Last year saw the closing of Barton F. Graf, widely and fondly regarded as advertising’s weirdest agency.
After the independent New York shop officially closed its doors and held its own funeral, the natural question was what its founder Gerry Graf would do next. Over a year after Barton F. Graf’s funeral proceedings, we finally have an answer.
Graf has teamed up with Maxi Itzkoff, a former partner and CCO at WPP’s Santo, to found Slap Global, a global creativity-led business accelerator. Prior to joining Santo, Itzkoff spent about seven-and-a-half years as executive creative director for Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi, followed by over two years as CCO at Saatchi & Saatchi Europe.
Slap Global is operating in Buenos Aires, Madrid and New York. Santo will be based out of Buenos Aires, while Graf will take point in New York. A third founding member of Slap Global, Adrián Mediavilla, who was formerly a CSO at Grey Group Spain, will take the helm in Madrid.
In the U.S., the business will operate as Knickerbocker Slap Global due to trademark concerns (there appears to be an existing agency named Slap Agency).
Graf explained that the name emerged from his love of New York City. It refers to the titular character in Washington Irving’s satire A History of New York From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty by Diedrich Knickerbocker, which Irving initially promoted with an advertising hoax around the fictional author.
The Slap Global name gives voice to the business accelerator’s aims of serving as a “global wake up call” to the industry, Graf explained.
The company will work with businesses to develop solutions for a variety of avenues beyond traditional advertising, including offering strategies for brand experiences, brand purpose, communication platforms, design, new business development and new products. Graf explained that the company will tackle a variety of client business problems through creativity.
“I’ve said for 14 years, if it’s smart enough, creative enough, everything an agency does is a piece of communication. That hasn’t changed,” Graf told Adweek, a viewpoint that’s at the heart of Slap Global’s philosophy and approach.
“We need talent and good thinking to support that, and the model of working remotely and having access to some of the best minds, currently on three continents, helps us staff and support those kinds of ideas,” he added.
The company currently has eight full-time employees as well as working with freelancers, including four in New York, with additional hires in the coming weeks expected to swell the ranks to 12, according to Graf.
Slap Global came about organically from a mutual admiration and appreciation for each other’s work, and complementary creative approaches on the part of Graf and Itzkoff at a time when Graf was looking for a partner for a new venture.
“I’ve been out of the industry for abut a year and talking with quite a lot of people. I was looking for, as best as you can find, a perfect partner. No one is perfect. I was just waiting for that person who you respect and know you can work with and be successful. That came with Maxi,” Graf said. “Maxi creatively thinks in different spaces than I have traditionally. He pushes my mind to a different way of thinking; I do the same for him. We’ll be as harsh as can be as to whether an idea is good or not.”