After Argonaut, Project Worldwide Creates Another Shop From Scratch

Holding Company Says Building Makes More Sense Right Now Than Buying

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Junior founding partners.
Junior founding partners.

Years ago, Project Worldwide deviated from its aggressive M&A strategy to build Argonaut from scratch. Now the small holding company is at it again, laying the foundation for a Bay Area-based digital shop called Junior.

"There have been two paths to growing Project Worldwide. One is organic agency startups; the other is acquisitions," said Robert G. Vallee Jr, Project Worldwide Chairman-CEO. "The good news is the general environment with advertising now is very healthy, and exiting the great recession client spend is definitely on the uptick. The bad news is, with most agencies now back in a better financial position, the multiples we're looking at today to acquire properties of scale and purpose are quite expensive. We think those opportunities will be, in the near term, somewhat limited."

He's not sweating it, though, since the company already has had success on the "organic side of the equation" with Argonaut. It's also a good time to better utilize Argonaut talent, he said, referring to a couple of execs who will take on new roles to help build Junior.

Robert G. Vallee, Jr. CEO, Project WorldWide
Robert G. Vallee, Jr. CEO, Project WorldWide

A handful of founding partners, including the Argonaut execs and external hires, will build the new shop from the ground up. Former AKQA creative Stephen Clements will assume the role of creative director. Garrick Schmitt, a former Razorfish managing director, has joined Junior to oversee client and business strategy. And Adaptive Path's Renna Al-Yassini will lead user experience and strategy. From Project's Argonaut comes Robbie Whiting, who will serve as technology director, as well as Conal O'Doherty, who will oversee growth and operations for Junior.

While the team is aiming for broad digital capabilities, it will focus on "fast-prototyping" digital products, such as mobile apps, for clients. "There are challenges in the marketplace we feel aren't being appropriately addressed," said Mr. Vallee. "Desktops are going away, and we're living in a more mobile world. More work is being produced on vertical screens. We want to help clients better maximize their presence in the digital world."

The shop declined to discuss clients as it works to build its portfolio from existing business within the holding company and new business.

Among Project Worldwide's agencies are creative shop Partners & Napier, event firm George P. Johnson and shopper marketing group Shoptology.

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