Victors & Spoils Founder Returns From Mexico, Resigns From Havas

By Patrick Coffee 

John Winsor spent a lot of time in Mexico recently. The Victors & Spoils founder moved there approximately one year ago to live on the beach, surf, survive avalanches* and occasionally have his car stolen. (The famously bribe-averse Mexican government helped him get it back.)

Now he has returned to head up Boulder, Colorado’s second most famous agency and, in the process, to resign from his chief innovation officer position at parent company Havas.

For background, Havas purchased a majority stake in V&S (then described as “a controversial crowdsourcing resource positioned as an alternative to ad agencies”) in 2012. Winsor, who broke away to launch the non-agency in 2009 after running strategy/innovation at Crispin and co-authoring a book with one Alex Bogusky, retained his CEO role while also becoming the CIO of the larger Havas organization.


Now, however, it seems Winsor would like to focus more exclusively on the Victors and the open org model he pioneered there. He has also changed his title from CEO to chairman and founder.

Here’s his memo, which went out to all V&S staff this morning:

Good morning,

I hope you had a good weekend.

As you all know, I’m back from Mexico. It’s great to be back. I love V&S. It’s the team that makes this place so special. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to figure out how to add the most value to V&S.  You guys have done a great job running things over the past year.

I feel fortunate that we not only have a great team but also that culture is going our way. If you haven’t read “The Uber of Agencies: Why Marketers Want to Ride With a New Kind of Shop” in Adage ( it’s worth the read and speaks to the fact the V&S is in the right place at the right time. Our original goal when we started V&S was to change the industry, for creatives and clients, for the better by creating an open system. It seems like the industry is finally catching on.

I’m more passionate than ever about the open revolution that we started and I want to focus on accelerating this change. To do that, I’m taking the title of Chairman of V&S to more closely reflect what I’ve been doing. Likewise, it will give the space to all of you to grow. Also, to create more space for the open journey I’ve resigned as Chief Innovation Officer at Havas.

I love being on the tip of the spear in such a dynamic time in the industry and feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many fellow explorers.

Happy to chat with you if you have any questions.

Viva La Revolucion!


It would seem, then, that Winsor looks to double down on his “open agency model,” which he outlined in this “transformation, not innovation” slideshow and this “think like a startup” 2013 Digiday post. In summary, everyone works together, hierarchies are dismantled and compensation is based on “the commercial impact” of the work rather than the time spent making it.

Was V&S truly ahead of the curve? In 2012, client DishNetwork’s CMO Ira Bahr said he liked the model because “he was attracted to the ‘wider range of creative thought with a crowd’ from V&S.” He added, “I also feel that I pay less for it.”

Since then, Bahr bounced from Dish to AmEx and then to TiVo, where he is currently SVP/chief marketing and retail sales officer.

Winsor is the second executive on the Havas leadership page to leave over the past week after chief digital officer Sean Lyons returned to R/GA as its U.S. president.

*The incident in question may or may not have occurred in Mexico.