After a career spent largely with established agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and Leo Burnett, former Dentsu Canada president and CEO Bob Shropshire says he feels invigorated by the challenge of building his own agency from the ground up.
Shropshire left Dentsu (now DentsuBos Canada) last month to launch a new Toronto agency called Heroes & Villains Advertising. He and his partners are in the “very early stages” of launching the agency, which has secured office space in Toronto’s east end and has “a couple of small things” on the go for clients.
“It’s the start of something new that we’re hoping will get some traction,” he told Marketing on Wednesday.
Shropshire said that Dentsu’s June acquisition of BOS seemed like a good time to leave the agency he first joined in 2001 and launch his own shop.
• BOS acquired by Dentsu
“I had a good relationship with all the people at Dentsu, including the head office in Tokyo, but I just felt it was time for a change,” he said. “The BOS acquisition and merger provided an ideal opportunity to step aside.”
Calls to DentsuBos were not returned by press time, but Shropshire said that Michel Ostiguy would continue as CEO of the combined entity and president of its Montreal office, while Claude Carrier continues as president of its Toronto office, both reporting into New York. Shropshire became chairman of the combined businesses when the deal was announced.
Shropshire declined to name the other partners in Heroes & Villains, saying with a laugh that there are some discussions taking place. There will be two partners for sure, he said, “hopefully three.”
A LinkedIn search suggests that at least one of those partners is Emma Hancock, who was formerly VP group account director at Dentsu Canada from 2004 to 2011, and was most recently managing director at Dentsu Australia.
The new agency’s name stems from the partners’ belief in the power of storytelling to communicate a brand’s values. Every story, said Shropshire, has both a hero and a villain.
“We need to be doing more work at higher levels and trying to push for strong brands and strong work out of Canada,” he said. “Brands should be treated like heroes, not another facet of the agency story.
“It feels like it’s coming to a point where we need to get back to thinking about brands and how they present themselves, and be a little less focused on how it’s executed.”
While Shropshire said the door is always open to prospective clients, the agency is looking to align with marketers that share the agency’s philosophy. “As a start-up, we can’t be too picky, but we’re certainly going to be looking for clients that are interested in the kind of work we’re planning to produce.”
While this is Shropshire’s first time working with a true startup, he noted that both Dentsu and the now defunct Ammirati Puris – where he worked as director of account service from 1994-1999 – were both relatively small agencies when he joined.
“I haven’t really done startups, but I’ve certainly been part of agencies that have grown,” he said.
Shropshire said he relishes the opportunity to grow his own business according to his own principles. “After you’ve been in this business as long as I have, you form your own thoughts about how things should operate and what things are important,” he said. “Growing a company like this will either be affirmation or condemnation of what I think is really important.”