Does former BBDO star Geg Hahn’s new venture herald a new wave of creative independents?

Former BBDO New York CCO Greg Hahn, laid off by the Omnicom-owned giant in its Covid-19 retrenchment, has bounced back quicky – heading a US outpost of “alternative” Canada agency No Fixed Address (NFA.) Hahn’s enterprise is called [email protected] Fixed Address.

Hahn (above) says: “The agency world is in the need of a stir, and we want to be the straw…it has been a whirlwind, a roller coaster, starting with a really sharp turn down. I didn’t plan for it and I wasn’t prepared for change, but it came and I had no choice: Either make a bad thing out of it and dwell, or look at it as an opportunity to do something different and new. I quickly went into that mode.”

NFA, founded in Toronto three years ago by Serge Rancourt and Dave Lafond, operates a flexible model with different kinds of remuneration. It now employs 140 people with 40 clients.

Such new-style agencies are a big problem for the ad holding companies, themselves grappling with a spectacular downturn in business thanks to Covid-19. It’s not that the new wave of new-style agencies are ever likely to be as big as they are but they’ll chip away at the edges and make clients wonder if they need to pay holding company margins for creative talent, much of which is now on the loose.

Back in the 1980s agencies faced their biggest existential threat when the bosses of various in-house media departments went their own way to set up media independents, splitting commission with their former masters. Even though most of these were subsequently bought by their former employers, the genie was out of the bottle. Media agencies are now, arguably, more important than creative agencies in most clients’ eyes.

Are we about to see a wave of muscled-up creative independents?

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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.