David & Goliath Founder Talks Life After Hyundai’s Innocean Bought His Shop

David Angelo says it's business as usual

David & Goliath founder and chairman David Angelo says it's business as usual after Innocean Worldwide acquired his agency.
Dianna McDougall

Speaking to Adweek at the 4A’s Accelerate conference in Miami, David & Goliath founder and chairman David Angelo discussed life at the creative shop after Innocean Worldwide, the Hyundai Motor Company’s global advertising division, acquired it late last year.

According to Angelo, it’s business as usual.

“The great thing about our relationship is that they totally understand who we are and what we stand for and they want to make sure that remains pure,” Angelo said. “Having a name like David & Goliath isn’t easy. What it really is, is a filter that holds us to very high standards; for our work and who we are as people. It was so important for us to hold onto that because that’s who we are. It’s why our clients come to work with us, why our employees are at our agency and if we lose that sense of culture and meaning then you might as well just change the name.”

In the advertising industry today, when everything is being challenged: how brands interact with consumers, how the agency model is structured, what inclusion looks like, etc., Angelo said it’s “more important than ever” to stay true to, what he called, David & Goliath’s “higher purpose.” That purpose being to “inspire people and brands to take on their biggest challenges, their biggest Goliaths,” Angelo added.

Angelo co-founded David & Goliath in 1999, alongside Skip Sullivan, after Kia fired its former agency Goldberg Moser O’Neill and gave them the business. Based in El Segundo, Calif., David & Goliath describes itself as a creative shop for challenger brands and works with a number of clients today such as Jack in the Box, the California Lottery and, of course, Hyundai.

Seoul, Korea-based Innocean, in an effort to expand on its international business, acquired David & Goliath in December for an undisclosed sum. Angelo said David & Goliath previously had a strong relationship with Innocean’s executive leadership team in Seoul, leading to the deal.

But before he signed onto anything, Angelo said it was “very important” to ensure David & Goliath would not stray from its roots under new ownership. He said the agency now has “the best of both worlds,” in that it holds onto its “autonomy, creative and culture” while having “the support of an amazing global network.”

Angelo also dismissed any industry rumors that by selling the agency he’s preparing to retire or take on a lesser role.

“If anything I’m just going to churn it up,” he said. “I’ve always been all-in and I don’t anticipate slowing down at all.”

Over the past two years, David & Goliath has been through several significant leadership changes. For example, in late 2016, chief creative officer and managing partner Colin Jeffery, chief digital officer Mike Geiger and chief strategy officer Seema Miller left to start their own agency, Wolfgang. Onetime president Brian Dunbar also abruptly stepped down as president last summer after seven years with the shop.

Angelo spoke Sunday morning on a panel that was closed to the press about creativity and how it can drive cultural relevance for brands and business growth.