Tongal, the creative crowdsourcing firm that's been threatening to become the Uber of advertising for about as long as Uber has been around, has landed Saatchi & Saatchi's longtime lead Procter & Gamble Co. executive to broaden its reach with big clients.
Vaughan Emsley, who handled key P&G brands for Saatchi during most of the past three decades, has joined Tongal as head of strategy and client development. He was most recently a strategic advisor to Saatchi, and before that global head of planning and transformation from 2013 to 2015. He was Saatchi's exec VP in charge of the global P&G account from 2005 to 2013.
Mr. Emsley had been consulting for Tongal the past six months, already creating some buzz among marketers who knew him from P&G days, prior to coming on board as a full-time employee. The company counts P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive Co., Walmart's Sam's Club and other big players as clients on projects, and Mr. Emsley's appointment is about expanding such work, said Tongal co-founder and CEO Rob Salvatore.
Mr. Emsley said the decision to join Tongal started really with "a health crisis" two years ago. "When I came back to work, I decided I wanted to do something very different than I'd been doing before," he said. "It took quite a while for me to find what that was going to be. One of the reasons I settled with Tongal is that I was looking at the way technology was disrupting so many businesses – be it financial trading, hotels or car hire. The question in my mind is 'Why should the communication business be immune?'"
Working at Tongal actually reminds him of what the agency business was like 30 years ago, Mr. Emsley said. "That spirit has gone out of the agencies somewhat over the past 10 years or so, and I found it here. That, more than anything else, told me this has a great future."
Mr. Emsley is one of about 50 employees for Tongal, founded in 2009 (the same year as Uber) and now with revenue of more than $30 million based on work of more than 120,000 "Tongalers," a combination of individual creatives and often multi-employee production houses.
Mr. Salvatore expects the client-service team to grow under Mr. Emsley. "This is a very significant hire for us," he said. And while Tongal's work is now weighted more heavily toward production, Mr. Salvatore sees growth come from developing creative ideas behind the work.
"Cost is only a component of it," Mr. Salvatore said. "It's the brands needing a solution that's not there. They need more content, but it needs to be authentic, relevant, targeted to the audience in the specific platform it's hosted on."
The idea behind Tongal is really that "channels are diffusing toward infinite, and the shelf life is also compressing, so you're going to need a distributed workforce to do it," Mr. Salvatore said. "Our underlying thesis is that creativity is abundant and can be deployed efficiently to solve that problem."
Asked if, as an agency executive, he was concerned by the competitive threat Tongal poses, Mr. Emsley said, "Yes, I would have been concerned in those days."
He'll split time between New York and Tongal's Santa Monica Calif. office, where most of its employees are. Some other account management people are based closer to clients in the Midwest.
"There is a huge opportunity for Tongal to become a strategic partner for clients," Mr. Emsley said. "If you combine strategic thinking with the scale of creative resources that Tongal has, and the speed and agility with which is moves, you've got a solution to the problems that many clients have had."