He's Conquered Burger King and Microsoft, but Can CP+B's Alex Bogusky Oversee 32 Agencies?

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Things are going swell for Crispin Porter + Bogusky—they were just named Agency of the Decade by Advertising Age, they've managed to make Microsoft slightly cooler and um, well, they live in Boulder. And yesterday, the agency announced a new role for its founding partner Alex Bogusky, who will take a creative position at CP+B's parent company, MDC Partners.

Bogusky will now be Chief Creative Insurgent (yep, Insurgent) at MDC, where he'll find himself Insurgent-ing over MDC's 32 agencies, including small but ubercreative shops like Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, Vitro Robertson, Bruce Mau Design, Hello Design, and mono. This move carries with it an element of risk. While there are some edgy firms in there to be sure, as a quirky guy at a firm known for its quirkiness Bogusky might not know how to play to the mainstream. Plus, Bogusky's biggest gambles haven't paid off: Burger King's subversive campaign continues to creep out critics and customers (case in point: the new Whopper Bar), and designers were peeved by a recent crowdsourcing experiment for Brammo.

But perhaps this kind of creative shakeup will bring the new leadership that MDC's shops need. David Lai, creative director at Hello Design, based in Culver City, California, was thrilled about the Bogusky announcement. "One of the reasons we joined MDC Partners was because they believe in great talent. CP+B is proof of that," says Lai. "I'm excited about Alex's new role as I believe he is an innovative thought leader who we could really learn a lot from."

MDC is a small Canadian company that CP+B chairman Chuck Porter sold 49% of the agency to in 2001. According to our story on Bogusky last year, MDC got CP+B for a song—$6.5 million for the first 49%, then an additional 28% for $28 million—and now has 100% ownership. MDC's choice to align more closely with their star acquisition is a smart one: Last year, MDC chairman Miles Nadal bragged about CP+B's performance but admitted MDC's own shortcomings. "Philosophically, MDC is not designed at this point to deliver ongoing quarter-to-quarter growth. That's just not the way it thinks." That's an understatement: We found estimates that MDC's 77% (at the time) stake in Crispin was worth more than $300 million—more than MDC's entire market value! That number's sure to go up with Bogusky and crew on board.

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  • Jim Osterman

    It's a highwire act to go from being the guy who creates the great work, to being the guy that pulls great work out of others. I wouldn't bet the farm Bogusky can, but I'm not so sure I'd bet against it, either. There is the matter of what is the yardstick of success -- accounts, awards, press mentions? And finally there is this -- many creatives get to this position and find it puts them one layer too far away from what they love. But I have to say this is so true to the DNA of CPB that if I had to predict right now if this is going to hunt I'd say 60-40 yes.