Youthography shuts down

A decade after it launched as a youth-focused market research firm, Youthography has closed its doors, another casualty of the recession. In an open letter to the industry (see below), Youthography chief strategic officer and co-founder Mike Farrell said the company was “irreversibly damaged by the demise of our sister advertising business.” Launched in 2001, […]

Marketing Magazine May 31, 2010

A decade after it launched as a youth-focused market research firm, Youthography has closed its doors, another casualty of the recession.

In an open letter to the industry (see below), Youthography chief strategic officer and co-founder Mike Farrell said the company was “irreversibly damaged by the demise of our sister advertising business.”

Launched in 2001, Youthography created an umbrella corporation called Y Syndicate to cover the advertising divisions it launched in 2003, which included Riot Brand Experience (which had offices in Los Angeles) and District Lifestyle Marketing.

All advertising operations closed in the last quarter of 2009 when several pillar clients from the U.S.–Durex and Mattel among others–scaled back spending during the downturn.

Youthography co-founder Max Valiquette was officially with the company until he resigned last month, said Farrell. “However, his role in the day-to-day operations of the company started to diminish substantially when the ad divisions were closed.”

At its height in 2008, the Toronto-based boutique firm approached 50 staff members and nearly $9 million in annual revenues. The founding research unit contributed “around a quarter of that business,” which Farrell said was insufficient to deal with the ad division’s debt load when Youthography scaled back to a 12-person research-only business.

“It became a cash crunch,” Farrell told Marketing. “The research model was just fine. It ended up being killed by simple cash flow as we serviced debts from the other side of the business.”

Its research clients at close included Microsoft, the Government of Ontario and Shaw Cable. –Jeromy Lloyd

Greetings colleagues and clients everywhere.

As many of you now know, or have heard, the award-winning and pioneering research firm, Youthography, a lasting great experiment in modern cultural context and one of my greater passions for the past decade, has been officially wound down.

Rendered irreversibly damaged by the demise of our sister advertising business, as but one of many agencies globally that succumbed during the hellish brute that was 2009, the “smart little research engine that could” was forced to shut down operations now less than a month ago.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our clients, vendors, employees, subjects, partners, panelists and friends for the collective role you all have played in contributing to close to a decade of our success here in North America–I am greatly honoured and humbled by the faith and support you have each placed in our team and our approach over the years.

Personally, aside from these last few quarters or so I must say that the totality of my time spent constructing, honing and leading the Youthography research practice have been the best years of my career, so far.

With hundreds of happy clients, another hundred plus Youthography-educated staff now strutting their stuff in our national research and marketing industries and, over the course of our time spinning this mortal coil, millions of dollars spent within the North American research industry directly, I’m heartened by the idea that there is a legacy here that will last far longer than any short term pain caused by our sudden departure.

To those affected directly by our Edmund Fitzgerald-like ending I truly apologize for any disruption in your daily business and only hope you understand that this stoppage was beyond our means to hold back and, in keeping with the shipping metaphor, please know that we went down whilst fighting the roiling seas every step of the way.

To the rest of you reading this I urge you to see our story not as a cautionary tale that festers within, breeding fear and promoting a certain reticence to risk, but, instead, to remember us for our trademark innovative, immersive and, often, irreverent take on how one “does” research, analysis and strategy in what has become an increasingly transactional and surface-level landscape.

Now, if ever, is a time to go deeper.

With this final thought firmly in mind, and as next moves are planned, I look forward to meeting up with all of you in the weeks and months to come.

With great respect,

Mike Farrell

Partner, Chief Strategic Officer

Youthography