Leadership changes are afoot at Fitzgerald & Co, better known as Fitzco, the Atlanta-based agency whose founder and chairman David Fitzgerald bought it back from IPG earlier this week.
Ryan Boblett has taken on the role of chief creative officer, a role previously held by Noel Cottrell for nearly 10 years. It is unclear what Cottrell’s future plans are. Boblett joined Fitzco in 2014 and most recently served as senior vice president and executive creative director.
Additionally, the shop is on the lookout for a new chief strategy officer as David Matathia recently resigned from the position. Matathia, who is joining GSD&M, said his decision to leave was not tied to the buyback and was in the works prior to the announcement. Matt Woehrmann, currently CEO at Fitzco, is also leaving the company.
Fitzgerald, who founded Fitzco more than 35 years ago, sold the agency to IPG in 1998. In 2015, Fitzgerald became chairman, and has taken on the CEO title once again now that he’s reclaimed ownership of the agency.
He said that he “jumped at the opportunity” to buy Fitzco back when McCann, the network that the agency has long been a part of, approached him about it. Despite the many issues plaguing the industry at the moment, he said he thinks it might be “the most exciting time to be in advertising.”
“When you see an independent like Wieden getting the McDonald’s business, you know the world is changing,” he said.
Upon his return, Fitzgerald said he plans to further strengthen the agency’s data and analytics practice, and establish an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). While he said that a “very small amount of revenue” at the agency is project-based, he predicts that will grow in the future and plans to build out its relevant capabilities.
Although Fitzco is now independent, it remains part of the IPG network as an “affiliate business partner.” Fitzgerald said this will give the agency the opportunity to introduce clients to McCann and other IPG entities, and “enjoy the same rates and relationships” that it would as if it were part of the holding company.
Fitzco also continues to share a building with two IPG agencies, PR firm Weber Shandwick and brand experience agency Momentum.
“By definition, these clients signed up for a network agency, so our whole team here is going to have to prove to them that we can fill the bill,” he said. “We’re going to have to work on assuring that we have the stuff to perform for them.”
Some of Fitzco’s clients include The Coca-Cola Company, French’s, and fast-food chain Checkers and Rally’s. Last summer, the agency created mustard-flavored ice cream for French’s to coincide with National Mustard Day. In 2017, Fitzco created a short documentary that featured rapper Rick Ross buying a Checkers franchise in his hometown.
A handful of agencies have bought themselves back from holding companies in recent years. In 2017, Dailey, which IPG had owned for more than 30 years, completed a buyback. That same year, the now-defunct TM Advertising also bought itself back. Last year, Johannes Leonardo bought a portion of itself back from WPP.
Nancy Hill, former 4A’s CEO and founder of consultancy Media Sherpas, said agencies buy themselves back for a variety of reasons, and that the recent flurry of buybacks doesn’t necessarily signal more to come.
“You have to look at every one of these individually,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a trend necessarily, because I think every one of those circumstances is probably different. Every time something like this happens, there’s a different reason for it happening.”