Modernista Will Open Amsterdam Office to Handle GM

Former TBWA Exec Matthew Charlton Named Managing Director

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Despite a recent round of layoffs and a battered market for automakers, Boston-based Modernista is launching a full-service European hub in Amsterdam that will work with General Motors Corp. and cable channel Dutch Comedy Central.

Matthew Charlton
Matthew Charlton
The independent agency, which also has a Detroit office, has hired former TBWA London managing director Matthew Charlton to head up the Amsterdam operation. Modernista Europe's slice of GM's business is "not clear," Mr. Charlton said, but he added: "We have a strong relationship with GM, they are an important part of Modernista, and we are waiting to find out the state of play."

The opening isn't the first time Modernista has made a bid for a presence in the uber-creative hub of Amsterdam. In 2006, it named a managing director, Nick Simmonds, who died last year. Two years later, it named a creative director, Boyd Coyner, who left early this year.

Layoffs
The move also comes after the agency announced last week it had laid off 23 staffers, believed to be about 15% of the agency.

Despite the economic climate, Mr. Charlton said, "We think now is as good a time as any to go for it. For a top end creative brand like Modernista there is still opportunity for growth."

Nate Taylor and Shane Hutton, currently joint creative directors of the Boston office, will join Mr. Charlton in Europe.

At TBWA, Mr. Charlton was global business director on Sony PlayStation before becoming managing director, a position he quit last fall. He also spent nine years at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, where he ran the global Johnnie Walker and Sony Ericsson accounts.

Mr. Charlton said, "I was blown away by the Modernista brand. I look at the work and see loads of exploration of different channels, not because they are smart business moves but because they are interesting."

Modernista works with marketers including GM and The Gap in the U.S. Recently, the agency redesigned Business Week magazine, created the visuals for DJ Paul Oakenfold's world tour and made a pop video for U2.

A 'European business'
Mr. Charlton added, "We happen to be in Amsterdam but my background is U.K. and we are very much a European business. We will target brands wherever we see the biggest creative opportunities."

The agency has declared ambitious new-business goals for Europe, and is looking to work with marketers in the spirits, gaming, sport, fashion and retail categories. Mr. Charlton claimed that conversations with marketers in these fields are already under way.

Clift Jones, Modernista's president, said in a statement, "The agency is committed to increasing investment in areas that are its core strengths. Creativity is what Modernista is famous for and our absolute core strength. Europe represents a huge creative opportunity for us, hence it is an obvious place to increase our investment."

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