Modernista! (US)


Modernista! was an independent creative agency based in Boston, renowned for its unconventional and often stylish work. For several years in the mid-2000s it was represented online by an ornately gothic website, one of the US ad industry's more adventurous creations. This was replaced in late 2007 by an even more adventurous, but radically different, concept in which the agency was depicted only in terms of how other users of web communities such as Wikipedia, Google and Facebook viewed it. The idea was widely copied by other companies. 

Modernista was founded on the first day of 2000 by Gary Koepke, an acclaimed graphic designer and former art director at Wieden & Kennedy, and Lance Jensen, the creative director who had previously led Arnold's successful pitch for the Volkswagen account. The agency had a superb first year, capturing assignments from The Travel Channel, MTV, Hummer and Gap in just its first nine months. It produced excellent work through the following two years. However 2002 proved a little more problematical. The departure of the Gap account was related more to the retailer's own problems, but cast a mild shadow, as did several unsuccessful pitches for other accounts. Modernista! geared up in 2003 with several new staff appointments, in order to generate further new business. That proved successful - the agency added an estimated $120m to billings by the end of the year, including a place on the Budweiser roster. As a result, it was named Regional Agency of the Year for 2003 by Adweek. 

After that, business continued to grow steadily, and Modernista finally broke into the big time in 2006 with the capture (from Leo Burnett no less) of General Motors' Cadillac account. It already handled the Hummer business. A European presence was established in the Netherlands to service GM brands towards the end of 2006 and was upgraded to a full-service agency during 2009. However, GM's decision to appoint new agencies for all its brands post-bankruptcy forced the closure of the Amsterdam office at the end of the year. The agency also lost its grip on handset manufacturer Palm in early 2010. CEO and co-founder Lance Jensen announced his departure at the end of that year to become chief creative officer of Hill Holliday

Gary Koepke remained chairman and executive creative director, but began to consider alternative plans in the first few months of 2011. The majority of staff were let go and in April that year he finally announced that he would shutter the agency altogether and take several months off before deciding what to do next. He resurfaced in 2012 with a few creative projects for the (Red) charity, before joining SapientNitro as chief creative officer for North America.

Last full revision 20th May 2016


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