Former MSLGroup consumer leader Catherine Merritt launches agency

Known as Spool, the firm is based in Chicago with nine staffers.

CHICAGO: Former MSLGroup consumer practice leader Catherine Merritt has launched her own firm known as Spool.

Merritt left the Publicis Groupe agency two years ago to start her own consultancy, but she realized she needed help as demand grew. Initially Merritt considered bringing clients to another firm, but changed her mind after literally taking a long journey.

"I had been kicking the idea around for a while," she said. "Then last summer, I did a huge bike ride, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and I had lots of time and kept thinking about it."

Merritt said the shop, based in Chicago, has nine employees and is growing. "I’m looking to bring on more junior staff," she said. "I think we have some incredible people at leadership levels, but we’re also looking to round out the agency."

The firm has a presence, but not offices, in New York and Minneapolis. Its core offering is PR, but also has two creative directors. Spool is partnering with Glantz Design for design, web development, and branding; Bold Orange for CRM; and Lincoln Churchill Advisors for investor relations and financial comms.

Spool is handling four AOR accounts: educational media company Baby Einstein, toy-maker Kids II, venture capital fund Be Curious Partners, restaurant Hot Doug’s, and retail display furnishings company Morgan Li. It has also handled projects for cannabis-based medicine company Dosist, animal feed ingredient-maker Ocean Harvest Technologies, and Artisan Kettle Organic Chocolates.

Merritt said the selling point for Spool will be ensuring the agency aligns itself closely with client strategy.

"As [agencies] get bigger, the growth adds layers," she said. "They lose that client-focused way of thinking: paying attention to and committing to understanding the client’s business."

Merritt joined MSLGroup in October 2015. Previously, she was a VP at Olson and a digital strategist at Ketchum, according to her LinkedIn account. Earlier in her career, Merritt handled global and corporate PR for Morton’s the Steakhouse, according to her LinkedIn account. She also cofounded Finbinn, which sells Finnish-style bassinets, and Mumzy, a crowdfunding website for moms.

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