Paul Woolmington, CEO of Media Kitchen, and M.T. Carney, senior partner-worldwide planning director at Ogilvy & Mather, will be charged with translating Naked's trademark brand of media-agnostic communication planning for marketers and agencies stateside. When the doors officially open in early January, probably in a fashionable area of downtown Manhattan, they'll start off with strategic-planning business from Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute-Maid and Nokia.
With its long-anticipated arrival, Naked is riding a wave of excitement over startup agencies like Strawberry Frog and Anomaly and more-established renegades like Crispin Porter & Bogusky, whose unconventional ideas have already taken chunks of business from Madison Avenue's giants.
Naked, however, rides a larger swell than most because of the enormous attention the shop has received for helping marketers like Sony PlayStation, Honda and Reebok disrupt timeworn media plans in ways that often yielded blockbuster sales.
It has also received attention because the shop has sometimes been asked by marketers to take the lead on deciding what types of shops should be brought to bear to solve a particular marketing problem-a phenomenon that has, at times, irked traditional creative shops.
"Naked is about total planning-the fusion of consumer and brand insights with an understanding of the channels that link brands to consumers," said John Harlow, one of the original founders. And that fusion is why he hired New York founders with deep experience in both media and brand planning.
To spin theory into accounts, Mr. Woolmington and Ms. Carney, who met in 1994 at Ammirati Puris Lintas in London, will have to overcome a U.S. marketing culture not necessarily known for its friendliness to change-not that they'll admit it.
"Often it's said that clients in America are more risk-averse and I'd tend to agree in the past," said Mr. Woolmington. "But now there's this network of good people seeking each other out. I think 2006 is going to be a crossroads year in our industry because you'll have tipping points for technology innovation, client dissatisfaction and pressure on P&Ls. All of that's a melting pot for different thinking."
And Mr. Woolmington, 44, knows a bit about that. The South African-born Brit spent the last five years building Media Kitchen-which he co-owned with creative agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners-from scratch into planning powerhouse known for media-neutral approaches, though he detests the term. So what will be different at Naked?
"[Naked] is an opportunity to be objective, to have no vested interest [in a particular media solution]," he said. "We're neither a media company nor an advertising agency. What Naked's been successful at is aligning strategy with innovation."
That independence is crucial for creating strategies that aren't unduly tethered to any one medium. An ad agency, for instance, would have never advised the U.K. pharmacy chain Boots to abandon TV for in-store executions to push a new drug-prescription program, as Naked did in 2003. For Honda, it figured out a way to get a two-minute film on the Honda Accord to the public with a limited broadcast buy and a DVD distribution in men's magazines and auto publications.
"It's absolutely about facilitating collaboration within disciplines," said Ms. Carney, who declined to give her age. "If your P&L is tied to an execution you can't be truly objective."
Spokeswomen for Ogilvy & Mather and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners declined to comment. Ogilvy recently beefed up its planning ranks by hiring former Kirshenbaum executive Nigel Carr as a group planning director.