Uncommon opens office in New York with Leo Burnett Chicago CCO

Only three months after Uncommon sold a majority stake to Havas, Nils Leonard’s agency has opened up a New York office and bagged a top US creative to lead the way.

Sam Shepherd joins from Leo Burnett Chicago, where he spent three years as EVP and global executive creative director. His most famous work includes “Lost Class” which raised awareness of gun violence and won a Cannes Titanium Lion and two D&AD Black Pencils in the process. At Leo Burnett, he also had a close relationship with clients including Kellogg’s and Powerade.

Shepherd, who will report to Leonard, said: “True creativity is not for the faint of heart. After meeting Nils, Natalie and Lucy you immediately understand why they were able to build the best shop in the world — they lack the fear gene. We share the same audacious spirit to go out and build the brands that people in the real world wish existed.”

Nils Leonard said: “Sam is such a rare talent. There is a depth, a mischief, a spirit of heist and a magic trick to Sam’s best thinking. He is at home making additive, important work and has a radar for emotion, fame and the new. We built Uncommon to answer the most influential and important briefs of our time, Sam is the leader to make the most of this incredible opportunity we have in the US.”

Before Leo Burnett, Shepherd worked at 360i, Kirshenbaum Bond, Deutsch, and DDB New York, Mother New York, Early on, he worked outside the US at Saatchis in Moscow and Ogilvy in São Paulo. All that and he’s only been in the business for 13 years.

Uncommon, which was launched by Leonard with co-founders Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme in 2017, has been closing in on the US for the last year or two. Winning a global client like BA in 2021 (and winning a Grand Prix at Cannes for its first campaign for the airline) might have kick started the process, helped by other international client wins like H&M, Electronic Arts and Nike Jordan.

We’ve asked already this week whether creative agencies can travel in the light of Jung von Matt’s London opening. Mother and BBH have both done OK in NYC without reaching the level of success they achieved in London, while more recently adam&eveNYC ended up being merged into parent network DDB.

Uncommon has made a smart move by hiring a star US creative to lead the way, and the agency has already proved – with BA and EA – that it can handle scale. It’s a big test for Uncommon and for Leonard’s unbridled ambition.

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