When Deloitte Digital announced its acquisition of San Francisco agency Heat three months ago, the ad industry started buzzing about the improbable pairing: a creatively driven independent agency with a giant, buttoned-down management advisory firm.
Now, the first phase in the evolution of the new working relationship is about to begin. Heat is making its first expansion move under Deloitte, launching in New York in June under Tim Maleeny, who has been named general manager and chief strategy officer.
Maleeny has been at Havas Worldwide in New York for the past three years as chief strategy officer and partner, but he knows Heat's principals, John Elder, Steve Stone and Mike Barrett from his time on the West Coast and working with them at Hal Riney & Partners. Maleeny has also worked at Ogilvy & Mather, Cole & Weber, and Young & Rubicam.
Maleeny is charged with recreating Heat's San Francisco culture—which prompted Adweek to name it Breakthrough Agency of the Year in 2015—in Manhattan, a place that hasn't been kind to agency outsiders trying to enter its competitive ranks.
"We have to bring our culture to New York as best we can but use a truly New York City-centric approach," said Barrett, Heat's managing director. "I think the difference is the San Francisco ad environment feels like a more collaborative partnership which I think New York clients will like."
Maleeny sees the difference this way: "With West Coast agencies, it's about creative first and it's very idea driven. New York is more process oriented."
He added that when he first got the call from Heat about the job in New York, he was skeptical. "You could argue the last thing this industry needs is another new ad agency," he said. "What it is yearning for is a new kind of agency."
And that's where Heat thinks it can win over clients. "As we go into New York, it's not just Heat—it's Heat plus Deloitte Digital," said Elder, the agency's president.
That's initially paid off with the agency pitching and beating out three other shops for an LG Electronics project courtesy of an introduction from Deloitte. Heat is using the work sold during that pitch to roll out LG's high-end Signature Kitchen Suite line of kitchen appliances.
"We were able to offer more daring creative solutions because we could be more articulate about LG's business issues," said Steve Stone, Heat chairman and executive creative director. "The way we work with LG is the way things are going to work in the future. We'll be introduced to clients who already have a relationship with Deloitte."
Heat in San Francisco is already handling undisclosed assignments, via that relationship, and the New York office is also opening with the promise of more project work from marketers who already work with Deloitte.
Working out of a temporary space now, Heat in New York is on course to have new quarters in September. Elder expects the office to have around a dozen staffers by then. And while initial hires will be done in accordance with project work, Maleeny expects the office to "eventually scale" to 150.
There will also be the leveraging of Deloitte Digital's other assets. "We will colocate; there will be hand-offs back and forth [with Deloitte], and we'll access resources at either end when needed," he said. "Our new model is built on having more intimate relationships with clients like the way consultants do."
Heat's New York upstart will be the first indication of how well it can pull that off . "We're looking to make something happen that other agencies are only talking about," Elder said. "We'll have access to clients our competitors don't."
Such boasts aside, if Deloitte principal Andy Main has his way, that access will extend to the loftiest heights at marketer organizations.
"Creative thinking has largely been with a CMO, but we want more CEOs involved," said Main, the head of Deloitte Digital. "We want to tell them the story about how creative thinking can change their business. We see ours as a radically different approach. We're telling them they can get everything you need to realize your business ambitions from the same place."