‘New Kids’ Make Their Voices Heard

NEW YORK The “New Kids on the Block” assembled for an Advertising Week panel yesterday may seem more alike than different, even to themselves.

Taxi, Anomaly and StrawberryFrog are all 25-40-plus-person shops with airy, penthouse offices below 24th Street in Manhattan, and they all share the same creative philosophy: Big clients want big ideas, and they can get them at small agencies.

“The Cubists looked at the world differently, but then, after a while, they all looked the same,” said Paul Lavoie, founder and CCO of Taxi, which opened a New York office this year. Scott Goodson, CCO of StrawberryFrog, and Jason DeLand, founding partner at Anomaly, joined Lavoie.

While bigger is never necessarily better, the executives said, the shops’ small size allows them to be nimble, fast and creative in ways large shops are not, the panel members agreed.

Taxi, which has 120 employees in Canada handling the Viagra and Mini Cooper accounts, will never exceed more than 150 staffers, Lavoie said. Lavoie believes that like military units, offices with more than 150 personnel become dysfunctional. StrawberryFrog also has built its structure around the concept of several core thinkers and enlisting freelancers as needed, Goodson said.

“Being small is an advantage for us, because it means our top people can legitimately focus on client business all day every day. [Larger agencies] will have a difficult time matching pound for pound that level of talent with that kind of focus,” DeLand said.

Most importantly, panel members said that because growth is not their priority, their shops could be selective when choosing clients.

“We’re not looking for a No. 1 brand,” said Lavoie. “We’re looking for a challenger brand. No. 1 brands are usually about market share, they’re the hunted. We’re much more aggressive than that.” And while Mini and Viagra are high-profile brands, “behind those brands are clients that are very entrepreneurial.”

DeLand agreed, saying Anomaly is “looking to do innovative things to prove our model.”

Goodson admitted creative opportunity is not the only factor to consider: “When you have a name like StrawberryFrog, you get two kinds of clients who approach you: Either those who want to change the world, or have no money. So you have to be quite selective.”