Modernista! Enlists Jones To Jump-start Growth

Clift Jones, who played Division One baseball at Vanderbilt University, said the president’s post at Modernista! appeals to his competitive streak.

“I’ve always enjoyed winning, and I’ve always thought it was important to find out why you lost,” said Jones, 32, who was named to the position at the Boston agency following a yearlong search. “Modernista! has been able to win a lot, and I hope I can continue that trend.”

The 3-year-old agency quickly gained a reputation as one of the hottest small shops in the country, creating award-winning work for Gap, MTV, Travel Channel and others. But last year the momentum slowed, with Gap dropping the shop and new- business swings for Timex, Carpet One and Staples failing to connect.

The shop brought in Jones to reinvigorate the new-business process, leaving co-founders Lance Jensen and Gary Koepke to focus on creative, their strong suit, Jones said.

Jones said he will also seek to develop other disciplines, primarily design and interactive, in an effort to increase business from existing clients. “We’re as much about organic growth as [we are] about new-business growth,” he said.

Modernista! co-founder Jensen, who had held the president title, takes the CEO’s role. Koepke had been CEO and remains chairman. Both lead the creative side of the agency’s business.

“We chose Clift because of the very realistic and balanced way he thinks about the business of advertising,” said Jensen. “We’re confident he can help us grow our business.”

For the past year, Jones has served as a consultant, most notably working on a research project for the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1995-2001, he held account management posts at IPG agency Bozell in New York, where he also worked on new-business development. At Bozell, he worked on Merrill Lynch, Datek, Bausch & Lomb and the Distilled Spirits Council, among other accounts.

“Clift is a tremendous talent, and I think Modernista! is a great opportunity for him,” said Gene Bartley, president and COO of Interpub- lic Group’s FCB Worldwide, New York, and former Bozell chairman. “He’s a savvy business builder who demands accountability, and I’m sure [he] will help structure an environment there that works long term.”

Jones’ decision to come back to Boston—he started his advertising career at IPG’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, here, and is a native of Weston, Mass.—is at least partly attributable to the fact that his fiancée recently got a job in the Boston area.

Bink Garrison, a Boston-based consultant and former CEO at Ingalls, here, said the hiring of Jones shows that Modernista! is not living off its early reputation and the shop recognizes the need to change.

“To Lance and Gary’s credit, they are looking at the situation and saying, ‘OK, let’s try something different,’ and that’s the right attitude—you’ve got to change it up a bit,” Garrison said.

Modernista!’s key clients include General Motors’ Hummer, Veryfine and Converse.