With Bogusky Gone, Crispin Creatives Hightail It Back to Miami

Boulder Office Sees Exodus After Many Staffers Moved There to Be With the Agency's Top Mentor

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HOME TEAM: Ari Merkin (second from left) is bringing new creative energy to Miami and building out the agency's team.
HOME TEAM: Ari Merkin (second from left) is bringing new creative energy to Miami and building out the agency's team.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Back in 2006, when Miami native Alex Bogusky had enough of the beach and palm trees and decided he'd rather work and raise children out West, he offered to go it alone. But some 40 staffers decamped with him, leaving the original office of Crispin Porter & Bogusky to set up a hub in Boulder. Others followed, and by the beginning of 2010, the Boulder office had swelled to almost 600 people.

Staffers' desire to be closer to the shop's former top creative when he moved west speaks volumes about the sort of influence Mr. Bogusky wielded at the agency. And so does what's happening now. With Mr. Bogusky gone, many creatives at the MDC Partners-owned shop are making the same decision LeBron did: They're taking their talents (back) to South Beach.

"From day one, we said you can live where you want," said Chuck Porter, chief strategist at MDC and chairman of CPB. But "there was a big move to Boulder particularly in the creative department. A lot of people wanted to be with Alex. He was a good mentor. And Alex encouraged people to move to Boulder, and a lot of people listened to that and felt like, 'Wow, this is something I should do.'"

He admits that in the meantime, the Miami office, "from a creative standpoint, had atrophied."

That was clear when Ari Merkin rejoined CPB as VP-exec creative director this past spring, only to discover that for the 250 employees still in the Miami office, just a fraction -- about 10 -- were creatives. He went on a recruiting spree, making a dozen senior hires, including award-winners such as Liem Nyguen from Lowe Bangkok and Robert Kleman from BBDO, New York. In July, the Miami office brought aboard Gerard Caputo, who previously worked at Omnicom shops and netted an Emmy award for his 2008 FedEx Super Bowl spot, "Pigeons."

More folks are on the way. According to CPB insiders, another 15 staffers have already announced plans to relocate to Miami, and with them will go creative duties for key accounts like Coke Zero.

"Everyone here in Miami is rooting for the creative department, and for them it's just nice to have creative back in the building," said Mr. Merkin, who's been spending time on clients like Cuervo and Kraft, pitching new business and, importantly, getting the word out that Miami is a place to come and work again.

Andrew Keller, co-chief creative officer based in Boulder, said, "All four of us were here," referring to Mr. Bogusky, and top creatives Rob Reilly and Jeff Benjamin. "People want to have that moment where you walk into someone's office and you have that connection," he said. "We needed to put a real creative leader [in Miami] so they felt connected there and not disconnected from us."

Mr. Keller -- along with Mr. Reilly and Mr. Benjamin -- plan on staying in Boulder.

Asked what he thinks is different in the post-Bogusky era, Mr. Keller said: "We've felt like a one-office shop with a bit of a bottleneck ... there's more opportunity for people, we're more prolific in terms of the amount we're able to do" and "there's real empowerment happening in terms of executive creative directors and group creative directors."

He added: "I don't think the vibe at the agency has ever been better."

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