David vs. Gut: How a Talent War Has Engulfed 2 of Today’s Hottest Agencies

Miami is becoming a new battleground for creative leadership

Since two of Ogilvy-owned David's founders launched Gut, the independent shop has been snapping up David's veteran talent.
Adweek illustration by Dianna McDougall. Background image: Getty Images

Even in the agency world, where talent poaching is a constant fact of life, it’s rare to see doors rotating as quickly as those at two of Miami’s most prominent shops right now.

In the dizzying shuffle of talent centered on Ogilvy-owned David and independent agency Gut, some of the industry’s most highly awarded and respected talents have relocated in recent months—with three more defections from David announced today.

The surging flow is redefining both agencies, with David bringing in a new generation of leadership and Gut establishing itself as a force that’s ready to make its creative impact be known globally.

It’s also a much-needed injection of adrenaline for Miami’s agency community, which saw Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s main operation move away to Boulder in 2006 and, ultimately, close its doors in Miami after almost 30 years. In recent years, David has helped put Miami back on the global agency map with its groundbreaking work for Burger King, Heinz and Coca-Cola, and now Gut is ready to build its reputation on similar A-list brands.

A talent pipeline on full blast

Since Gut’s inception in 2017 (they officially named the agency in April 2018), agency co-founders Anselmo Ramos and Gaston Bigio have progressively built their profile and, along the way, poached several leaders from David, the agency they helped form in 2011.

Today, the agency announced that two of David Miami’s most awarded ecds, Ricardo Casal and Juan Javier Peña Plaza, have joined the agency in addition to Carmen Rodriguez, David’s head of account management, who is joining Gut as a partner and its first chief client officer.

Juan Javier Peña Plaza, Carmen Rodriguez and Ricardo Casal moved from David to Gut.
Gut

These moves for the 50-person indie with offices in Miami, Buenos Aires and São Paulo, come on the heels of other high-profile departures from David including its managing director, Paulo Fogaca, and Ignacio Ferioli and Joaquín Cubria, who left David to become partners and chief creative officers for Gut in Argentina.

Conversely, David has been busy refilling its own talent pool after those departures with the appointment of Spanish creative star Francisco “Pancho” Cassis, the former ecd at LOLA MullenLowe in Madrid, as David’s global chief creative officer.

Casal and Peña Plaza, named to Adweek’s Creative 100 in 2017, were part of teams that won 67 Cannes Lions in eight years. They’ve now joined forces—again—with Gut’s Ramos, whose career tally includes around 200 Lions, with seven Grand Prix. (For his part, new David global CCO Cassis has led work resulting in more than 55 Lions, 22 of which were Grand Prix.)

While David has been a hotbed of creative talent since its launch, Ramos points out that there was one thing David, as part of WPP’s Ogilvy network, could never offer: true independence.

“David was amazing and a great agency,” said Ramos. “[But] we weren’t 100% happy because it wasn’t ours. Even though we were founders and partners, there were limits to things that we could do, which is normal. Now, we’re going into our second year as an agency, and can work with anyone, and hire anyone. It’s total freedom, but now things are starting to get serious.”

One goal, two pathways

There is a competitive landscape in the market and one with a history that, interestingly, includes a shared client in Burger King’s (and currently Popeyes’) global CMO Fernando Machado. A big part of David’s pedigree was built on its work for Burger King, and now Gut is carving out its own niche with work for BK sister brands Popeyes and Tim Hortons (all three are owned by Restaurant Brands International).

“Agencies have their cycles and need to renew their talent,” said David’s Cassis. “I think that it would be a mistake if we tried to look at each other. There are enough clients in the world for both of us to shine. We’re competing with [other agencies] like Wieden and [places like] Netflix.”

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