New York-Based Barker Goes Bold With Its Messaging and Creates Edgy Work for Its Clients

Advertises itself as '70% Women, 100% Balls'

Barker founder and chief idea officer John Barker and evp and creative director Sandi Harari
Bronson Farr

How often do you see an ad for an advertising agency? Probably not very often—which John Barker, founder and chief idea officer of New York’s Barker, finds “a little bit cowardly.”

As Barker puts it, “If we are counseling our clients to spend a trillion dollars on advertising, we should be willing to put our own money behind it.” (For example, to tout its predominantly female staff, Barker ran ads on New York bus shelters reading “70% Women. 100% Balls.”)

Barker started the 31-person firm in 2003 with the desire to create an agency without silos—one that would be completely integrated and create edgy, impactful work. Under that approach, Barker has worked on campaigns for brands ranging from SlimFast to GlaxoSmithKline.

Last September, for Advertising Week New York, Barker created the edgy “Change the Conversation” campaign. The ads, which ran in six cities across the U.S., called on specific agencies to change the conversation around pressing industry issues including diversity, equal pay and transparency. “I think that kind of aggressiveness and edge is reflective of the sort of tonality of the agency,” Barker added.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 7, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.