Barbarian Group adds Bruce Winterton as President

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Benjamin Palmer, Partner and CEO, The Barbarian Group
Benjamin Palmer, Partner and CEO, The Barbarian Group
The Barbarian Group has appointed Bruce Winterton, a former marketer and agency account/business director to the role of president.

Winterton had been in brand management at Kraft Foods in the early '90s and had also worked on the Molson and Miller beer brands before making the transition to the agency side in 1999 when he joined BBH New York. He has also served as executive group director at O&M, working on Motorola, and as director of client service for the Hill Holliday network. With that background, he brings a new business-oriented resource to the creatively-driven interactive shop.

Creativity caught up with Winterton and Barbarian partner and CEO Benjamin Palmer to talk about the new position and its impact on the shop.

What will the new role entail—and why did you decide to add someone like Bruce to your lineup?

Benjamin Palmer: Basically for last five years I've been sort of a business exec and a creative exec at the same time and I was reaching my limit on half of that. I just had too much to do and my partners have too much to do. And more than that, we were getting into situations where we were working with agencies but also going with them to clients—or having clients call us directly. So we were getting ourselves into a lot more non-standard situations—away from the really well-defined project from an agency—and there started to be all this stuff we wanted to do that we didn't know how to accomplish.

Bruce Winterton: Clearly they've been successful but I think they were underselling their ability and expertise in some ways—they found themselves not spending as much time on the creative and innovation side as they would like to. Their whole model is be creative be innovative, do things that have never been done and present those things in a way to agencies and clients that help them solve their problems. I help with latter and they can focus more on the former.

You've got experience on many different levels—why did you choose to move to a company like this, and where do you see the shop going?

BW: It can go many places—right now we're focusing on our existing client relationships—that is, agencies and clients—and forging some new ones.

For me it all starts with interactive and interactivity—it's a totally new marketing palette. And the Barbarians create things that people like. It's a simple concept but a lot of people in advertising seem to forget that.

Does this change other things about the company structure?

BP: No not too much. We've hit a size—we have 40 people now—and my partners are so busy on the operational side internally. Structurally we're doing more software and arts stuff and there is a lot of time spent on R&D and creative technical stuff. It was getting to be too much—what Bruce is doing is a big chunk of what I was doing before and a big chunk of what (my partners) were doing before and stuff we never did before but should have been. So it's changed in the sense that at our current size and capability, it brings us back to how things were a couple years ago. We were also reaching our limits on navigating what people really want on the client side and, us being project oriented, our new business cycle is permanent and crazy and we were actually, as time went on, spending more time on speculative pitch situations than less. There wasn't a way to change that operationally until now.

Does this in some way bring you closer to an agency model?

BP: No, I think not at all. The primary thing is it makes us more capable of accomplishing what we want to accomplish creatively when we're doing any kind of project. We're not organized around clients; we're organized around solving problems and making cool stuff and ideas.

Watch Benjamin Palmer at the 2007 Creatives Roundtable.
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