Toby Barlow, who left WPP’s Ford-dedicated agency GTB a little over a year ago, is launching a new venture in Detroit called Lafayette American.
The agency seems to be following industry trends away from the traditional agency model, with the Detroit Free Press reporting it will be made up of a small team from various industries seeking to solve “interesting riddles and puzzles” for clients. Lafayette American launches with a team of 6-8, including head of design Meg Jannott, and a small roster of clients including Ralph C. Wilson Foundation and Kelly Services. Barlow plans to keep his staff small while leveraging a team of freelance creatives and designers, and work with clients on specialize projects.
“We don’t want to parasitically stick to clients,” Barlow told Detroit Free Press. “We want to come in and help clients come up with creative and interesting solutions, and when we’ve helped solve the problem, we’ll sail away and on to other adventures.”
“A lot of large agencies when new technologies emerge they sort of say, ‘Yeah, we can do that, too,’ and they build a new wing onto their agency and just start charging the client for it,” he added. “Our thesis is that you just can’t keep slapping those Lego pieces on without it collapsing at some point. What we want to do is stay small and then add those pieces as needed and then snap them off when they’re not needed any more. It’s a much more nimble model that’s built for the complexity of our times.”
That doesn’t mean Barlow’s shop would decline a longer relationship with a client as long as they “keep bringing us interesting problems and interesting riddles,” as Barlow put it, just that it won’t overstay its welcome.