

We’ve always pushed to think about “What if?”, not “What is.”

In the last two years we expanded even further, moving from a single agency model to a portfolio approach with the ability to service clients across a broader variety of needs and challenges. Under the Guided by Good umbrella helmed by former 22Squared CEO, Richard Ward, Trade School, our content arm and Dendro, our consulting practice were introduced.
As the pandemic took hold in 2020 ushering in the work from home era, 22squared made the bold decision to establish a decentralized agency culture, eliminating the physical constraints of our Atlanta and Tampa offices. This move gave us national presence and scale with 50% of our senior leadership team now in NYC and other key staff based in Los Angeles. We also grew our staff by 15% despite the industry cumulatively letting go of 35,000 workers.

Despite the many challenges faced by the industry, we’ve continued our impressive record of organic growth with long-standing clients like Publix Grocery (client since 1989), Southeast Toyota (client since 2000), Baskin-Robbins (client since 2010), AdCouncil (client since 2015), Advent Health (client since 2016).

In 2021 alone, we added 15 new clients to our roster including: Smithfield Foods, Amazon Prime Video, Strength of Nature, LA Pride and academic publishing institution McGraw-Hill, among others, across a variety of projects and challenges including multicultural and DEI initiatives across many of these new client engagements.

Throughout the year, we received recognition across numerous industry award shows bringing home a total of 21 awards for the year including: CLIOs, Webby’s, AICP, One Show, ADDYs, and the Shorty for Social Good.

Also in 2021, we became back to back recipients of one of Fast Company’s most prestigious honors being named one of the ten Most Innovative Social Good Companies with our social justice platform “Invisible Hate” developed in partnership with NAACP recognized by the publications World Changing Ideas Awards. We wrapped up the year with a bang being selected one of AdAge’s 2021 Standout Agencies.

It’s important for a company that sits at the intersection between culture and influence on behalf of brands to internally reflect a cross-sectional swath of audiences, especially the forgotten majority– namely women, persons of color and LGBTQ+.
In Jan 2022, Erica Hoholick became the company’s first female CEO and in just a few short months she has assembled a highly diverse and talented leadership team 62% of whom are women. Further, 70% of our entire staff also identifies as female, and 32% of staff identify as non-white.

It wasn’t just enough for us to acknowledge and work towards truly equitable change. We may not have all the answers, but when we found what worked for us, we wanted to help other independents out there building their own businesses. That’s why in 2021 we released Count Me In, a free public resource for companies looking to internalize and work towards becoming truly diverse and inclusive.

The Future

We know that having a wide breadth of individual experiences and perspectives in our company breeds more dynamic work that connects with all people, especially those who rarely, if ever, see themselves in communications, which is more critical now than ever before. That’s why we’ve put our renowned DEI approach, led by EVP and head of the DEI Council Janis Middleton, at the core of our agency and resulting work. Our DEI practice influences everything we do, impacting our culture and creative, strategy, clients and media, giving us an immeasurable advantage as we look towards the future.

We are committed to creating an environment of freedom, experimentation, courage, equity, individuality and imagination so we can foster a culture of real inclusion and unparalleled creativity, in which anything is possible.

In the next 100 years, we hope to continue to build, challenge and improve our culture, industry and craft in order to consistently create work that is impossible to ignore, delivering game-changing results for our clients and ourselves. All while remaining fiercely committed to our values, and our collective of “independents”.