What’s next for FCB/Six after three key leaders move on? More of the same

Last week, IPG announced that it was redeploying three of the Toronto-based executives behind the successful agency FCB/Six to launch a new—and very similar—agency called Performance Art, which will work with agencies and clients across the company.

With Andrea Cook, Ian Mackenzie and Elizabeth Sellors in key leadership positions, FCB/Six has gone from a new made-in-Canada agency brand to a recurring winner at global awards shows in the past few years, producing the kind of digital and data-first creativity that many agencies aspire to.

FCB had aggressive growth plans to build on the momentum FCB/Six generated out of its Toronto office and expand the brand to other markets. But with those three individuals gone—doing seemingly the same kind of work within the holding company—do IPG and FCB still want to grow FCB/Six?

“Oh my gosh, yes. For sure,” said Tyler Turnbull, CEO for FCB North America (above).

Soon after introducing Performance Art, FCB announced that Priyanka Goswami, Grace McCann and Rob Sturch have been promoted to lead FCB/Six Canada, reporting to FCB Canada president Bryan Kane and working closely with Tina Allan, FCB’s recently appointed global head of data science and connections (more on Allan below).

“This is a pivotal time in the modern data landscape where our clients are accelerating their focus on their first party data strategy to drive business value,” said Kane in a release announcing the promotions. “This team will continue to innovate, accelerate and drive performance and growth for our clients’ businesses. They are true leaders, partners, specialists and connectors.”

Speaking with The Message this week, Turnbull, the Canadian who had been CEO of FCB Canada and was promoted to the North American role in October 2019, said that creating Performance Art was not about replacing FCB/Six, but doing more of a good thing.

The similar specialist capabilities of both agencies is a response to intersecting trends in the industry: The expansion of data and technology-led marketing, growing interest in performance advertising, and the impending (if delayed) arrival of a cookie-less world where first party data becomes all-important.

“I think for IPG it was about putting multiple horses in the race and—seeing that this is a very rich growth area for many companies—taking a stab strategically at two different paths to capture that growth,” said Turnbull.

FCB/Six will continue to do the same work, guided by the same vision as before, and FCB is still committed to growing the brand, having opened an office in Brazil earlier this year, with plans to open other offices later this year. Meanwhile Performance Art can take that same vision and creative ethos honed by the three former FCB/Sixers and spread it across the rest of IPG.

While some may regard data and creativity as opposing forces, the belief at the core of FCB/Six (and now Performance Art) is that data and technology, in the hands of talented creative thinkers, can solve client problems in entirely new ways—enabling personalized marketing solutions that are both captivating and scalable.

“In the one-to-one world, there’s a lot of selling of the ‘machine,'” said Turnbull, referring to the wide range of data, processes and technology that have exploded over the past several years. The machine is important, he said, but essentially the same across the industry, and therefore not a differentiator. “What we’re trying to do is say ‘Look, the machine is critical, and we have the skills and specialists to do that, [but] what is going to make your machine unique versus your competitors is the creativity that’s applied. And that’s really where we’re focused.”

That approach was also why FCB hired Allan away from BBDO earlier this year. Allan reports directly to FCB Worldwide CEO Carter Murray, and partners with global CCO Susan Credle.

“What Tina can do so incredibly well is she can help unlock how creativity can be applied to data,” said Turnbull. “This mix of data, tech and creativity is really how we see the future of our company moving forward, and that’s really what FCB/Six is going to continue to bring to the table for us across FCB.”

“I came here because I always say talent, not tech or data, will be the differentiator,” said Allan. “There’s a ton of data out there… The talent that wants to lean into this kind of work will be the difference.”

While Allan will be based in the U.S., and FCB/Six is expanding globally, Toronto will remain a critical office for the network, just led by three new leaders. “Part of what attracted me to this role was the Six team and the Six talent,” said Allan. “And Priyanka, Grace and Rob and all the talent there is just amazing.”

David Brown