Online All Stars 2010: Ty Montague

MontagueCofounder of Co:

Ty Montague is in it for the long haul. In more ways than one. His brand-spanking-new company Co: (when we spoke the new agency he had left the top creative spot at JTW to found was all of 8 hours old) presents itself as a new-model partner to CEOs and CMOs. One that gets involved from the product development stage and doesn't just swoop in to set in motion promotional machinery. "We will be there long before the communication is planned," says Montague.

The concept for the "brand innovation studio" model itself had a similarly long gestation period, says Montague. The plan, beyond the deeper integration with the products and services the company represents, is revolutionary in the degree to which it creates formal collaborative partnerships with other agencies and shops (43 at last count), spreading the workload as needs dictate. "The idea had been on my mind for some time," he says. "Obviously we couldn't get really serious about it until we left our day jobs."

Well into his third decade in the business, Montague had long harbored the notion that things could operate differently. "As you get to know more about the business, you start to think about ways in which client problems might be solved in new ways," he says.

When asked what the industry could use more of, Montague, true to the new model he is so passionate about, says, "We need more collaboration. We need to get better at creating an environment in which problems get solved, credit shared, and egos checked at the door."

Many might see the decision he and Co: cofounder Rosemarie Ryan made to leave their perches atop JWT North America, but it it's just the sort of challenge that sees Montague at his best. What really excites him. he says, is "when I have that feeling like I really don't know what I'm doing. You should be uncomfortable, nervous, unsure. If you know what you are doing and you feel like you really have it well under control, you're not pushing yourself."

His foundation in digital aside, and the lauded job he did at JWT of bringing the venerable old agency into a new age, Montague says, "I don't believe in separating one medium from another." The starting point is the story, no matter what the eventual creative is. "The only medium that matters is the audience," he says, "and giving them a story to tell one another."

Despite the deep roots of Montague's ideas for Co:, the company seems very much of the moment, and Montague himself fits neatly into something of a mini-exodus of top talent from the traditional agency world. "The back-end of a recession is historically a time of innovation," says Montague. "We are at this massive inflection point as an industry - due to technology - and the recession may be lifting, making this a time people will look back on and say, 'That was an amazing time.'" Then he adds, "At least that's what I hope. I hope we've picked our moment well."

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