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Kirshenbaum Bond founder Jon Bond switches to social media as head of ambitious specialist Big Fuel

They seem to be a lively lot, past and present, at the agencies now owned by Toronto outfit MDC.

A short time ago we had fabled creative director Alex Bogusky (the self-styled ‘creative insurgent’) leaving the business to go and torment his old clients (and others) by becoming a ‘consumer insurgent.’

Now Kirshenbaum Bond founder Jon Bond, 53, has reappeared at digital and social media agency Big Fuel, saying social media is where it’s at, particularly for a guy like him with a “short attention span.”

Here’s what the always excellent Stuart Elliott in the New York Times makes of it all.

In another sign of the growing role that social media is playing on Madison Avenue, Jonathan Bond, long a leading executive in the realm of traditional agencies, is becoming the head of an agency specializing in social media.

Jonathan Bond, new chief executive of the social media agency Big Fuel.
The agency, named Big Fuel, is scheduled to announce on Wednesday morning that Mr. Bond will become its chief executive, effective immediately.

Avi Savar, who founded Big Fuel and has served as its chief executive, will take a post focused on creativity and content development.

In addition, Mr. Bond, also known as Jon, is buying a minority stake in Big Fuel, which works for marketers like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Colgate-Palmolive, General Motors and McDonald’s.

Big Fuel, which is based in New York, recently opened an office in Detroit to handle its new G.M. assignments.

In 1987, Mr. Bond was a co-founder, with Richard Kirshenbaum, of the New York agency known as Kirshenbaum & Bond. The agency, now called Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, is owned by MDC Partners.

When Mr. Bond left the agency last February, he was the co-chairman with Mr. Kirshenbaum. At the time, the agency said he was leaving “to pursue other entrepreneurial goals.”

And indeed, Mr. Bond said in a phone interview on Tuesday, for almost a year that is what he did, acquiring stakes in seven new agencies and companies like Crimson Hexagon, Klout and Victors and Spoils.

Mr. Bond said he had also been considering forming a holding company that would own agencies specializing in nontraditional marketing services like social media. He raised money from investors — estimated by the trade publication Advertising Age at $100 million — to buy such agencies.

“I started down that road,” Mr. Bond said, but “it became clear social media would be at the center of the world.”

As a result, “we never closed any deals and we never spent the money,” he added.

“Social media is like an octopus,” Mr. Bond said. “Its tentacles reach into everything.”

That made it more sensible to join “one of the biggest social media agencies,” he said, referring to Big Fuel “and build the whole thing around it” rather than accomplishing what he wants from scratch.

He offered this comparison: “It’s easier to start JetBlue than to try to fix Delta.”

To that end, Mr. Bond is hiring the Jordan Edmiston Group in New York, which provides investment banking services in the marketing and media industries, to help Big Fuel raise capital for growth.
“We’re going to expand our services,” Mr. Bond said, “and expand geographically.”

“What’s going to be a full-service social media agency is going to require additional capabilities,” he added.

Mr. Bond described his goal as the result of what would be formed “if you merge Crispin Porter & Bogusky with Viacom — buzz-worthy content plus a distribution channel.” (Crispin Porter, a highly-regarded ad agency, is also part of MDC.)

Mr. Bond, who is 53, said the new venture also appealed to him “from a personal standpoint.”

“I’ve always like change and what the ‘new thing’ is,” he said. “It’s a benefit of having a short attention span.”

Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal “was in digital early,” Mr. Bond said, referring to operations like dotglu, which initially specialized in online ads and has since been expanded to include tasks like social marketing and direct marketing.

“And the original positioning of Kirshenbaum & Bond was as ‘the word-of-mouth agency,’ ” he added, referring to campaigns the agency created for clients like The New York Post that were intended to generate the kind of discussions among consumers that are now called “buzz” or “viral marketing.”

Maybe Big Fuel will become even bigger.

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Alex Bogusky big fuel crispin porter bogusky Jon Bond kirshenbaum bond senecal mdc partners New York Times Stuart Elliott

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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