Chieftain Comms founder Steve Fontanot joins Red Agency to head up Red Guerilla

PR agency Red Agency has changed the leadership of its experiential arm Red Guerilla with general manager Nigel Hickey departing the business in July to be replaced by former Chieftain Communications founder Steve Fontanot.

Fontanot replaces Nigel Hickey as GM of Red Guerilla

Fontanot replaces Nigel Hickey as GM of Red Guerilla

A key part of Fontanot’s remit will be to build the brand experience and activation hub of the Havas Village, which comprises Havas Media, Havas Worldwide, Havas Sports & Entertainment and Red Agency.

Fontanot is tasked with “continuing to deliver ‘best in class’ consumer engagement through innovative and authentic brand experiences”.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Fontanot said the process of joining Red Agency was “organic”.

“What was attractive to me was I met with the team and they all had the same plan or vision to grow Havas and Red not just in Australia but in the region,” he said.

“Havas is growing and I thought it was a really good time for me to join and bring my experience to a big organisation and work on big, global work.”

Fontanot will be working alongside Francis Coady, GM of Havas Sports & Entertainment, to develop “the natural sysnergies between the two offerings to drive further revenue opportunities”.

Fontanot and James Wright

Fontanot with James Wright: “I thought it was a good time for me to bring my experience to a big organisation and work on big, global work”

On what he wants to achieve with Red Guerilla, he said: “The Red Guerilla team has done some great work over the years particularly with Nigel and James Wright’s leadership but it’s time for it to go through almost a re-development, it’s gone to the next stage of its evolution.

“What I’m really looking at doing is working with a whole bunch of people within the agency – James is the obvious one, but also with Francis and the team at Havas Sports & Entertainment.

“What I’m really looking at doing is building this great experiential and activations hub that works across the agency, now they’re doing great work but I want us to start doing better, stronger, integrated work.”

Fontanot launched Chieftain Communications in March 2009 which was then acquired by marketing and promotions agency Creata in August 2014.
Chieftain Communications

On leaving the agency he founded, Fontanot said: “It’s a bizarre feeling”.

“I wasn’t really looking for a role but it just so happened that what Havas and Red were talking about was such an exciting offer,” he said.

“It is a bit of a bittersweet feeling but I know I’m going for the right reasons and the agency that I built will continue without me. That’s what I’m most proud of is I’ve built something that will last without me, not something that relies on me.

“When I started Chieftain I felt I was almost a kid. I’ve grown up with that company and it’s time for me to move on to a new opportunity. It just got to a point where I’d done as much as I could for the agency, I’m really proud of what we achieved.”

Prior to forming Chieftain, Fontanot was the executive director of experiential for DDB from 2009 to 2011.

Red Agency Group CEO and Havas COO, James Wright, said: “We have been making a number of strategic moves across the Havas Group to make us stronger this year and bringing in someone with the track-record and proven abilities of Steve is a good marker for our intentions to remain a leader.

“Red Guerilla is still only two and a half years young and already on the map with its client base and the quality of work it has produced. We now need to scale across the Havas Village and having Steve on-board working closely across all our teams will help us do that.”

Meanwhile former Red Guerilla GM, Nigel Hickey, has returned to The Marc Edward Agency as managing director, where he was previously in the same role from December 2011 to 2012.

Nigel Hickey

Nigel Hickey returns to The Marc Edward Agency as MD

He told Mumbrella: “After three years of leading Red Guerilla to numerous new business wins and earning dozens of local and international awards, my team and I felt that we had outgrown the agency. All good things run their course, we are proud of the work and now it’s time to move onto the next big chapter.”

Hickey joined Red Agency in February 2014 to head up the renamed experiential unit Red Guerilla. Prior to that he was the director of shopper marketing at experiential agency Traffic.


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