Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Welcome Change. There's A New Agency in Town. It's Hoping To Kick Ass and Take Names.

Grad pride.

Amazing what I get to witness being part of the lives of young talented people on a regular basis. The future of advertising is in good hands.

Each fall I take a group of my students to New York Advertising Week. A couple of years ago we had the pleasure of being hosted by Scott Goodson of Strawberry Frog for a "meet and greet". Besides the opportunity to engage with one of the industry leaders the day turned into a day beyond inspiration. Scott asked each student introduce themselves and what discipline they saw as their niche. After presentation and Q&A session a simple question was dropped upon my crew by Scott, "with all the talent at the table, and each of your disciplines why not start your own agency?" Wow, start your own agency. Why not. A short 15 months later a group of those students in attendance took the led and did that. Born from a soft economy, abundant talent and passion Playground Digital was born. But that is just one story of well planned success.

A second group of talented young AdLanders have hung the shingle on the door and are planning to "switch" the thinking of advertising, communication and engagement.

Meet Switch. Welcome to Switch Advertising.

Recent grads Ryan Thomas, Stuart Chan and Neil Damania put their passion and vision behind their deep entrepreneurial skills to create a better advertising agency.  They started out as people who wanted to change and build things, not just for clients but to rock "communication culture". To make  clients' businesses better and more engaging. It's in their blood. These guys are all "culture vultures". They get the "new media", they are fueled by the power of "social media" and they want to help "switch" the minds of clients who don't understand the new power that is needed to build brand loyalties and switch the culture change needed to engage the "new" audiences living in a digital space.

To get things started they have launched their website last week and have collaborated with talented local artists to make a series of outrageous indie rock style posters, because between artists and indie rock bands, no one has to work harder to earn your attention. The site is a "social exercise" "something that could become a case study in itself. The site isn't designed as an info dump or sales pitch of services and talent, but a place to exchange insights, creativity and thinking.

I asked Stuart Chan, Operations & Branding Director, what was key to starting Switch, "We have the same passion as our clients. We wanted to own or work, our ideas, our sweat and our labor".  He added, "Creativity; there is a huge gap in knowledge and development in social spheres. About 80% of companies currently operating in this space have no real strategy or planned objectives to move forward with".

It became clear to the partners that there is a real problem in a cluttered media environment, especially when you need to communicate a single point. Stuart pointed out that being children of the wired generation, actually gives them a leg up on larger agencies. Simply put getting these kinds of "simpleminded" ideas to clients first means educating them on how technology can be used effectively and intelligently.

“This became clear after pitching at other, more traditional agencies; and we saw an opportunity to move on pace and in the same direction as the emerging social era. So we grabbed it and ran with it. There was never really any doubt” Stuart added.

When asked if there was a key "mission statement" of philosophy, the plan is to build the agency on three fundamentals; one, to create integrated work that involves consumers; two, we want to select clients that run a business we ethically and morally agree with and we do our damndest to really make them shine; and finally, they don’t just want our work to tell the story, we want our work to be the story – and in turn, have the consumer become the storyteller instead. In short: The best work possible, the best clients possible, the best results possible.

Ryan Thomas, Social & Digital Strategist added, “Honestly if you don't have those three things in this industry, it gets harder and harder to sleep at night".

When asked if they if this requires clients that are brave and willing to accept ideas that are nowhere near timid, and executions that span the three fastest growing sectors of advertising; Public Relations, Digital Development, and Social Marketing, Creative Director Neil Damania strongly believes, “we are an industry of ideas, and they should be able to live in all spaces; but if a concept or communication is not best utilized in these three mediums, it's often more expensive and less effective". 

So what's next for Switch now they are launched and poised to change the environment, the boys answered as one, "It's about choosing clients with similar vision, being prepared to scale, and leaving a global footprint. There’s no such thing as going home, only going big. We’re here to stay.

Bonne chance, keep the passion, change the world.

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