Public hires new chief creative officer

Guy Barnett will lead creative for the social impact agency from its growing New York office.

Social impact agency Public has new creative leadership for an offering that is growing across North America, hiring Guy Barnett as its chief creative officer.

Based in Public’s New York office, Barnett will lead the creative teams in both New York and Toronto, reporting to CEO and co-founder Phillip Haid.

Barnett spent the last 18 years as CCO at The Brooklyn Brothers, a New York-based agency he co-founded in 2001 and was acquired by IPG PR agency Golin in 2016. He takes over creative leadership at Public from Jon Toews, who joined in 2017 and recently left to take on the ECD role at Klick Health.

Public, founded in 2008, is a full-service agency that focuses on social impact and purpose-driven marketing. Haid says Public hired a boutique firm to lead its CCO search and was open to hiring a creative leader in Toronto or the U.S., adding that it was “serendipitous” that someone with Barnett’s creative and entrepreneurial experience was on the market and looking to focus on purpose-related work.

Public opened its New York office roughly one year ago, and has since handled work for Airbnb, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Johnson & Johnson, NBC Universal and Tiffany & Co., and is also working on an upcoming holiday campaign for Uniqlo. While Haid says the office is still small, with only a handful of staff based there, the traction it has picked up over the last year has “exceeded expectations,” helping the agency triple its revenue from the year prior.

While Public’s work covers a range of topics and issues, there has been a particular interest from clients in sustainability, says Haid.

“There’s an appetite for thinking about how social impact can help drive these brands and their business,” he says. “A lot of brands are finding they haven’t been doing a great job of telling the consumer what they’re doing. We’re getting a lot of opportunities where you find the marketing and sustainability groups inside a company, for example, are aligned on goals but don’t speak the exact same language. There’s an opportunity to translate those two worlds in a way that will resonate with the consumer. That’s happening in Canada and the U.S.”

Back in its Toronto office, Public made several hires across departments earlier this year. Its Canadian clients include Manulife, Maple Leaf Foods, Sephora, LCBO, Subway, Aphria and DavidsTea.