The Nontraditional Becomes Commonplace

LAS VEGAS In what format will creativity thrive in the future?

Crispin Porter + Bogusky chairman Chuck Porter and executives from a range of nontraditional agencies offered answers to that question at Adweek‘s 31st Creative Seminar here today.

Delivering a keynote address to open the seminar, Porter said thinking of his agency as a brand-momentum consultancy rather than a traditional advertising shop has helped CP+B nearly triple in size during the past five years. The Miami agency recently won the $400 million VW account, on which it begins work in December.

Porter presented work including the “Fair Enough” campaign the agency did for the American Legacy Foundation, which consists of 40 30-second pseudo sitcom episodes about tobacco executives discussing ways to target consumers. He also screened a preview of “Suite and Innocent,” the soft-porn spoof CP+B made available in hotel rooms in New York and London for Virgin Atlantic.

“Ads are ads, and if they’re in on the joke, people tend to like them better,” Porter said. “Creating interactivity [and mixing it] with traditional paid media ads seem to us to have been very potent.”

Porter stressed the importance of collaboration across all agency departments on every piece of business.

“I do believe when you have writers and art directors and designers in one place and media planners in another place, it’s a bitch. It seems to make things so much harder,” he said. “We try very hard to keep everyone at the table.”

While that type of organization may seem to buck the traditional setup of keeping creative, media and account teams separate, the next panel discussed even more radical departures from agency structure.

Scott Goodson, founder of Amsterdam-based StrawberryFrog; Kris Kiger, executive creative director at R/GA in New York; Gary Freedman, director at the Glue Society in Sydney, Australia; and Ernest Lupinacci, partner at Anomaly in New York, discussed how modifying the traditional agency environment had made their operations successful.

StrawberryFrog, whose clients include Heineken and Old Navy, differentiates itself with a fluid agency structure that involves hiring creative teams for projects on a freelance basis, Goodson said.

R/GA, which works with clients like Nokia and Nike, has added personnel like media analysts, interactive designers and technical experts to the traditional mix of art directors, copywriters and strategists. Kiger said R/GA makes sure they collaborate seamlessly.

Freedman’s company, the Glue Society, is not an agency at all, but a collective of designers and directors who work only on a project basis. They have worked with agencies for clients including Levi’s and Burger King. Clients are asking shops for ideas that “increasingly require talent outside the normal four walls of an agency,” Freedman said.

Anomaly landed a major client, Coke’s Dasani, just three months after opening. According to Lupinacci, the shop created TV spots for the water brand because it satisfied Coke on a smaller packaging and design assignment.

“The key is to make the client think, ‘If you will do this when I just ask you to do this little thing, what will you do when I actually set the table for you,’ ” Lupinacci said.

In the end, smaller, nontraditional agency models offer clients what larger shops cannot: agility and enthusiasm, the panelists agreed.

“When you come into an agency like ours, what you get is a sense of exuberance and energy and a possibility that everything is possible. We take no prisoners,” Goodson said. “Clients don’t get that very often. [They hear] you can’t do that, it’s too expensive. [With us] they get really excited. Energy, enthusiasm and passion are the three most important selling tools all four of us have.”