Production Company Tool Moves Closer to Agency Territory, Signing Creative Directors and Strategists

The evolution has been in development for a year and a half

Tool of North America owner Erich Joiner (left) and managing partner Dustin Califf (right) - Credit by Tool of North America
Headshot of Erik Oster

Creative production company Tool of North America is enhancing its creative capabilities by expanding its roster beyond directors and artists to include creative directors and strategists.

“Every year, we try to evolve and make decisions to make better work,” Tool of North America owner Erich Joiner told Adweek, adding that the decision to expand its roster to include creative directors and strategists has been in development for about a year and a half. “We’re expanding our roster now in a different direction and we’re really excited to sign this type of talent and represent this type of talent.”

“It’s a changing world,” he added. “Now some of the best talent in the world wants to have a gig relationship.”

Tool managing partner Dustin Callif called the move “a natural extension of how a company like Tool is structured. We’re taking the same talent model, now we’re applying it to CDs and strategists.”

The company is introducing the expanded offering in response to industry shifts and client demands for more content, delivered quickly. “There’s an evolved advertising landscape which needs an evolved model to produce the best creative. That’s why we created this,”  Callif explained. “The people that we represent are highly curated .… people that can bring a fresh perspective to brand opportunities. That’s what our clients are looking for.”

He added that “adding this layer of creative strategy allows us to deliver great creative with business purpose.”

The model, which involves Tool of North America bringing opportunities to its roster of creative directors and strategists for consideration, is one which results in clients working only with creatives who are passionate about their projects, Callif explained.

Joiner stressed that Tool isn’t looking to compete with ad agencies. Tool often partners with shops, he explained, some of which are “small ad agencies that don’t have the means to have this type of creative talent or strategist on their payroll all year long.”

Among the new additions to Tool’s roster are Lars Bastholm, Ivan Askwith and Piers North.   

Bastholm formerly served as CCO for Google’s business innovation team The Exploratory. Before that, he worked on the company’s global creative think tank, The Zoo. He has formerly held CCO or co-CCO roles at agencies including Rosetta, Cheil USA, Ogilvy New York and AKQA.

Callif said Bastholm has a “unique blend of having been super high-level at both an ad agency, a digital agency and at a brand,” allowing him to bring “a unique perspective” to Tool’s roster.

Askwith is a cultural strategist behind successful crowd-funding campaigns for Veronica Mars, Reading Rainbow, Super Troopers 2 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. He previously served as vp, digital media for Lucasfilm and director of strategy for Big Spaceship. “He brings this really unique perspective in activating communities, and that can be applied to how to activate a community around a brand,” Calif said.

North was formerly ecd, head of the experiential division at Mother, where he worked with brands including KFC, IKEA, BBC, Nokia, Stella Artois and Ritz. “We’re excited to bring [North] into the fold with how he can offer a unique perspective, straddling the line between creative and strategy for helping advise clients on experiential,” Calliff explained.

Tool claims its model provides benefits for creatives and strategists as well as clients.

“A lot of creative people and strategists are frustrated within the old model, for a lot of reasons,” Joiner said.

“There’s some amazing talent out there that’s looking for something different, and that’s what this gives them,” Callif added.

Joiner told Adweek that Tool is in discussions with further potential additions to its roster and will likely announce a few further signings in the coming months. “We’re investing a lot of time, money and energy into expanding our roster in this direction,” he said. “We believe there is a need for this.”


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.
Publish date: December 19, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/agencies/production-compay-tool-moves-closer-to-agency-territory-signing-creative-directors-and-strategists/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT