Remember when you thought Domino's was just a pizza chain? Thanks to ideas such as the Cannes Titanium Grand Prix-winning Emoji Ordering, the DXP Delivery Vehicle and "Pizza Turnaround," in which it admitted publicly that its pizza sucked and promised to change it -- groundbreaking creative moves that led to business success -- the company is now known not just as a smart pie brand, but as an innovation company inspiring the marketing industry as a whole.
Now, the former CP&B staffers who helped make Domino's a benchmark for new-era marketing are hoping to apply their approach to other clients at their new agency opening today, Work in Progress.
The independent shop will be led by seven partners/founders. Former CP&B Executive Creative Director Matt Talbot, VP-Creative Director Andrew Lincoln will oversee creative; former CP&B VP-Account Director Alex Guerri and VP-Exec Director-Digital Evan Russack will head up accounts and strategy; former VP-Executive Creative Technology Director Harold Jones will steer technology, and former VP-Executive Integrated Producer Stafford Bosak will lead production. Pete Sheinbaum, the only non-CP&B alum, will be a partner in business and legal and is a Colorado-based tech entrepreneur who also previously served as CEO and chief operating officer of Daily Candy.
The partners aim to take the methods they've honed as a team at their former agency and apply them to new clients. "We help companies define their reason for being, and we translate that reason into action," Mr. Talbot explained of the agency's approach. "Once you put that into the world, you can get transformative results."
During the time the WIP founders worked with Domino's, the brand saw consistent sales growth, a boost in digital ordering from 20% to 50% and DPZ stock jump from $8 in 2009 to nearly $150 in 2016.
With Domino's, "It really started in the beginning, with 'Pizza Turnaround' and reinventing the pizza," said Mr. Talbot, who was also named to Ad Age's 40 Under 40 earlier this year. "We came to realize that you can only do that once. You have to think of a higher-level purpose that will drive tons of actions in a commoditized category. What was most true to Domino's was that people wanted the 'magic of pizza,' so once we landed on that, it gave us inspiration for endless years of action."
"We talk a lot about when you can get ahead of the process and create a pipeline of company actions that can play out for years and in the advertising itself, and how the company articulates what it believes," said Mr. Lincoln. "That can future-proof a company against competitors, and it allows a company to transcend its category and express itself in more powerful ways. That's when you get transformative results."
Such an approach they've also applied to other brands such as Hotels.com, Kraft Mac & Cheese and Vail Resorts. The new company has its headquarters in Boulder, Colo., but doesn't consider itself a "Boulder-based" company in that "we don't just work with local brands," said Mr. Guerri. "Our sweet spot is in working with a broader range of companies who have unique reasons to exist." WIP is working with or pitching undisclosed clients in the categories of technology, entertainment, food and education.
While the agency is just starting out, the team members believe they're simply continuing a story already begun. "One of the things we feel is unique about our team is that we've worked together for more than six years," said Mr. Bosak. "We didn't just meet at a bar."
Moreover, with seven partners across the entire spectrum of agency functions, WIP isn't entering the game as the typical startup. "We've got a group big enough to be a full-service agency," said Mr. Russack.
While the founders acknowledge the trend in new shops being nimble and scrappy and doing project work, "where there's value to that, we believe in long-term partnerships," said Mr. Russack. "We think our model can prove the value in AOR. We think we can make a case for that because we have a cross-disciplinary team that can handle everything."
And as the agency grows, the partners hope to replicate the leadership structure they have now across all its clients. "As we look to build our culture, we're really excited to bring in and empower independent teams of leaders who can apply the same approach as a unit," said Mr. Lincoln. "It's about scaling and replicating this model of a core team representing all disciplines end-to-end," Mr. Talbot added.
While the partners have created work that's been celebrated for its creativity, "We really believe in transformative business results," said Mr. Lincoln. "In this industry we do see a little bit of conflict in what agencies want and what clients what, and the focus on results is what differentiates us."
"Awards are just the icing on the cake," added Mr. Talbot.
As for the agency's name, that's something the founders hope they, as well as their future partners, will live by. "It primes our clients on our thinking, on looking at themselves as a work in progress," said Mr. Talbot. "It was born out of working with established, big clients, but it's a mentality that challenger brands and upstarts need to have too." Moreover, "15 years from now, when we're wildly successful, it will help keep us on our toes so we don't get complacent," he laughed.