M-School Grads Launch Gen-Z Ad Agency

Don’t get a job. Start an agency. This was the subject line of an email sent to M-School students by marketing professors last spring. As the coronavirus pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives, the Class of 2020 was left questioning their post-LMU career plans. Was starting an agency really feasible?

The answer was “yes” according to M-School Professors Andy Rohm and Matt Stefl, along with Eric Johnson, an ad industry exec who teaches in the M-School. In fact, Johnson offered to provide guidance to students on how to start an agency and opened up his co-working space at El Camp in El Segundo.

That’s when six marketing students on the cusp of graduating – Fran Magsalin, Eduardo Pablin, Celine Chai, Bryant Lin, Gia Lee and Sammy Lent – stepped up to the challenge and formed an ad agency that redefined the traditional agency structure.

NinetyEight is a creative ad agency that helps brands authentically communicate with and understand Gen-Z consumers. With a focus on brand strategy, content creation, social media management and search marketing, NinetyEight is led by a team of hybrids who are self-starters, diverse, multi-faceted and creative.

NinetyEight is different because we speak the language that advertisers so desperately want to know: Gen-Z,” said Fran. “This unique Gen-Z language is unexplored territory for many advertisers, but second nature to us.”

They chose the name NinetyEight because “we were all born in 1998 and 98 is the atomic number for Californium, where it all began!”

With many businesses laying off/furloughing employees and cutting back on their marketing budgets, the team is embracing the uncertainty of the marketplace by proactively pitching NinetyEight to brands and companies.

“Because we are small, agile and young, we are cheaper, faster and more nimble than a traditional agency,” said Fran. “We don’t have a standard structure or bureaucracy attached to our business so we are able to complete projects in a short amount of time while still promising quality and innovative ideas.”

“We’re all learning and doing things we never would have done in an entry-level position,” added Gia. “We’re pitching alongside CEOs of real companies, learning about the legal aspects of starting a business, and working with friends and like-minded individuals.”

In only a few short months, NinetyEight has garnered some early wins. The agency officially registered as an LLC in the State of California and has already signed two clients – LMU Management Professor Ellen Ensher and the M-School. In addition, the team has multiple projects in the works and continues to pitch to new brands.

“It has been heartwarming to see the overwhelming amount of support from the LMU community – it truly means the world to us,” said Gia. “This endeavor is very personal to all of us and we have put a lot of ourselves into this project – it’s both nerve wracking and exciting!”

The team credits the M-School for pushing them in this direction and instilling the confidence needed to carve out space in a very competitive industry.

“The guidance we’ve received from the M-School has been so instrumental to our growth as brand builders and industry innovators,” said Fran. “The mindset and marketing skills we’ve developed over the past two years have helped us think deeper, smarter and more disruptive. We are beyond excited to continue this journey.”

NinetyEight is actively looking for new business opportunities. If interested, contact the team.

NinetyEight co-founders recently led an Impact Insights webinar titled “Decoding the New Generation: How Brands Can Better Speak To and With Gen-Z.” Click here for the replay.