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Five Crispin Refugees Set Up Shop in L.A.

Cadre of Bogusky's Former Staffers Open Doors to Goodness Mfg. in Venice, California

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- There's a new creative boutique gunning for Crispin Porter & Bogusky's hotshop crown -- and it's staffed with five of the agency's own.
Goodness: (From l.) Rupert Samuel, integrated production/business development; Tom Adams, creative director; Paul Keister, creative director; Brian Rekasis, brand relations; and Bob Cianfrone, creative director.
Goodness: (From l.) Rupert Samuel, integrated production/business development; Tom Adams, creative director; Paul Keister, creative director; Brian Rekasis, brand relations; and Bob Cianfrone, creative director.

Setting up shop in Venice, Calif., just blocks from an office Crispin opened (and later shuttered) in the 1990s, are a cadre of the agency's former staffers -- some of the minds behind a handful of the shop's most high-profile and envied campaigns for Burger King, the "Truth" anti-smoking movement, Best Buy's Geek Squad, Miller High Life and Ikea. Their fledgling agency will be called Goodness Mfg. and led by three former Crispin creative directors who resigned last week, along with two others who left previously.

The first is Brian Rekasis, 37, director of a Crispin department called Area 51 that handles all nontraditional media, such as video games, book publishing and other media. His work developing the BK video games for the Xbox won the Gold titanium at this year's Cannes Festival.

The second is a well regarded 10-year agency vet, director-integrated production Rupert Samuel, 33.

Good company
The creative trio joining them comprises VP-creative directors Tom Adams, 37; Paul Keister, 36; and VP-associate creative director Bob Cianfrone, 45. Mr. Adams was an early creative director on the American Legacy Foundation's "Truth" campaign, and also worked on Best Buy's Geek Squad. Mr. Keister toiled on Miller High Life, Miller Lite and Ikea, while Mr. Cianfrone was involved with the BK business. In all, the five creatives had a total of 37 years experience at the shop.

At Goodness Mfg., Mr. Samuel will take the title of director-integration projects/business development, Mr. Rekasis will become director-brand relations, and the other three will hold the title of creative director.

There are no clients yet, but the agency is open to "any account that pays the bills," said Mr. Adams.

"There were a lot of tears" when the group left Crispin, said Mr. Cianfrone, who said, "It's been a dream of ours to start our own place." He stressed that the parting was amicable, noting that Crispin executives went so far as to offer support of business leads and advice.

Revolving door
Nevertheless, the departures have yet again raised the question of talent retention for Crispin. It's only natural that staff from such a hot shop should be poached, but the house that Chuck and Alex built has had something of a revolving door lately. Among others leaving recently were Jordi Martinez, senior developer, who oversaw interactive projects for Coke Zero, VW and BK. He snared a top position at the revived Wieden & Kennedy as creative-technology director. Three other former Crispin-ites are now working at 180 on Adidas: Jason Ambrose, Donnell Johnson and Amir Farhang.

The turnover is seen by some as good. "Crispin has a unique environment, and either that environment is healthy for you or it is not," said Mr. Farhang. "If you want to make it your priority, you will make some of the best work you'll ever make."

Crispin's Chief Creative Officer Alex Bogusky said the losses were not serious, especially given the agency's size. "It's not that big a deal -- I don't think if I left it's that big a deal," he said. "Once the culture is established, and healthy, that's what makes it work," Mr. Bogusky added. "I'm happy for them. I'll miss those guys -- but I don't dislike change."

Mr. Bogusky put the number of Crispin employees at 600, with 80 in the creative department. He also pointed out that this is not the first shop to break away from the agency -- the first was Stick & Move, based in Philadelphia. Mr. Bogusky also considers Toy, under Ari Merkin, to be inspired by Crispin. "I think of myself as the father and Chuck [Porter] as the mother."
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