Forbes has named The Variable one of “America’s Best Startup Employers,” adding to a list of recent accolades for the agency that includes 2020 “Best Workplaces for Innovators” by FastCompany and three “Small Agency of the Year” awards by Ad Age


Now in its second year, Forbes ranking of America’s Best Startup Employers is a joint effort with market research company Statista. Together, they selected and evaluated 2,500 companies that are 10 years old or younger with at least 50 employees and graded them on how well they perform in three key areas: employer reputation, employee satisfaction and business growth. Based on that criteria, Forbes deemed the top performing 500, including The Variable at No. 251, along with companies like Allbirds, Duolingo, Calm, Miro, Masterclass, Instacart and hims. 


“What’s set us apart from others in our field is the way we marry the thinking of an innovation consultancy with the doing of an advertising agency,” said David Mullen, president and partner at The Variable. “You can’t advertise your way out of broken business models or sub-par product experiences. And no one cares about the new innovation they never learn about. Innovation and advertising are inextricably tied together in helping brands overcome ever-increasing business complexity and they need a partner that can help them drive both successfully.” 


Not only has its innovation+advertising positioning and approach helped The Variable earn current clients like Electrolux, Char-Broil, P&G, Nestle, BASF, and AdvanceAmerica but also it helps the company attract and keep incredibly talented people from a variety of backgrounds and places.


“We have a rich mix of big agency refugees with amazing advertising experience on big brands and non-agency refugees who came to us from companies like Google and Deloitte and industries like technology, investment banking and health care,” said Mullen. “Our people bring disparate ways of thinking to the table, whether we’re helping clients create opportunities and tackle challenges or prototyping a new product or service for ourselves that we’ll spin out as our own IP. And everyone feeds off that energy and culture. The success we’ve had is a direct reflection of our people.” 


In addition to the innovation The Variable drives with many of the largest brands in their respective industries, the agency also challenges and empowers innovation from within, helping its team members develop their own new ideas, products and services. 


For example, The Variable helped create and launch Fairly, a new pricing, forecasting and resource-management solution that will completely change how professional service companies, starting with advertising agencies, use value-based pricing instead of antiquated timesheets to develop stronger pricing models and proposals, healthy margins and stronger relationships with their clients. (Read more at Ad Age and MediaPost)


The idea for Fairly was born when Jodi Heelan, The Variable’s director of operations and business development, recognized that the old way of estimating, tracking and billing clients based on hourly rates wasn’t good for consultancies and advertising agencies or their clients. With the support of The Variable, Jodi helped create a fully functioning SaaS platform that eliminates the friction that naturally occurs between agencies and clients when the bulk of conversations are concentrated on the number of hours on a timesheet or how many people are in a meeting rather than the quality of work that’s developed and delivered. 


The agency’s annual Good Idea Fair opens up a challenge to everyone at the agency, from the receptionist to the chairman, to pitch a new service or product idea to a panel of judges from the business and venture capital community. And each year The Variable takes the best ideas and works with the team member who created them to take the idea through due diligence and minimum viable product stages to make them real companies, with the idea originator owning equity in the newly created entity. Of the five winning entries in 2020, two made it through due diligence and are currently being launched, Binder’s Whipped Italian Ice and CM Strike


Since the fall of 2018, the small-but-mighty agency has doubled in size and moved into a newly built office space in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem’s acclaimed Innovation Quarter.


About The Variable

One of only two companies in the world to be named an Ad Age Small Agency of the Year and a Fast Company Best Workplaces for Innovators, The Variable is a business growth company that combines the thinking of an innovation consultancy with the doing of an advertising agency to build people-friendly businesses that overcome indifference. Clients rely on the company’s expertise in innovation, strategy, design, creativity, advertising, social media and PR to create value in people’s lives and to deliver exponential growth and value for their businesses. Whether it’s developing a new product innovation, a unique service offering, an unforgettable brand experience or the next great ad campaign, The Variable helps its clients rethink the way they think about their marketing investment. For more information about The Variable, visit: