Why doesn’t Wieden + Kennedy/Portland spawn more startup agencies—something that Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco has successfully done for years? As someone who knows the Portland market, lack of client opportunities is the most obvious answer.
FYI, there are just two big fish in the Portland market—Intel and Nike. Adidas America is also a cherry account.
Former W+K creative director, Mark Fitzloff, isn’t letting scarcity stop him. He recently launched an agency called Opinionated. The Portland firm already has two clients: GoFundMe and Bob’s Discount Furniture. By the way, Fitzloff envisions himself “a ‘CMO-whisperer’ rather than a typical ad vendor, bringing clients the direct expertise of experienced agency execs while executing ideas with boutique nimbleness.”
The CMO Whisperer part sounds silly, but the boutique nimbleness part is spot on. So much time and money are wasted on meetings and months of revisions. All the while, opportunities to connect and make an impression on customers are fleeting.
Agency principals agreed to help fund Allen’s venture on one very specific condition: The agency can never be sold to a holding company, private-equity firm or any other entity. And why did W+K decide to invest in its first-ever startup? President Dave Luhr said, “It just feels like our industry needs to be revitalized a bit. We think it will be good for talent and indirectly good for us, because advertising could use more creativity.”
Largess isn’t typically the motivating factor for incubating a startup, but if anyone has the room in their hearts and budgets for largess, it’s W+K. I see their investment in Callen as a positive development and an indicator that we need to take better care of the industry as a whole, not just the shop that employs us today. What goes around, comes around, and the dumbing down of the work helps no one.
On a related note, why don’t more agency principals share notes on which clients refuse to pay on time, routinely abuse staff, can’t make a decision to save their life, and so on? Ad people don’t need a union, but an organized resistance to inane bullshit on a market-by-market basis would be invaluable.