Agency ownership models are continuing to evolve, and the latest example is a new experiment by Kansas City-based Barkley, which has birthed a creative shop named Grenadier.
Based in Boulder, Colo., Grenadier is being set up under former CP&B VP-Group Account Director Jeff Graham, who recently departed the MDC Partners agency. Also involved are ad execs who have spent time at CPB and other shops such as Arnold , Grey and Sterling-Rice Group. They are: Mark St. Amant, Rob Hofferman, Wade Paschall and Randy Rogers.
For those execs, it's a chance to hang their own shingle without focusing on how quickly to sell the agency, or to whom.
"Many shops are starting up now using venture capital or waiting to be scooped up by a giant holding company," said Mr. Graham in a statement. "It's all about the end game, how quickly they can pull their money out. But with Barkley behind us, we're kicking off a long-term partnership rooted in a shared passion for advertising creativity and innovation. We know with Barkley we're building Grenadier with people who love brands as much as we do; and that 's why we're so excited about this combination."
For the nearly 50-year-old employee-owned Barkley, it's a way to tap talent looking for new opportunities and pursue partnerships with the startup community in Boulder.
"We are big believers in the virtue of being an independent, employee-owned agency," said Jeff King, CEO of Barkley, in a statement. "In considering our next phase of growth, it was clear that this was a great opportunity for us to expand our business and add to our talent pool. The partners at Grenadier will all have skin in the game, so we see this as a natural extension of our employee-owned business model."
Mr. King said that Barkley will offer Grenadier clients access to Barkley's capabilities, including consumer insights, design, production, PR, CRM, interactive and social media, media buying and planning, and campaign analytics.
But Grenadier will have its own P&L and focus on different sorts of clients than its sibling shop Barkley, which has some 250 employees working on a range of clients such as Kawasaki, Krispy Kreme, Nestlé Purina, Sonic Drive-In and Weight Watchers.
In the credentials deck that it will show clients, Grenadier discusses the types of clients it wants to work for, which are "ideals-driven" and "challenger brands."
Says the deck in reference to clients: "A higher-order mission, a set of core beliefs, or shared values you can rally around to serve as a filter for everything you do -- the products you make; the people you hire; the entire customer experience your brand delivers before, during and after the sale."
More shops are creating positioning statements to try and set themselves apart from competitors, and one way to do it is by trying to dictate the types of clients best suited for the agency. It mirrors the purpose-driven philosophy that GSD&M's Roy Spence has pushed, or what Boulder-based Made, which focuses on American manufacturing, is focusing efforts on.
Grenadier now becomes the most recent of a long line of agencies set up after CPB talent broke off to begin their own thing. Others include: Victors & Spoils, which sold to Havas; Made, which is based in Boulder and now has backing from former CPB top creative and namesake Alex Bogusky; Stick and Move (which merged with another indie, Red Tettemer in Philadelphia); creative shop Goodness Mfg. in Los Angeles; and Poh Media in Florida.
The name Grenadier was chosen with care: It's a reference to the 17th-century wartime specialists who served as a small, disruptive force capable of changing the course of battle.