Sedgwick Rd. Ramps Up

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In April, McCann-Erickson/Seattle took a bold and unusual step. The office changed its name to Sedgwick Rd. and set out to recast itself as a West Coast-style boutique, rather than as a West Coast branch of an East Coast agency. "Things tend to be a little looser and a little flatter organizationally," says president Jim Walker of business west of the Mississippi. "The clients we were attracting -- even in our previous life -- were clients that want to work with one agency but want to know that you have access to larger resources."

Although a name change alone might seem superficial, the agency has made other aggressive changes in the last nine months. The shop moved from downtown offices to a former coffee warehouse in Seattle’s industrial SoDo district in September, following a reorganization of management that flattened the hierarchy and eliminated as many titles as possible. "In nine months, the organization has done a complete 180 and it’s been fine through it all," Walker says. In recent weeks, Walker and creative director Steve Johnston –- whose resume includes stints at Fallon and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners -– have begun staffing the place with talent from West Coast agencies, particularly from layoff-plagued San Francisco. Steve Payonzek, formerly of Goodby, has signed on as senior copywriter. Dave Sakamoto, formerly of Odiorne Wilde Narraway & Partners in San Francisco, has come on as senior art director. Debra Bednar of Arnold/San Francisco has joined as account supervisor. Jane Jacobsen, Sedgwick Rd.’s director of production, joins from a freelance career but was formerly at Goodby, and business affairs manager Monica Pasternak migrates from Wieden & Kennedy/Portland.

"The people who are attracted to Sedgwick Rd. are people who want to come to a place this size and help build something," says Walker. "Not only did we do all this, but you’re going to see an impact in the work." The shop -– which bills a little more than a $100 million and has 85 employees -- has picked up anti-smoking work for the Washington State Department of Health since the switch, and Walker says the first creative fruits of the reinvented agency are set to break next month. On the way is new print work for outfitter REI, anti-smoking spots for the Department of Health, and two spots for longtime client Washington Mutual, directed by A-list director Tarsem. "This is the kind of agency I think you need to have to create dynamic growth," Walker says, explaining the switch to a boutique mentality. "And it looked like a lot of fun."

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