Factory Design Labs Goes Out of Business After 20 Years

By Patrick Coffee Comment

Denver-based Factory Design Labs has closed after more than two decades in business.

Though the independent agency has not been particularly visible in recent years, it once employed more than 100 and maintained a presence in Colorado, Zurich, Verbier, Shanghai, and, for a brief period, San Francisco.

Factory was founded in 1996 by a group of designers who later became a full-service agency and competed against other shops for new business. The company’s self-description read, in part, “We live to create, we live to design, we live to say what everyone else is afraid to say.” As recently as last February, a PR firm was promoting Factory’s work for HEAD Tennis, and it once included such brands as Callaway Golf, Jim Beam, Oakley, MapQuest, and The North Face among its clients.

This week, however, we learned from a reliable source that the company officially went out of business as of January 1st and that all of its offices have closed. Our tipster’s account of the agency’s demise holds that founder/chairman Jonas Tempel recently transferred leadership of the Denver client roster/internal team to managing director/CP+B veteran Scott Sibley, who left the agency last month to launch a company called Capital Goods in Denver.

Like so many agencies, Factory had a somewhat uneven history. Tempel, who had run the shop for more than a decade before launching his side project BeatPort, stepped aside to become chairman in 2010 as Scott Mellin was promoted to CEO. The latter executive then moved to the position of chief brand officer in 2014 as Tempel reasserted control. The agency most recently got negative press via a Denver Post article in which several area magazines claimed that Factory’s media unit had failed to pay for ad placements. “They have burned a lot of people in the industry,” one publisher said.

Readers must (obviously) take all Glassdoor entries with a massive grain of salt, but posts allegedly written by former Factory employees over the past few months blame leadership and a lack of new business wins for its uncertain financial status.

We have reached out to Tempel and president/DDB veteran Bob Reimer, but their email accounts no longer appear to be active. The agency’s web site is dead, and its listed phone number has been disconnected. The most recent social media posts regarding Factory went live in August and September.

Beyond his advertising career, Tempel is an active EDM DJ whose online dance music store (BeatPort) was acquired by SFX Entertainment in 2013. The parent company went bankrupt last year, and Tempel subsequently wrote an open letter regarding his resignation that scored coverage in Billboard. He later worked for 18 months on Beats By Dre projects before being fired, according to a May 2016 interview with Magnetic Magazine. Tempel also runs a record label, and he spoke of his work advising startups in the Magnetic piece.

This story will be updated as we learn more about the status of the Factory Design Labs organization.

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