Big names, small agencies. The list of well-known ad people starting again in 2020 continues to grow

M&C Saatchi alumni Kate Bosomworth and Justin Tindall are the latest adland names to set up shop this year, with a new agency called Platform. They join a growing list of respected individuals who are trying out new models, often by necessity rather than choice, creating an ever more crowded market where only the hungriest will survive.

Established agencies are also creating start-ups as a way of refreshing their proposition and bringing in new revenue streams at a time when it’s difficult to grow. Mother’s Other, for example, claims to “find new and interesting ways to help brands and businesses grow.” Similarly, Engine’s Growth Studio is dedicated to “finding ways to deliver clients’ next competitive advantage” and Mr President now has a content arm.

While the big holding companies, battered by global forces, struggle to stay relevant, new entrants have an opportunity to disrupt the status quo, and there are surely plenty of start-up businesses looking for the kinds of services that these newcomers are offering, and could potentially keep the wolf from the door.

Nobody really likes to be a “former” anything, but age and a pandemic will do that to a person. Still, entrepreneurialism is not for the faint-hearted, and some of those listed below may have wanted to do this for a long time, but just needed the kind of push that 2020 is not-so-kindly providing. Luckily, fancy offices are not required at the moment, and Zoom is a great leveller.

Few of the new agencies are set up by people like James Murphy and David Golding, who have piles of cash from the sale of Adam & Eve to Omnicom’s DDB, and a drive that is undimmed since the day they first set up shop together in 2008. In May 2020, they opened New Commercial Arts in May at the height of lockdown and they have already won Halifax, Vodafone global, and an Uber global customer experience brief.

Most, if not all, of the new entrepreneurs are getting in before they reach the magic age – 54 – when, according to a new Norwegian study reported in The Guardian – we all lose our “get up and go,” and no longer have the “passion and grit to try something new.”

Motel McCann execs Rob Smith and Lee Tan believe that the best ideas come from being “comfortably uncomfortable.” They are already working with buy-now-pay-later company Klarna (their ad above).

ZooperHeiss Former Dare creative duo James Cooper and Flo Heiss set up for clients with a “small budget, big ambition.”

ScienceMagic David Pemsel, former Guardian Media Group CEO and one of the original crew at St Luke’s in the 90s, recently launched ScienceMagic Inc as a reboot of PR and branding agency The Communications Store.

The Constellation Collective A digital micro-network set up by Adrian Rossi, a long-time creative leader at AMV BBDO who did a very brief stint as creative chairman at Grey London, with ex-Domino’s CMO Emily Somers.

Bigsmall Former WCRS CEO Matt Edwards joined this agency, which was set up by ex-WCRS colleague Tom Evans and Bluemarlin New York MD Ben Cleaver. They work with a lot of TV clients including Channel 5, MTV, and a new US streaming service, AMC+.

Friendly Giants An independent creative company with a focus on “building better stories,” set up by former BBC and Omnicom Media Group execs Gavin Leisfield and Sam D’Amato.

The Ninety-Niners Founded by former MullenLowe Open executives Ant Hopper and Si Goodall, it’s a customer experience consultancy catering to “the 99 per cent.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.