Preacher's in Town: Mother N.Y. Vets Start a New Agency in Austin

Industry Vets Hope to Build on and Contribute to City's Thriving Culture of Innovation

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From Left: Preacher Partners Seth Gaffney, Krystle Loyland and Rob Baird
From Left: Preacher Partners Seth Gaffney, Krystle Loyland and Rob Baird Credit: Danny Clinch

Creative chaos is about to descend on Austin, Texas, for the annual SXSW festival, and a trio of alumni from Mother New York have chosen the moment to spread the word about Preacher, a new full-service creative shop they hope will capture and contribute to the town's booming spirit of innovation.

The agency's founders and sole employees so far are Creative Director Rob Baird, Head of Strategy Seth Gaffney and Managing Director Krystle Loyland. At Mother New York, the three oversaw clients from Burger King, Devo and Dell to Stella Artois, Sour Patch Kids and Virgin Mobile. Their combined CVs include earlier stints at other notable creative shops including Fallon, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Wieden & Kennedy, New York and TBWA/Chiat/Day. They departed Mother last December on good terms, although Mother's leadership now spite Austin -- just a little bit.

"Rob, Krystle and Seth are first and foremost our friends and will always be part of the Mother family," said Paul Malmstrom, co-founder at partner at Mother New York. "We couldn't be prouder or more excited to cheer them on along their journey and we are incredibly jealous of Austin for now claiming three of the most creative, talented and brilliant minds we've ever met."

The three were drawn to Austin for a number of reasons. For one, Texas is home to Mr. Baird and Ms. Loyland, but more important, the city's culture of experimentation, creativity and collaboration seemed fitting for what they wanted to build. "Great things have been happening here in business, creativity, design and just making," said Mr. Baird. "Year after year, it just got more alluring to us. Ultimately, we wanted to give ourselves more room -- physically and spiritually -- to experiment and try to make a company different from what we would make if we were in New York or L.A. It's about being able to make our own culture that's really focused on craft and storytelling -- and do that in a place that's a little more forgiving."

"Everyone's trying to figure out how to innovate in this industry," Ms. Loyland said. "And to us, it feels like taking risk, putting a little more skin in the game is the only way to get there."

Preacher arrives with a number of clients, including a new and yet-to-be-named golf lifestyle brand, the healthy snack company Snikiddy and Seventh Flag, a new regional coffee chain opening its first shop in Austin this month. It's also working on an experiential project for Nike Retail and a content project for Skillshare. The agency is independent and launched with the help of private funders, Mr. Baird said.

The business model comprises a mix of revenue streams and illustrates the sort of collaborative ethos the agency hopes to build on. The company has equity partnerships, for example, with its golf client and Seventh Flag, both of which it has helped to brand from the bottom up -- and then some. For Seventh Flag, Mr. Baird is currently helping to pick out couches for the shops' interior.

"It's so important for us to have partners and brands we truly believe in, so it makes sense for us to figure out more interesting partnership deals, equity deals that really make us accountable and help us grow our company in interesting ways," Ms. Loyland said.

Culturally speaking, the agency hopes to place an emphasis on both making and giving back. "We want to make sure to focus on getting to something tangible," Mr. Gaffney said. "Even the best cultures can start to feel that they're diluting a bit when you don't feel like you're putting something out in the world, are able to share it, in some cases touch it or laugh at it -- and this is coming from the strategist who says everything in Keynote."

Outside of clients, Preacher's partners hope to draw more opportunities to and help nurture the creativity of Austin itself. Part of the shop's yet-to-be-determined digs will be dedicated to what it has dubbed "The Sanctuary," a venue to showcase the work of local artists and support other creative programs or companies in the area. To help announce the agency's arrival, Preacher will be installing a "pop-up" version of The Sanctuary in downtown Austin this Sunday as part of the SXSW festivities. "We're trying to throw our own welcome party in the most selfless way," said Mr. Baird.

"The world does not need another ad agency, but we do think there's room for a place like ours that believes spending more time making, doing and helping connect people with brands and products they should have in their lives," said Ms. Loyland. "That might sound optimistic and naive, but if we don't believe strongly that we can find a better way, then we can't expect the collaborators and clients we bring on and the folks we hire to feel that way either."

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