Ari Merkin Heads Back to Crispin to Shore Up Miami Outpost

Will Assume Role as Exec Creative Director After Toy Finishes Winding Down

By Published on .

Most Popular

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ari Merkin will rejoin Crispin Porter & Bogusky as executive creative director in a bid to reinvigorate the agency's Miami office. The move comes as Toy, the New York boutique shop Mr. Merkin co-founded five years ago, prepares to close its doors.

Ari Merkin
Ari Merkin
Mr. Merkin was wooed back to Crispin by Miles Nadal, chairman-CEO of Toronto-based MDC Partners, which has a majority stake in the agency, and by friend and former colleague at Crispin, Alex Bogusky. The latter has been a vocal proponent of Mr. Merkin's work.

"Alex and I just started talking about it ... he's always been a huge supporter of Toy, and I think it's nice I'll be able to return the favor," said Mr. Merkin. "I've been watching from the sidelines for seven years, and CPB is an agency that knows how to make brands part of the conversation."

The hire gives a needed boost to the creative department in Crispin's Miami location, its original office. The agency's co-chief creative officers, Rob Reilly, Jeff Benjamin and Andrew Keller, are now based out of Boulder, Colo., and several top creatives have relocated there as well, making it the agency's biggest outpost.

Crispin has 540 employees in Boulder, 250 employees in the Miami office and about 100 scattered in Sweden, Los Angeles and other field offices. Senior execs in Miami include: Crispin CEO Jeff Hicks, Chief Operating Officer Eric Lear and Chief Financial Officer Carl St. Phillip. Others, such as Chairman Chuck Porter, have homes in both Miami and Boulder.

Loose ends
"I'm thrilled to go back and help the agency build up its creative resources in the place where it all began," said Mr. Merkin. For the next few months, he'll travel back and forth between Miami and his home in New Jersey to allow his children to wrap up the school year, and then the family of six will relocate to Florida.

As for Toy, Mr. Merkin said, "We have a few odds and ends [to sort out], but we're pretty much wrapped." Going from having his own shop back to working at an agency is something he acknowledges will "be an adjustment obviously, but I do look forward to having the resources and support of an agency of this size."

Mr. Merkin, who just turned 40, is a New York native and a graduate of Parsons. Early in his career, he spent time at the Big Apple agency Grace & Rothschild, known for its humorous campaigns for brands like J&B Scotch and Range Rover. From there, he joined Crispin in Miami, where he spent four years between 1998 and 2003. After a brief stop at Cliff Freeman & Partners, he became executive creative director at Fallon, New York, where he met Anne Bologna and David Dabill, the partners with whom he launched Toy in 2005.

The campaigns he worked on while at Crispin are some of Mr. Merkin's most memorable and collected numerous awards. His "Body Bag" campaign for "Truth," the anti-smoking effort for the American Legacy Foundation, is considered one of the most effective public service efforts of all time. His work for BMW's Mini Ride was also a hit, and as writer of the Ikea "Lamp" spot, he earned a Grand Prix at Cannes Lions International Ad Festival.

Said Mr. Reilly: "It is important that every office has creative leaders with immense character and intelligence. There is no question the impact that Ari will have on CP&B."

Added Mr. Keller: "Ari has never stopped being a part of this place. I'm humbled that we get to have him back."