Badger & Winters joins holding company Plan A

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(from l.) Madonna Badger, Jim Winters, Andrew Essex and MT Carney.
(from l.) Madonna Badger, Jim Winters, Andrew Essex and MT Carney. Credit: Juan Patiño Photography/Courtesy Badger & Winters

Badger & Winters, the independent shop which earned its stripes with the "Women Not Objects" campaign three years ago, has become part of Plan A, a new holding company owned by Andrew Essex and MT Carney. Essex is a former Droga exec who was most recently CEO of Tribeca Enterprises; Carney co-founded Naked Communications and was also president of marketing at Disney.

Jim Winters, president of Badger & Winters, said that in the years since that landmark campaign the agency gained a new level of visibility as it was tapped to do purpose-driven work for marketers including Procter & Gamble. As a result "people started to approach us about acquisitions and investments and strategic partnerships," he said. "Quite simply, we had offers on the board that didn't inspire us much."

"Madonna [Badger, the agency's co-founder] and I had one filter: It wasn't about money or an exit strategy," Winters said. "It was about, is there a strategic partner that could help us accelerate our growth?"

Winters said that Plan A, which offered an equity deal, was the logical choice. "It's not a typical acquisition. We have joined their federation of agencies. We retain our autonomy and culture but ladder up to a greater value." The other agencies in the Plan A group include Untitled Worldwide, Twin, Van's General Store and Beekman Social, and Carney said the inclusion of Badger & Winters was a no-brainer. "I have a giant girl crush on Madonna," she said. "It's like being at school and you can't believe the cool guy asked you out."

She said that Badger & Winters fits with the philosophy of Plan A, which aspires to maintain its agencies autonomy while allowing them -- rather than forcing them -- to work together. She said big holding company systems like Publicis Groupe's Marcel, which source teams from various agencies, do not work. "It's like herding kittens," she said. "If you ask anyone in those groups, no one wants to work in them." The Plan A model, she said, "creates a best-in-class situation where the person whose name is on the door is genuinely involved and excited."

Badger & Winters now has about 60 employees and bills more than $15 million annually. In August, P&G's Olay tapped the agency for a new #FaceAnything campaign, which included comedian Lilly Singh, gold medalist Aly Raisman and plus-size model Denise Bidot, among others, in ads highlighting how they've overcome challenges and fears with a message of empowering women to be themselves.

Also earlier this year, JC Penney shifted work to Badger & Winters in a push to create a fresh tagline and ensure the chain's marketing is inclusive in ethnicity and body diversity.

The shop also works for Dick's Sporting Goods, LVMH's Starboard Cruise Services and HP.

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