Longtime work collaborators Chris Garbutt and Colin Mitchell have departed their companies—agency network TBWAWorldwide and McDonald’s, respectively—to launch a new creative consultancy called PLTFRMR.
Last week, Garbutt left his role as global CCO of TBWA, a network where he began his career at South African agency TBWAHuntLascaris and, after returning to TBWA following an 8-year stint at Ogilvy, helped lead it to being named Adweek’s 2018 Global Agency of the Year. Mitchell is also an agency veteran, spending more than 16 years at Ogilvy before joining McDonald’s in 2016, eventually rising to the role of svp of global marketing.
The two told Adweek that PLTFRMR (pronounced “Platformer”) was developed through conversations during quarantine about how to rebuild the concept of an agency from the ground up, with equal perspective from both the agency and client sides.
“I think we make a great complement between the art and the science of it,” Garbutt said. “I think Colin is one of the strongest strategic minds in the world.”
We’re clearly moving to a project world, and we’re designed from the ground up to match that. Traditional agencies tend to fight that. We embrace it.
Colin Mitchell, co-founder, PLTFRMR
Rather than a traditional creative agency with walls, cubicles, full-time staff and a focus on landing agency-of-record agreements, PLTFRMR will be a lean consulting firm with few employees beyond the founders.
“We’re calling ourselves a creative consultancy. In our conversations with CMOs, what they want is very different,” Mitchell said. “We’re clearly moving to a project world, and we’re designed from the ground up to match that. Traditional agencies tend to fight that. We embrace it.”
Instead of maintaining a staff, as the firm develops brand platforms for clients, the co-founders will tap into a global network of freelance professionals—which they call a “talent cloud”—to find people with the right experience for each job.
While both founders are white men, Garbutt said “we’ve been very mindful of building a talent cloud that’s very diverse and inclusive—representative of other cultures and ethnicities.”
In terms of output, PLTFRMR doesn’t plan to create campaigns, instead building long-term platforms for brands. As examples, Mitchell noted McDonald’s focus on “feel-good marketing” and how “IBM is all about being an educator.”
“In a world that’s obsessed with tactic, we think the focus should be back on brands—brand platforms in particular,” Mitchell said.
The co-founders described their business model as a three-step process: Defining a platform, designing a platform and then developing a platform. Some clients might hire the firm for all three steps, though Garbutt said PLTFRMR “can slot in at any phase with the client.”
The consultancy’s first client is Ultimate Medical Academy, a nonprofit educational institution for healthcare professionals. The organization’s marketing is led by CMO Linda Mignone, a former client of Garbutt and Mitchell from when both worked together at Ogilvy.