Red Tettemer adds ECD

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Philadelphia-based agency Red Tettemer has named Michael Barker, former senior art director at Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam, its new executive creative director. Barker is the agency's third significant addition in the last month, joining new interactive creative director Ben Mallory and social media specialist Annie Heckenberger.

We spoke to both Barker and agency president and chief creative officer Steve Red about the new ECD role, what Barker brings to the agency and more.

Michael Barker
Michael Barker
Steve, what brought Michael to your attention? And Michael, why make the move to Philly?
SR: We have set out some goals for us to be a nationally recognized shop and we know in order to do that we have to have better and more talent around us. So, just in the last few months we've hired four or five significant people. Michael not only brings great creative talent and experience from amazing agencies and brands, but he's also English. And they always sound so smart.

MB: For me, it's about the right place at the right time. I was looking at a few options, but as soon as I came over here, met everyone and saw the culture of the agency, it became a no-brainer.

SR: When I looked at Michael's stuff, there was one webfilm project for a Sony PlayStation game (Forbidden Siren) that really intrigued me. And when I brought it up to him, he said it was his favorite piece, too. So I think we're both interested in alternative ways of doing things with a make-it-happen approach, which is evident in that little piece.

MB: That was good. Sometimes you talk to people and they just ask things like, "Do you have any car experience?" But this was so refreshing and great that Steve went right to the piece of work I'm probably most proud of. It's just brilliant to me to work with someone who has the same ideas on how to work.

Michael, does a role like this at an agency of Red Tettemer's size pose a different sort of challenge than you've faced before at larger agencies?
MB: Absolutely. At a lot of places I've worked, and they've all been really great, but things can get quite formulaic. In London, though everyone claims to be re-inventing the wheel everyday, they're not. It's still the same people doing many of the same things. One thing I find here and what makes it exciting, the types of projects and work going on here are things that are really exciting, as a creative. Especially as you become more of a veteran. It can sound trite talking about new challenges and all that but this place has one of the freshest objectives and feels like you don't know what could happen next and what we can come up with next.

Does some of that excitement stem from the agency's smaller size and possible lack of creative bureaucracy?
MB: Definitely. You can also see here that the level of collaboration is phenomenal which I think is really important. For me, and I've been here and there (over my career), it was about looking for a home and something I could really feel a part of. This felt like that straight away.

What are some of the key lessons/experiences from W+K that will help you most in your new role?
MB: Wieden really opens up your thinking quite a lot. Some of that has to do with the quantity of work you do but also, after working there I felt a lot more unshackled. It's just a good place to be creative.

Steve, how does having an ECD change the current creative structure or process at the agency?
SR: Well, from my perspective it will be better because there will be more heads to go around. In trying to grow the shop and widen our experience, there's only so much of me that can go around. I'll just feel more comfortable and confident knowing there's someone shepherding the work in a more hands-on intimate way than I'm able to now. As you grow, you have to be able to let go and trust people will be as passionate about the work as you, and I think we've found that in Michael.
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