Goodbye Zig, hello Crispin Porter + Bogusky Canada

July 08, 2010  |  Jeromy Lloyd  |  Comments

There have long been rumours that Crispin Porter + Bogusky would open a Canadian office. Well now it has.

Zig officially merged with CP+B this morning with Chuck Porter, its founder and MDC‘s top strategist visiting Toronto to tell staff they now work at Crispin Porter + Bogusky Canada.

Of MDC’s Canadian shops, Zig has the strongest reputation for award-winning major national client work (Molson Canadian, IKEA and Best Buy, among others), and it likes to push the envelope a bit (its “We Need to Talk” campaign for Toronto radio station 1010 CFRB certainly provoked a few angry letters).

“I think our values and beliefs are very similar,” said Andy Macaulay, Zig’s co-founder and chairman, noting that the agencies even package themselves similarly: Zig’s brand positioning is “Ideas in their most powerful form,” while Crispin calls itself an “idea factory.”

“It’s about the kind of work we create for our clients and the environment we want to create for our people… The premium is on ideas and how imaginatively you can take ideas to market. I’d like to think that’s been the hallmark of our work. It’s certainly been the hallmark for theirs.”

The merger was discussed seriously only a few months ago when Macaulay visited CP+B and pitched senior management on the idea. While MDC speaks often of making resources available across its agency network, Zig president Shelley Brown said “nothing is quite the same as feeling like we’re part of one agency where you’re just calling someone down the hall.”

The merger also gives Zig the chance to scale its business up to the international level–something it has struggled with to date. Zig opened in Chicago in 2006 after purchasing local agency Hadrian’s Wall. It never seemed to find its stride or a foundation client to build the business around. It broke the surface in 2009 with work for Playboy TV, but projects from the recession-beleaguered bunny brand have since trickled off. The merger means the closure of the Chicago operation.

CP+B doesn’t need a presence in the region, so the small office will be shuttered by summer’s end. Stephen Leps, who took creative lead at the shop in February 2009, left this past April and is en route to Leo Burnett Chicago. CP+B is now trying to find homes for the remaining Chicago staff at other CP+B offices.

MDC is famously hands-off with its agencies’ business decisions, but that’s not to say the top brass weren’t already pondering the benefits of merger.

“Miles [Nadal], Rob Dickson [managing director] and I have been talking about this for a long time,” said Porter, three or four years in fact. “I’ve been in love with Zig for years. Back when Elspeth [Lynn] and Lorraine [Tao, Macaulay's co-founders] were there, I spent some time at the agency and they were doing such great work. If people ask me why I love Zig, the first things I say is ‘They won a gold Lion at Cannes for Unilever [Vim's "Prison Visitor"],” which is a very hard thing to do.”

Crispin Porter + Bogusky bought Swedish agency Daddy last year. “We have CP+B Europe now, and the amount of cross-pollination that’s going on is really amazing,” said Porter of the Daddy deal. “I’m hoping the same thing will happen with CP+B Canada. In fact we don’t see it as CP+B Canada. We see it as one big company.”

Organizationally, Macaulay is handing full day-to-day operation to Shelley Brown, president and now CEO of CP+B Canada. Macaulay, who is not leaving the company in the near future (despite rumours to the contrary), will remain chairman.

Brown will now report to CP+B partner Jeff Steinhour.

Aaron Starkman takes the title of executive creative director. While Brown said Starkman won’t be “reporting to” CP+B’s chief creative officers Rob Reilly and Andrew Keller, “they will be working with Aaron and offering input from time to time. It’s not as though every time we want to present a campaign to a client we’ll need their approval.

“Our hope is to move a couple people from the network here to Toronto and a run a few staff exchanges for short periods as a way of knitting the offices together,” said Brown.

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