From Mark Figliulo's first job—as an art director working on Dewar's at Leo Burnett in 1986—to his more recent creative chief roles at Young & Rubicam in Chicago and TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, Figliulo felt at home at big agencies. That said, this son of a entrepreneur often thought about opening his own shop. And now, with Figliulio & Partners and founding client Sprint, Figliulo has finally realized that ambition at 50. While he declined to address talk of Publicis Groupe backing his agency, In his first interview about the new venture, Figliulio explained what prompted him to go solo.
What made you want to start your own agency?
The industry has changed so dramatically that we need new models. We should all be thinking of new ways of doing what we do. I looked around at people who are doing new models. Gerry [Graf] is doing a great job [at Barton F. Graf 9000]. I know him from the past, so I called him up. He was very encouraging. But the biggest thing I got out that conversation was, he seemed really happy.
Who else did you talk to about starting up?
I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father had his own company. It's a tech firm. He passed away. But [the company] went public, and it's a great success story. A couple of my brothers have their own companies, like one of my brothers is a lawyer and has his own firm. So, I really went back to family for advice more than anything.
Why do it in New York?
That was a given that I was going to stay in New York. And it's a great place to start an agency. The talent here is just incredible.
More expensive, though, right?
Yes it is.
Who are your partners?
Judith Carr-Rodriguez is going to be the president. She was the president of LBi in New York and Atlanta. Also, when they merged with MRY, she was the president of that agency. She has deep digital experience.
How does that relate to your model?
We're going to be a brand agency for the digital world. So, her background and my background really dovetail nicely with that. Our industry has gotten very executional-focused. So, when a brand agency does digital, they do an execution, or vice versa. Where I don't think a lot of people are spending time is on the big idea, the big creative platform being based in the digital world.
What can you do as a solo artist that you can't do as a CCO at a big agency?
You can set the priorities. Our idea of "ideas first" was something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. To focus on the creative platform before everything else. Also, I think just the simple fact that you have very senior people, like myself as a founder, working on a piece of business. That's what clients really like about startups and smaller shops.
For how long did you think about doing your own thing?
I've been thinking about it for a long time. And going back to my dad, the truth is he started his company at 50. So, it has always been my deadline. So, I said, "Okay, I better do it this year."