Staff at Farfar were told today that the legendary Swedish digital ad agency is closing, five years after the four founders sold it to Aegis Group and it became part of the company's Isobar digital network.
The last of the four founders, Matias Palm-Jensen, quit in March, speeding up an exodus that had already started for Farfar staff. Drained of much of its senior talent, the agency is expected to be wound down over the next four or five months as client projects are completed, and it will be shut down for good this summer.
A longtime Farfar creative exec who was at the Stockholm-based agency today said, "It's obviously sad it ended like this, but Farfar had a good run, we had awesome times and worked with great clients that allowed us to do amazing things."
Farfar (the name means "grandfather" in Swedish) was acquired by Aegis in 2005 as Isobar began building a global digital network. Farfar is based in Stockholm, but recently opened a London office, mainly to serve its client Nokia.
A video posted by the agency on YouTube to celebrate its 10th anniversary last month, about the time Mr. Palm-Jensen left, now looks like a final tribute. The agency's last tweet to its 1,800 followers was on March 25.
Farfar's four founders were on three-year earnout agreements, which ended two years ago. One founder, Anders Gustavsson, joined Agency Republic as creative director in June 2008, and Per Nasholm moved to a publishing company. Nicke Bergstrom joined Mother New York as a creative director in November 2009.
Mr. Bergstrom, reached while he was judging the Clio awards, said he stayed at Farfar for two years after his earnout ended in the hope that Farfar would be able to expand around the world as the founders had planned when they sold the agency to Aegis.
"It never happened," said Mr. Bergstrom. "They never invested a single dollar in us."
Since its launch, Farfar has steadily attracted the global spotlight, thanks to its groundbreaking digital and integrated campaigns that didn't rely on bought media to command attention. Among those were two Cyber Grand Prix-awarded efforts at the Cannes Lions festival, "Heidies 15 MB of Fame" for Diesel in 2007 and Milko's Music Machine, which took the big prize within a year of the agency's founding.
More recent efforts include "The World's Biggest Signpost," a giant, remote-controlled arrow over central London that Nokia users could steer toward their favorite places via a website, and a campaign for clothier Bjorn Borg, for which the agency dropped off a massive pile of used underwear at President George Bush's White House doorstep, in the name of world peace.
Mark Cranmer, global CEO of Isobar, was flying back from Stockholm this evening and didn't return calls.
Aegis is in the process of restructuring the Isobar network globally, a challenging task given that the company has acquired highly creative, fiercely independent agencies around the world. In addition, Isobar still has some weak spots, particularly in the U.S.
~ ~ ~ Contributing: Ann-Christine DiazSee the original post and check back for updates on Adage.com.