Wednesday, July 18, 2018
  • Monday, Sep. 25, 2017
Wieden+Kennedy Invests in Start-up Creative Indie Agency CALLEN
Holly Petitjean (center) is flanked by Niklas Lindstrom (l) and Craig Allen
W+K alum Craig Allen teams with industry vets Niklas Lindström and Holly Petitjean to open Austin-based shop
  • PORTLAND, Ore.
  • --

Wieden+Kennedy is backing the start-up of a new independent creative agency, CALLEN, founded by departing W+K group creative director Craig Allen and his co-founding partners, business entrepreneur Holly Petitjean and production pioneer Niklas Lindström. CALLEN is opening this month in Austin, TX.

“Craig and his partners represent a bright future for this business,” W+K president Dave Luhr said. “When you give great talent the confidence and room to experiment, and the permission to even fail, great work follows. Independence has allowed us to do this for 35 years. We not only believe in independence, we practice it. By backing CALLEN, we are doubling down on an agency model and talent that we know leads to great work.”

The investment in CALLEN is a first for W+K, which will support the creative company at launch as a minority investor. This gives CALLEN complete autonomy; the shop will have its own approach to business, and culture. The only condition that comes with W+K’s investment--CALLEN can never sell, and must remain independent, something that W+K remains fiercely committed to and has been vital to W+K’s creative success over its 35-year history. 

Allen and his co-founders have an impressive range of projects and experience on their collective resume, leading to some of the industry’s most well-known and awarded campaigns. CALLEN is rooted in the belief that creativity and innovation can solve any problem. They aim to create a boundary-free, frictionless organization built around talent with a diverse set of skills and experiences, and to make things that humans love and in turn, things that grow businesses and brands.

“This is Dan’s legacy in action at a time when the industry needs more stories like Dan’s” said Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer for Wieden+Kennedy. “Craig is a unique voice. He’s willing to pull himself up on the work and do it for the long term. Our contribution is to believe in Craig, Niklas and Holly, provide some starter cash, and get out of the way. Craig will pay us back, we’re not worried about that. The only thing we ask is that he never sell.”

DeCourcy continued, “We see this as an alternative to the start it and sell it mentality we think is damaging to creative people and creative agencies. The advertising industry is feeling the squeeze right now. We’re lucky to have a simple and focused business model that works.”

Allen, who had been with W+K since 2008, is known for award-winning, consumer favorite campaigns for clients including Old Spice, Nike, Coca-Cola,, Electronic Arts, Oreo and Samsung. Perhaps most notably, he led the Old Spice team responsible for the “Smell Like A Man, Man” campaign, which transformed the brand into the category’s definitive leader. Hits like “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and the ground-breaking “Responses” social campaign added to what was regarded as one of the top campaigns of the 21st century.

Prior to W+K, Allen worked on the also ground-breaking crowd favorite “Taste the Rainbow” campaign while at TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York. He is a proud alum of the University of Texas at Austin, and “looks forward to connecting and partnering with great talent” currently enrolled at the university. He will serve as CALLEN’s chief creative officer.

Allen commented, “We are driven by our shared relentless desire to make things people need, want and love. This is about creating a legacy and experimenting on how to do things differently. Going home to Austin is personal for me — the community of Austin is a really exciting place to launch a creative endeavor. I’ve dreamed of doing this my whole career, and now it’s a reality. We are fortunate to be backed by the fiercest, most highly awarded creative company in the world. We are going to eat a lot of BBQ, and make great work – my two passions in life. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Lindström is known for culture-defining work done at some of the industry’s most notable companies, most recently as director of interactive production at Droga5, where he created immersive experiences for clients including Under Armour, MailChimp and Hennessy. Prior to Droga5, Lindstrom headed up digital at Forsman & Bodenfors, where he was involved in the production of the widely celebrated “Live Test Series” for Volvo Trucks. Before F&B, Lindstrom led digital projects for BBDO New York, with experience on accounts like AT&T, FedEx, General Electric, Mars and HBO. Prior to that, he spent six years at B-Reel. In addition to helping establish that company’s New York office, he produced award-winning ads for Axe, Doritos and Google.

“Innovative production is one of CALLEN’s foundational strengths; we understand the business reality for brands that need to produce a lot more for less. We are focused on applying non- traditional thinking to big ideas to make things that reach people through storytelling, experiences and products,” said Lindström.

Rounding out the team is Petitjean, a seasoned business leader with more than 20 years of experience building agencies and brands. She has led accounts for brands including Starbucks, Google, Budweiser, eBay and Pacifico at agencies and innovative startups including Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Huge, Creature, Switzerland Inc. and POSSIBLE.

“I have been fortunate to work at some of the best agencies and startups in advertising, and have been in this business long enough to witness the many different ways our industry has transformed itself over and over,” said Petitjean. 

“The first conversation I had with Craig was about solving business problems without any particular formula in mind. I think we may have actually talked about amusement parks needing better rides and consumer experience more than ads. This approach excites me and I believe is the best route to building brands and products humans love.”

“It’s good for us and for the industry to have more independent agencies leading the way forward. We hope that opening CALLEN will serve as a reminder of what is possible when the best creative minds start companies that are about challenging expectations and making new things, not just about getting big and cashing out,” Luhr said.

CALLEN is currently working with a number of yet-to-be-named partners.