A new startup shop founded by former R/GA, CP&B and Roundhouse executives called Shepherd – A Fixer Agency, was inspired by the Winston Wolf character from "Pulp Fiction," who was known as an unapologetic problem solver.
Co-founder Dean McBeth, formerly head of integrated strategy at CP&B, says that for years he has been looking at ways to get people in disparate disciplines, like analysts and social-media strategists and user experience designers, to work more closely. "It's not about creating a process; it's about casting the right team," he says.
And in Shepherd's case the central team is only three people -- McBeth along with co-founders Dave Burg, former R/GA Brand Strategy Group Director and Dan Walsh, former Roundhouse managing director. The idea is to work with outside partners and freelancers to fill what Shepherd sees as a void in the business: this shop will cater to clients too small for big agencies; it will execute creative strategies directed by consultants; and it will work on a flat-fee basis.
There is also no creative director, because when you have one, says McBeth, "all roads lead to that creative director" and he or she comes with his or her own perceptions and philosophies. Without one specific creative leader, Shepherd believes it will have flexibility to work with a number of creatives across disciplines. The agency plans to work mainly via partnerships with production and data companies along with freelance talent in its two outposts of Austin and Portland.
Everyone is talking about consultancies versus agencies today, says McBeth, and Shepherd isn't looking to replace consultancies – it's goal is to "help clients who use consultancies to turn those strategies into things." Often, he says, consultancies provide a plan, but don't help the brand develop and execute a creative brief around it.
Using mainly freelance talent and partner companies will keep the agency's overheard down, allowing for the flat rate "so we're not hitting clients with hourly fees," says McBeth.
Shepherd's target clients include brands that are underserved, so those "too small for big agencies to staff against," yet they're in need of consulting and creative support, says McBeth.
So far, the agency is working with 805Basecamp, a private equity firm that represents the estates of John Wayne and Marlon Brando, and an international recruitment technology startup named Jobbook.