Star Swedish creative Linus Karlsson (left), who made his reputation in the US at Fallon and then as one of the founders of Mother New York, always looked a rather odd fit with his subsequent employer McCann.
He was brought in by Brit Nick Brien when he was heading McCann to shake up the massive network’s rather stodgy creative work. This meant he was installed as CCO of both McCann New York and London (an impossible job) and chairman of one or the other of them.
Latterly he’s been one of the guiding lights of McCann’s Commonwealth agency designed to serve General Motors. But working mainly on just one account, albeit a huge one, never seemed a likely solution to the ‘what do we do with Linus?’ conundrum.
So now interpublic-owned McCann has given Karlsson his own toy kit – Ming Utility and Entertainment Group – to create “experience-driven ideas centered on utility/design, technology and entertainment.”
Karlsson, Ming’s chairman and CCO, will be joined by partners Brian DiLorenzo, chief production officer of McCann and a former colleague at Fallon, who will be CEO; and Tara DeVeaux, president, a former senior account handler at BBDO.
Ming is described by the parties as an independent company although Karlsson will keep his responsibilities at Commonwealth and DiLorenzo his at McCann. Ming will have its own HQ in New York but also use McCann resources.
So what’s different about Ming? Karlsson says: “If you look at work that has been applauded in the last few years, the most amazing piece of content wasn’t done out of an agency it was done by CAA and Chipotle. Or Red Bull. That’s telling us we have to do something differently. I don’t know what we’re waiting for. I’m tired of waiting.”
Ming is interesting on several counts. It’s another attempt to create a substantial content, as opposed to advertising, agency (a bit like Droga5’s tie-up with WME). It shows the lengths the big holding companies will go to to keep their top talent and also casts such companies in a new light, as a kind of investment trust for entrepreneurs.
Ming vases, you’ll recall, are extremely valuable but inclined to shatter if someone drops them. It will be interesting to see if this one stays safely above ground.