Firstborn, the New York digital agency that hasn’t appeared on this blog in some time despite consistently turning out work for clients like L’Oreal, Lancome, Redken, and PepsiCo, scored headlines a couple of months ago upon releasing the first full campaign for Audible, the books-you-don’t-read company.
Today, however, the agency — which has created campaigns for Fidelity, Sony, and its own tech team since being acquired by Dentsu back in 2011 — announced that founder and longtime CEO Michael Ferdman will step down and leave advertising altogether.
In exiting the industry after nearly two decades, Ferdman leaves his agency with Dan LaCivita, whom he promoted to president almost exactly five years ago today. LaCivita will be CEO when Ferdman officially leaves in June — and the new role won’t be much of a stretch for him as he has “both led day-to-day operations and provided strategic leadership” since the acquisition.
(Two years before the sale, he led our own Matt Van Hoven on a tour of his agency’s offices with the assistance of “a few drinks.”)
In running the shop, LaCivita will work closely with Joonyong Park, who Firstborn hired in 2004 and promoted to CCO just after the acquisition in 2010.
This handoff has been in the works for more than four years. As Ferdman puts it:
“Our employees and our clients are all 100% comfortable with this transition as it comes as no surprise…I have been consciously taking a backseat for some time now.”
Alexandra Bruell of AdAge notes that Ferdman had no marketing experience whatsoever before launching Firstborn; he hired LaCivita when the latter was a young flash designer before expanding his creative team with the addition of Park, Dave Snyder (currently ECD), and others.
In recent years, however, the venture grew a bit too large for Ferdman’s taste:
“He has no immediate plans upon exiting advertising beyond spending quality time with his family when he isn’t playing golf, hockey or basketball.”
This plan has a certain appeal to it.