If you follow an industry long enough, you start to see the same patterns and cycles repeat themselves every so often. The ebbs and flows of staffing as clients come and go through different shops. The shouting from the rooftops PR pushes, followed by periods of radio silence.
This one is no exception.
Every decade or so, there’s another wave of new businesses that make an appearance. Call them agencies, call them creative shops — whatever label you choose to put on them, it happens like clockwork. Some survive, some thrive, and others wilt away.
Often, those new agencies are formed by senior or experienced staff from other agencies that want to be in charge of their own destiny.
It continued earlier this year with the launch of Against. Founded by former Drake Cooper staffers Jennie Myers and Brad Weigle, Against bills themselves as a creative company that “focuses on helping companies define their purpose and rebel against the norm.”
Collectively, Myers and Weigle have over 20 years of experience, and have worked with clients in myriad industries, from finance and technology to consumer packaged goods, real estate and much more.
The vacancy was short-lived, however, as SMG recently announced that Jaime Ekman has taken the helm of the company as president and COO. This marks Ekman’s second go-around with the company originally founded by her father, Ken Stoltz. She most recently spent the past eight years with Castor & Pollux, now a Nestle Purina brand.
Shortly after taking the reins, Ekman appointed Kate Holgate creative director, and announced that Crissie McDowell will be rejoining the agency as associate creative director. Holgate has been with SMG for 16 years, progressing from art director to associate creative director and now to her current role. McDowell rejoins the agency, having been an art director from 2006 to 2015.
The second ripple: Duft Watterson
Shortly after their departure from Stoltz Marketing Group, Duft Watterson emerged as a new addition to the agency lineup in the Treasure Valley.
According to their website, Duft Watterson is led by Ward Duft as co-founder, CEO and creative director, and Jill Watterson as co-founder, COO and head of client service. Joining them are two other former SMG colleagues, Marc Cowlin as director of content and digital, and Tony Hart as associate creative director.
Rounding out the Duft Watterson team is designer Madeleine Godwin, Kesey Badgett handling branding and digital, accounting specialist Talia Spencer, and Lisa Cloyd as account manager.
Duft Watterson is based in Boise, and also has a presence in the San Francisco bay area.
The Oliver Russell connection
How does Oliver Russell factor into all of this, you ask? The answer, of course, lies in the moves outlined above. At the end of her first stint with Stoltz Marketing Group in 2015, Crissie McDowell departed to join Oliver Russell, where she’s spent the past three years as a senior art director.
Time will tell what — if any — other fallout there will be as a result this shakeup in the Boise-area agency scene. Is there more to the story? Most definitely. But those are details that are best left to the parties involved to share (or not share) as they see fit.
On a personal note:
As some may know, I spent several years at Stoltz Marketing Group, and have worked with many of the people mentioned here. That being said, I’ve done my best to be as impartial an unbiased as it relates to these changes. Hopefully it came across that way.
While turnover and staff departures — even at the senior level — are nothing new in the agency business (much of its growth has happened that way), it seems that these days the “new opportunities” no longer involve starting up or joining a new agency. Rather, the destinations appear more likely to be outside of the agency business altogether — either moving to client-side roles, consulting firms, tech startups, etc.
It’s not the first time the talent pendulum has swung away from the agency side, and it certainly won’t be the last. The question remains, however — is the exodus of talent getting worse each time around, or are we just more aware of it?
While the updates may be a little more sporadic than they have been in years past, I’d like to say thank you to everyone that has visited, and continues to visit the site. It’s been fun, and that’s why I keep doing it.