Crayon Draws On Verdino And Coulson

Amid sweeping changes at Digitas, the Publicis-owned agency has lost its director of emerging media platforms, Greg Verdino, to an edgier outfit named Crayon.

Verdino has been named chief strategic officer at Crayon, which was started last year by marketing consultant Joseph Jaffe to help brands and other agencies better engage consumers through new and emerging digital channels.

Crayon also has a new chief creative officer in Steve Coulson, who most recently worked as group creative director at integrated marketing firm T3 in New York, overseeing work for Marriott, The Wall Street Journal and MTV.

Digitas, meanwhile, has become increasingly ambitious since being acquired by Publicis Groupe in December for $1.3 billion.

"We are taking some very decisive steps at the moment, implementing our international strategy, and rolling out our brand on a global scale," David Kenny, Digitas Chairman and CEO, said last week upon a $182 million investment in French digital shop Business Interactif.



Earlier this month, Kenny said he expected Digitas to grow by 40% to 50% in the next two years, and to open offices within the next 18 months in the top eight to 10 markets worldwide through organic growth and acquisition.

Digitas recently snagged Unilever's Vice President of Global Media Alan Rutherford to be CEO of Digitas Global, a new division charged with leading the agency's expansion into new markets worldwide.

By contrast, Crayon is a nine-person shop known largely for its highly experimental efforts in virtual worlds like Second Life.

That is not to say Crayon, or its founder, are any less ambitious than Digitas.

"Our goal is to redefine the marketplace," is how Jaffe frames his agency's mission.

The startup already boasts a client list including Coke, which recently ventured into Second Life with its "Virtual Thirst" campaign conceived by Crayon.

Jaffe is a die-hard believer in the continuing transference of power from advertisers and content publishers to consumers. He also believes that digital doesn't necessarily mean innovative.

"The interactive world has already been mainstreamed," said Jaffe. "What we're trying to do is bring the innovation back, and the key is conversation." (Jaffe makes a fundamental distinction between conversation and communication, which he considers a one-sided conversation.)

Jaffe also makes clear that Crayon is not for agencies or brands interested in a quick boost to their bottom line.

"This is about experimenting and brand R&D through open-sourced partnerships," he explained. "ROI is critical, but we're in the business of ROE--return on experimentation."

Prior to joining Digitas, Verdino worked for a year at Roo, the broadband video network and syndication channel, where he was a senior vice president.

Before joining T3, Coulson was creative director at JWT for six years, heading up digital creative for all its clients, including DeBeers, Ford, Cadbury-Adams and Pepsi-Lipton.

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