Fast Chat: Common’s New CEO

Former Ogilvy creative Dan Burrier will run Alex Bogusky's startup

Dan Burrier is a veteran of the agency world, with long stints at networks like BBDO. Most recently, he spent 14 years at Ogilvy, climbing the ranks to become North American chief innovation officer in 2010. Before that, he led Ogilvy West as co-president and chief creative officer. He’s now signed on as CEO of Common, a startup venture launched by ex-CP+B star Alex Bogusky in January of last year to help build businesses with "consciences"—putting on competitions for cash prizes, assembling custom teams to tackle client briefs, and trying to build an umbrella brand for social entrepreneurs. Adweek spoke with Burrier about his new role at the organization, what it’s accomplished so far, and where it’s headed next.

How'd you come into this opportunity?

Really, for a couple of years, I've been looking at similar models and how to execute them, how to start shifting the capitalist equation and work with social entrepreneurs—not NGOs and not charities, but how do you generate profit or benefit that flows in all directions. About a year and a half ago when Alex launched Common I took note of that. We ended up talking, and one thing led to another and here we are.

What does Common do, in the plainest language?

We describe it as a collaborative brand. So you can look at it, on the simplest level, as an umbrella brand that social entrepreneurs can come under, with the advantages of a global brand. We also think of it as an accelerator for those entrepreneurs. We've got a consulting arm where we do MBAs—"Maniacal Business Attacks"—which are intensive consulting engagements to help define vision and strategic approach to market and marketing plans and creative execution. We also have the pitch events where we bring together a community to celebrate and launch social entrepreneurs.

What products have you launched under that global brand?

That's the part of the business that we're really evolving and developing. There's [a lot to figure out] in terms of licensing and royalty and how to share the brand so I'm spending a lot of time working on that right now. We're probably getting two to three requests per week from social entrepreneurs who want to be part of the brand. We’re being very deliberate about which we align with as part of this first round. We're looking at coffee and cocoa out of South America, possibly alignment with a condom company.

Last year, Common was working on developing a Common-branded bamboo bicycle. Have those made it to market?

No.

Are they still in development?

That is not going forward at the moment as a Common initiative. That was before my time, so I don't know the whole history.

Is the idea to have Common become a certification of sorts that you can sell to brands that meet your standards, to appear alongside their individual logos?

What we're not doing is just slapping a logo on anything like “Here, we'll sell you our logo.” It’s more about the ethos of the company, how you operate, how we share that brand going forward — that, as I said, is probably one of my primary assignments coming in is how to get that model running. None of us want to see it just become a stamp of approval. We're looking at how you actually build a collaborative ecosystem [with] shared experience and knowledge so that each company is helping the other, and so that, for example, you wouldn’t have to replicate resources across companies.