Nearly 10 months after departing MDC Partners' CPB, Ari Merkin is embarking on a new venture. The veteran creative is bringing his skills to digital shop AgencyNet, which is being rebranded as Ten.
His role will be chief brand officer. Mr. Merkin is joining forces with Richard Lent, founder of AgencyNet, and is being named a partner in the revamped shop. Fully independent, Ten has 37 staffers and two offices, one in Ft. Lauderdale -- where Mr. Merkin will be based -- and one in New York. Its roster of clients includes Bacardi, which has been a client for 11 years, as well as Universal Music Group, the U.S. Air Force and Citizen Watches. The shop currently has revenue of about $7 million, and the hope is to attract new clients with the arrival of Mr. Merkin and a spin on the traditional digital agency model.
AgencyNet's roots go back to the early '90s, when it was founded as one of the early digital agencies in New York City, a contemporary to the now defunct Agency.com. While the existing team and clients will stay intact, the arrival of Mr. Merkin and the agency's rebranding coincides with a new way of working at the shop. Each account will have a creative team structure that is neither art director and copywriter (like at traditional creative shops) nor designer and developer (like at traditional creative agencies), but consists of a brand builder and an innovation leader.
"We want clients to know they can come to a digital agency for an organizing brand idea," said Mr. Merkin. "We think our clients want a digital agency today that can solve big brand problems and not just be tactical ... what i was attracted to was an agency that's been living and breathing digital for 18 years."
The new name is an homage to the agency's past -- "net" spelled backwards.
Living and breathing digital will be a new chapter in Mr. Merkin's career, to be sure. His departure from CP&B came less than two years after he rejoined the agency's Miami office, where he had worked as a creative prior to launching his own agency, Toy, with longtime friends and former Fallon coworkers Anne Bologna and David Dabill.
It was Mr. Dabill who introduced Messrs. Merkin and Lent. The duo met about six months ago for the first time and though they came from very different backgrounds, they say they quickly hit it off.
Mr. Merkin is best known for his Mini Cooper work, Office Max "Elf Yourself" and the Truth "Body Bags" campaign. Meanwhile, Mr. Lent has been the CEO of AgencyNet and has been active in the digital agency community as well; he was cofounder and chairman of The Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA).
Asked whether the learning curve will steep for his new partner, Mr. Lent said it wasn't about the medium but about a desire to take a novel approach to brand ideas. "All of his best work has consistency in being able to break through the norm," Mr. Lent said. "For me, his work didn't feel traditional at all, it felt breakthrough in trying to take mediums that were traditionally passive and trying to turn them upside down."