Sean Barlow

Cundari’s search for a chief creative officer is over

Sean Barlow leaves his post at Cossette to join the independently-owned agency

It’s a new year and a new job for Sean Barlow, who has just taken the creative reins at Cundari.

The hiring of Barlow as chief creative officer follows a months-long search process that began early last fall with the departure of Andrew Simon to Edelman in August.

“Sean consistently rose to the very top through the search process, not only because of his exceptional creative track record and proven, awarded experience in making brands famous, but also because he’s just so intuitively aligned with Cundari’s entrepreneurial culture and, importantly, our future ambition,” said Jenn Steinmann, president of Cundari, in a release.

Barlow joins from Cossette where he was creative director for just over 2.5 years and before that he spent nearly 14 years at Leo Burnett, leaving as a group creative director.

Barlow said he was “excited” about where Cossette was heading since Peter Ignazi and Carlos Moreno took over the creative lead last spring. “I have a ton of time for Peter and Carlos… I am going to miss those guys,” he said.

But, after getting to know CEO Aldo Cundari as well as Steinmann and Malcolm McLean, executive VP, strategy, insights and planning, Barlow became more and more convinced the opportunity was too good to pass up. “[I was] looking for a reason to wait it out, but the reason never came, the chemistry was really good.”

And Barlow believes chemistry is all-important. It’s a maxim he’s heard many times from consultants specializing in agency search. “Nintey-five percent of the time they say, ‘Guys it is not about the work or the case studies per se, it’s about the chemistry in the room’ and that was the case with these guys.”

Aside from that chemical connection, Barlow said he is also looking forward to working at one of Canada’s true remaining independent agencies and for an owner who has retained his entrepreneurial hunger to grow the business, to try new things and act quickly when opportunities arise.

“I think there is a sense of freedom to go out and try some things,” he said. Working in a creative department used to be about TV and print ads, he said. “Now we are inventors… So when I sit with Aldo it’s a pretty good feeling to know that if there is something that goes way beyond advertising, he can be game to do it.”

The agency has built up some good momentum in the past few years, said Barlow. His job is to build on that momentum with more award-winning work for the likes of BMW, while also finding new ways to build buzz for some of the smaller brands that lack the same status as BMW.

“What I told the creative department this morning when I met with them was that sometimes opportunity lies with some of the other clients that don’t have the biggest exposure nationally.” He cited the James Ready work he did with Leo Burnett that captured many awards, but also the attention of many clients. “Suddenly there were all kinds of brands showing interest because of the work we were doing.”

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