Anomaly: The un-Cola

By Matt Van Hoven 

I sat down with this fine chap, Mr. Johnny Vulkan of Anomaly this morning for tea (well coffee actually). How to best describe this “company” can’t be done in one sentence, but I will say that the folks there have got something going on.

In the four years since its inception (by Carl Johnson), Vulkan said Anomaly has not stopped growing. But the growth is organic, atypical in some ways and traditional in others (although that’s my take). The structure is well planned and ad hoc all at once. That’s because Anomaly is absorbed in advertising culture (all the best aspects, said Vulkan) without being an ad shop. How so? Find out after the jump.

Vulkan and his crew want to be surrounded by the creative, innovative people that tend to end up in ad agencies. An example of this is the PSFK corner. That’s right, inside Anomaly there’s a corner space set aside for PSFK guru Piers Fawkes. Why? To promote an open, creative environment.

But not anyone can just waltz in. When he’s shopping for a new hire, Vulkan said it’s the candidate that has a proven record of executing hyper-creativity that strikes his fancy.

From a business standpoint, Anomaly’s strategy is to reinvent the wheel for each client. This idea is, according to Vulkan, both a strength and a weakness. On the downside, creating a new strategy for each client/business partner is time consuming. But in the end, it’s in their favor to be patient; tailor-made solutions fare better than the canned advertising strategy of old.

Internally, Anomaly is a flat company. Everyone is in one room and there are no corner offices, just ideas and execution.

“Genius happens on your way back from the toilet with a cup of coffee in your hand,” said Vulkan. “…this environment allows for magic to happen continuously.”

As compared to? Big shops with creative on one floor, PR on another and a production shop in Brooklyn are at a disadvantage, simply due to proximity, he said. Vulkan believes the environment has helped propel Anomaly into relationships with companies like Converse, which is celebrating 100 years through the Manhattan shop’s creativity.

A particularly interesting aspect of the mantra over there can be seen in one of their latest product releases, a brand of women’s shave cream called EOS (the evolution of smooth). The product line launched about a month ago in Target, and Vulkan believes it to be a much-needed addition to the market.

What’s most fascinating here is that Anomaly has not only built the marketing vehicle, but they’re also driving it &#151 since they are partial owners of the EOS product line.

Vulkan said buying in meant the creative team really had to believe in it. And to sell it, they deconstructed the current shave cream model and created a new one. They apply this technique for each challenge.

This model requires Anomaly to be selective, although Vulkan can’t remember when he was presented with a challenge he didn’t find interesting. Some would say that’s a nice way of rationalizing bad brands. Vulkan doesn’t seem to see it that way &#151 which helps keep the work flowing.

As the growth continues, Vulkan said emergence into other markets is possible. Asia, Latin America, Europe &#151 each locale is oozing with creativity &#151 but harnessing it is the challenge. Brand Republic reported last year of a possible London branch opening, but nothing has come of that quite yet.

A second “agency” (for lack of a better term) called Another Anomaly is also located in Manhattan. Where the next one might pop up, only Vulkan and a few others can say. In the meantime, they’re focused on a new apparel line that’s to-be-launched this summer. Look for it; analyze it; compare it.

The approach is worth paying attention to.

“How can we harness the creativity and use it to solve the client’s problem,” he asked rhetorically. At least I hope he didn’t want me to answer that. He and the folks in the midtown shop seem to be figuring that out with each client/business partner they team up with. It’s solved slowly, and then unsolved with each new client.