Wade Devers accomplished a lot during his nearly two decades at Arnold Worldwide, but at the beginning of the month, he embarked on the next stage of his career: creative director for home security startup SimpliSafe.
During his nearly 20 years at Arnold Worldwide, Devers rose from senior art director to managing partner.
“I thought I’d be there three years, tops, and then three years turned into almost two decades,” Devers told Adweek, adding, “I loved working there … the people and culture of the agency.”
During his tenure at Arnold, Devers estimated, he “probably touched every piece of business that the agency had in some capacity,” citing leading global creative for the Jack Daniel’s family of brands for around a decade as one of his proudest accomplishments. He also worked on the agency’s Super Bowl ad for Jeep and contributed to new business efforts, including Royal Caribbean.
Devers’ departure comes as part of a larger senior leadership exodus at Arnold Worldwide, including global CEO Pam Hamlin and managing partner, chief financial officer, global director of operations Scott Feyler, both agency veterans of over 20 years. Global CCO Jim Elliott also stepped down in March of 2017 and was succeeded by U.S. CCO Icaro Doria a year ago. Kiran Smith recently succeeded Hamlin as the agency’s new CEO.
“I felt like I was leaving at the right time. … It was the time for me to tackle something new and be grateful for the time that I had and the achievements that I had there,” Devers said.
Devers said he was initially not interested when presented with the opportunity to join SimpliSafe. But then a recruiter convinced him to check out the brand’s website.
“As I scrolled down the website I thought, ‘Here’s a company that understands the power of design and what design can do as a business incentive,'” he said.
After meeting with SimpliSafe CMO Melina Engel, Devers was even more impressed.
“The more I learned about [SimpliSafe] and the more I learned about their motivation, the more I came to appreciate the fact that this company understands creativity,” he said. “That’s ultimately what I’m looking for.”
Devers said he found the opportunity to be closer to the product, from development to packaging, something he couldn’t find at an agency, as an appealing opportunity to “round out [his] skills.”
“I’m looking for another challenge and something to keep me really interested,” Devers said. “At the end of the day, that’s what the choice was about.”
While he stressed that the decision wasn’t about a desire to go in-house instead of working at an agency, Devers did have some things to say about the way holding companies approach the business.
He said the work and clients “can suffer if things aren’t handled properly” as a result of the restrictions of the holding company model. “It’s one of the things that have led to this new dynamic of where director-level creatives go,” he said. “They go up; then they go out.”
Devers said SimpliSafe has “an amazing foundation” as “a challenger brand in a category that certainly needed that.”
He views his own role as helping to “really start to build the brand,” increasing brand awareness and harnessing “that creativity that the brand already has an appreciation for and turn that into things that get us talked about and get people to talk about us.”
Part of that process will involve finding the right agency partner to work with on a project-basis “at least in the initial phases,” although Devers said the brand wouldn’t rule out designating an agency of record in the future if it finds the right partner.
“We’re going to hopefully grow our internal capabilities to take on such work as we feel like we should, but I think ultimately the value of an in-house creative director can oftentimes be to decide when we need objectivity and when we need a type of creative that maybe we don’t do yet or maybe we shouldn’t do,” he said.