Fifteen months after the ad world bid adieu to Boston-based indie agency Modernista, founder and executive creative director Gary Koepke is joining SapientNitro as global ECD of brand content innovation, a newly created role.
Mr. Koepke and Sapient have been "dating for a while," said the agency's worldwide chief creative officer Gaston Legorburu. After Modernista's business wrapped up last year, Mr. Koepke spent some time relaxing, reconnecting with family and consulting with Sapient, among others. "When you have something that's yours, you have to decide whether you are going to do something by yourself or join someone else," said Mr. Koepke. "Before I took this job, I spent a lot of time [at Sapient]. Then finally, Gaston said it was time to make a commitment."
About nine months ago, Mr. Koepke came on board in a consulting role, said Mr. Legorburu, joining a "SWAT team" focused on creative excellence. "Culturually, he has been a great fit, and I've been wanting to get him in front of clients," he said. "But we don't put someone in front of clients unless they're officially on the team."
In his new role, Mr. Koepke will work on "craft," adding creativity and story systems to digital and non-digital experiences. "We're looking to put together a team that focuses on business through content innovation, not just ads," said Mr. Legorburu. "As your televisions get connected to the Internet, there's going to be a lot more video content, and we want to focus on that."
Mr. Koepke said the reason he's at Sapient is that for years, he's been frustrated by the "glass ceiling" in the ad business that tells you "you can only do one thing and not the other. I want to be part of this new area where it becomes more about content, not just 30-second ads." He has currently been working on the agency's "Visit Florida" campaign.
Mr. Legorburu's mission is to inject emotion and story into projects that at first glance are simply technological innovations. "I want this amazing storyteller that is Gary Koepke to do that," he said.
Koepke, along with co-founder Lance Jensen, started Modernista in 2000. It soon became one of the industry's creative hot shops, turning out memorable campaigns for clients including Cadillac, Hummer, MTV and the Gap.
Notable work that Mr. Koepke spearheaded includes Gap's holiday campaign, with spots directed by Dayton/Faris and notable campaigns featuring celebrities like Juliette Lewis, Daft Punk and Will Ferrell.
He also directed two music videos while at Modernista, one for David Bowie's "Slow Burn" in 2002, and one for U2's "Windows in the Skies." The latter was a montage of almost 100 clips of 50 years of concert footage from other musicians, (except U2) deftly edited so the lip movements synced up with the lyrics of the U2 track. "Imagine if we had done that with Sapient, we could have extended it so much more," said Mr. Koepke, adding that overlays and interactivity could have let viewers find out who each musician was, where they were playing and so on. "It would have been crazy."
Before Modernista, Mr. Koepke was a creative director at Wieden and Kennedy, opening the shop's New York office in 1999. He is part of a string of new senior creative hires at SapientNitro, including the appointment of imc2, McCann and Brand New World vet Alan Schulman as chief creative officer, New York.