“Part of the vision moving forward is breaking up that ‘90s mindset,” Malina says. “It’s about understanding that having access to the best talent in the world does not mean that they're a full-time employee on your roster. Being able to have access to the best talent says you might be hiring them for a project. I don't want a culture that's defined by an old AOR model and how many people are on your staff. I want to create a very vibrant moving muscle of just powerhouse talent that can take on anything whether it's an AOR or a project, whether or not half the people are on staff and half are not.”
Malina, who maintains she will continue living in Austin, Texas, says the agency is adopting a “distributed” model. That means while some people will be based in its new office in Denver, others will also be based outside of the area. The agency is aiming for a return to the office in early October, but Malina elaborated the space will be used as more of a place to collaborate than a traditional office.
CPB Co-Founder, Partner, and Chairman Chuck Porter, who was originally slated for an interview with Ad Age, opted out last minute and provided the following statement instead about his position and the future of the agency:
“When the decision was made a couple of years ago for CPB to join the Constellation—with John Boiler as the spiritual leader—I saw it as a great thing for the agency. I’ve known John really well for a really long time and his goals are the same as mine—integrity, invention, and the belief that nothing trumps talent. I also saw that as the right time for me to step back from the agency after 30-plus years.
“My agreement with MDC at the time was modified to reflect an emeritus role and the primary thing I’ve been involved with since then was to help woo Marianne Malina to CPB. She’s terrific, she totally understands the magic that made the agency successful in the first place, and I’ve seen some of the work that’s coming out of the place on her watch. I think the future looks pretty great.”
Support from Stagwell
While many people who Ad Age spoke to for this article, including those from other agencies, suggested that CPB may have been better off sold off or merged with another agency, the shop still has support from Stagwell.
“We are committed to CPB and its next-gen evolution under Marianne and John,” says Mark Penn, chairman and CEO of Stagwell. “They are amazing leaders and will bring to clients an agency ready for these new times and yet preserving its bold, disruptive spirit.”
CPB has a tough road ahead of it as it will be competing as a small fish in a big pond rather than the other way around, even with an iconic name attached to it. Three out of the four search consultants Ad Age interviewed said they haven’t had CPB on their radar recently.
“I know it saddens all of us who grew up in the era of their greatness,” said Lindsey Slaby, founder of Sunday Dinner. “I'm just not sure what/if a revival will come without the charisma of the creative leaders who truly shaped the brand of CPB. “
Slaby says there is heavy self-evaluation needed to rebuild or create something new as it looks to compete in this new marketplace. “Goodby has been one that stands out to me who has been able to [adapt to a changing world] with a lot of hard work and most importantly connectivity to their leaders. Today, I see the agencies like Gut, We Believers, Callen, Rethink, and L&F NYC being the brands we look to for work that is bold, clever, and leaning into the tension brief that always helped make CPB work so deeply insightful and creative at the same time.”
“CPB has been under the radar recently compared to some of their sister agencies, Anomaly and 72&Sunny,” Greg Paull, co-founder and principal of R3 says. “Their challenge is to dial back the clock to their glory days and be a louder voice of change for the industry.”
The future of CPB is unknown, but one thing is certain: The industry is rooting for the agency and even former employees have a fraternity-like admiration for the shop, regardless if they joined 10 years ago or recently.
“Like many, I loved and respected that place, its talent and energy, and what it once stood for. I think the industry is better with a thriving CPB in it,” noted a former executive.
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