When Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan left JWT earlier this year, where they sat atop the North American operation, it was with the stated intention of starting a shop of their own. On Friday, the new venture the two have started -- dubbed Co: (including the colon, a hint that the base agency is just a hub) -- launched, and they expressed a desire to serve marketers in a new way. Taking its name from the spirit and mechanism of its operation -- co-creation, collaboration, and co-venturing, according to the new shop -- all those ideas that finish the thought the agency's name started, it calls itself a "brand innovation studio."
As if leaving a giant agency to start a boutique were not brave enough, using a morpheme (the smallest unit of meaning in the English language) certainly shows real gumption. As do the ideas expressed by that name.
"We call it a Brand Innovation Studio because we are taking our structural cues from the evolving entertainment industry -- an industry built around a talent model that is much more fluid -- the right talent is brought together at the right moment to get the right outcome," said Ryan in a statement.
The concept is that the core of the agency, or rather, brand innovation studio, can scale from a five person to a 1,500-plus person organization as dictated by the needs of a particular marketer. And Co: claims it has this capability as of launch.
The core of five referred to is, of course, Montague and Ryan, joined by Chief Strategy Neil Parker (of IBM and, most recently Wolff Olins), and Chief Technology Experience Officer Richard Schatzberger (who comes via BBH and previously worked in interaction design and product innovation at Motorola), as well as the proverbial player to be named later -- an as-yet-unnamed Chief Commercial Officer who will manage the co-ventures practice.
The expansion to a cast of thousands comes courtesy of what Co: refers to as "Co:conspirators" -- namely agencies, brand consultancies, design houses and companies across the media and tech sectors who will be brought on as collaborators as needs dictate. At launch, Co: counted 43 companies already signed on.
"We believe today and in the future, success for clients is driven by two things: superior talent, and the ability to effectively collaborate," said Montague. "We have carefully evaluated the industry and selected co-conspirators based on those two criteria. This collective of co-conspirators specialize in different things but they all have this in common: they are all industry leading talent and they are all committed to upending the old advertising model."
At first blush at least, the model does not sound wholly dissimilar from that of Victors & Spoils (one of the 43 co-conspirators, not incidentally), which is based on crowd-sourcing principals and likewise figures to disrupt the holding company and traditional agency models. Though V&S's crowd is comprised of individuals not entire companies.
Other companies signed on as co-conspirators include Big Spaceship, Berg London, Campfire, Collins, Horizon Media, MediaLink, Naked Communications, Powell Communications, Red Bricks Media (which now goes by simply RBM), Tronic, Vast Ventures, and Your Majesty.
Victor & Spoils cofounder John Winsor told us in an interview this summer that he sees the studio model coming. "Good ideas come from everywhere," he said. "You'll see great ideas that clients throw out there and can aggregate folks around ... It'll be much more flexible and clients will save a lot of money by not holding these big retainer-based relationships."