Apple, Katalyst and Martin Agency Alums Launch San Francisco Shop

The Agency- and Tech-World Vets Build Model from Ground Up, With a Social Bent

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Vets from the agency, tech and entertainment worlds have quietly launched a new shop with a decidedly social bent in San Francisco. The founders include CEO Allison Johnson, a former Apple VP-worldwide marketing communications; Creative Chairman Keith Cartwright; and former Katalyst head of digital Sarah Ross.

Keith Cartwright
Keith Cartwright

Mr. Cartwright most recently served as a group creative director at the Martin Agency, with previous stints as a creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, New York, where his clients included Brand Jordan and at TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, where he created campaigns for Adidas. Mr. Cartwright had known Ms. Johnson through mutual friends since his Chiat days and says conversations for him to join "happened very quickly."

Ms. Johnson announced her departure from Apple at the end of March. There, she had signed off on the brand's advertising since 2005, but prior to that she was marketing chief at HP and steered the award-winning "Hands" campaign created out of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Ms. Ross is perhaps best known for helping Ashton Kutcher gather 1 million Twitter friends. Before Kutcher had wooed her to join his team at Katalyst, she was CMO of TechCrunch and was a senior marketing director at Yahoo.

Prior reports about Ms. Johnson's departure from Apple noted the exec was considering a partnership with former Facebook PR lead Brandee Barker, but Ms. Barker told Advertising Age that she has formed her own consulting firm where she will be "providing communications and social media strategy to early-stage and high-growth tech and consumer brands." Mr. Cartwright does say, however that his shop's other partners come from "social media companies you use every day."

According to Mr. Cartwright, the new company will be fully independent. It has also been previously reported that the shop's backers include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Malaria No More founder Ray Chambers, but Mr. Cartwright could not confirm. The creative chairman said the company has already been operating "in stealth" on a number of projects for an unnamed client and that the shop's name and details of funding will be announced in the coming weeks.

Like most new agencies these days, the firm will be designed to address the full breadth of a client's advertising needs, from TV, print and design to digital and social media. However, Mr. Cartwright said the partners are determined to build the model "from the ground up" and implement into its approach the learnings and experience of its social media and tech world leadership. Or, as Ms. Ross' LinkedIn profile states, they're "creating a new paradigm/changing the world."

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Additional reporting from Alexandra Bruell.

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