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Alex Bogusky returns to advertising and Crispin Porter + Bogusky

The one-time ad industry superstar, who left advertising in 2010, is back to help lead the creative agency that still bears his name.

Alex Bogusky returns to advertising and Crispin Porter + Bogusky
[Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images]

Hoo boy, get your triumphant return analogies ready. Steve Jobs to Apple in ’97. Howard Schultz to Starbucks in ’08. Michael Jordan to the Bulls in ’95. Now the advertising world has its potential equivalent in Crispin Porter + Bogusky announcing today the return of Alex Bogusky to the creative agency as its new chief creative engineer.

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The move comes mere hours before agency parent company MDC Partners’ second-quarter earnings call. In a statement, Bogusky said this is a decisive moment for the future of the advertising industry. “The needs of brands have changed, and it’s high time to reexamine the best creative approach to meet those needs,” said Bogusky. “My time away from advertising was largely spent advising and investing in tech startups and I learned about the processes that drive those successes. I think advertising agencies can benefit from the lean and agile practices that have revolutionized so many other industries.”

Back in 2010, Bogusky quit advertising at the seeming height of his powers, in a move that was described as soul-searching. Since then, he’s stayed in Boulder, Colorado, where he launched a “brand impact agency” and consumer advocacy group called Fearless Unlimited. He’s a stakeholder in a venture firm called Batshit Crazy Ventures, as well as the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based agency Humanaut.

In the decade before he left the agency, Bogusky helped take Crispin from creative hotshop to big-brand advertising juggernaut. Thanks to work like Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, and its ongoing transformation of Domino’s from just a pizza chain to a digital tech darling, Bogusky led Crispin to an almost unprecedented run of industry awards, including winning Ad Age‘s Agency of the Year award in 2004 and 2008, and being named the industry bible’s Agency of the Decade.

Since his departure, much has changed at Crispin–and the industry as a whole. Former Bogusky creative deputies like Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly are long gone. Keller is now global creative director at Facebook’s Creative Shop, while Reilly is global creative chairman at McCann. The rise of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat has happened, likewise the infiltration of global consultancies like Deloitte and Accenture into the creative ad business, as well as a growing trend of brands taking their creative work in-house. Not to mention the further belt-tightening and challenges facing the ad industry’s holding company business model or its own #MeToo issues. Bogusky’s return comes barely a week after MDC Partners announced executive layoffs, and a quarter after CEO Scott Kaufman called the company’s first-quarter results “unacceptable.”

Agency cofounder Chuck Porter calls Bogusky the most original and innovative thinker he knows. In a statement, Porter said, “The last time Alex was here, we reinvented what it meant to be an ad agency, and I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the industry needs that more than right now. The new world is about being smart, fast, nimble, and prolific. I think that’s what marketers want, and where talented people want to live.”

In the same company statement, Bogusky said CP+B is in his blood. “The CP+B brand has always been all about redefining advertising, and the opportunity to remake what it means to be a top-tier creative agency is too compelling to pass up. The timing is right.” Both the agency and Bogusky declined to comment further at this time.

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Until we hear from them again, the industry will be watching closely to see whether Bogusky’s return is akin to Michael Jordan’s return to the Bulls . . . or his subsequent comeback attempt with the Washington Wizards.

UPDATE: Not long after the agency announced Bogusky’s return, it announced that global chief creative officer Linus Karlsson–who just joined in September 2017–will be departing the agency.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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