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Sid Lee Launches New York Outpost

Montreal-Based Shop Has Already Signed Four Clients in the U.S.

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Montreal-based creative agency Sid Lee has crossed the border and opened its first U.S. outpost. The new office in New York will be led by former Dentsu America CEO Will Travis, who will be a senior partner and U.S. president. Sid Lee founder and Creative Director Philippe Meunier will relocate to New York and lead creative, and Lukas Derksen, Adidas business lead and Sid Lee partner, will also help helm the shop.

Will Travis
Will Travis

Mr. Travis has some prior experience bringing foreign agencies stateside, since he was the lead on British creative studio Attik's push into the U.S. and steered the agency's launches in New York and San Francisco. "Everybody's business aspiration is to be successful in New York in some capacity, especially in the creative community," said Mr. Travis. "New York is so receptive for innovation, and it's only 60 minutes from Montreal."

Another major reasons for the American expansion is the success of the "Take the Stage" campaign for Adidas' Olympics sponsorship this year, which Mr. Travis says has drawn the attention of U.S. marketers.

The New York office has already signed four clients in the U.S., said Mr. Travis, and is currently in the middle of a few pitches for other new business.

Currently, the office has 15 staffers, six of whom have been brought over from existing Sid Lee offices in Montreal, Amsterdam, Toronto and Paris, while the rest are coming on from other agencies -- "several high-end creative shops," said Mr. Travis. The shop is also bringing in some of the interdisciplinary talent that has made Sid Lee stand out over the past few years, including a couple of staffers from Sid Lee architecture and designers from other offices, creating what Mr. Travis describes as a "modern-day Bauhaus movement of blending art with craft." Sid Lee's Collective, the creative research-and-design incubator that lets employees play around with creative projects, will also be replicated, in a smaller form, at the New York office. The idea, Mr. Travis said, is to bring Sid Lee DNA here, then watch it grow.

New York is , by all accounts, a tough market to set up shop in. "The biggest thing is expense," said Mr. Travis. "The market, the infrastructure, the talent, the real estate, everything accelerates a creative industry burnout."

But at the same time, Mr. Travis maintains that it's not like bringing a small startup here. Having Mr. Meunier, as well as some other leads from Sid Lee's 600-strong global team, on hand to help increases the shop's chances of success, he said.

The agency also has plans to open a West Coast office in 2013. It's unclear where, although the Sid Lee architectural practice already has two private developer clients in Los Angeles.

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