The independent approach: responsive, creative, and not adverse to taking risks
Being an independent agency certainly isn’t easy: punching above our weight, competing against agencies sometimes 10 times the size of us. Such companies are often supported by a whole agency network. In contrast, we have to rely on enthusiasm, ingenuity, the will of our dedicated employees and no small portion of trust from our clients, large and small.
When my partners and I first started Tommy at the tail end of 2009 we were filled with bravado, coffee and the almost clichéd will to “do things differently”. We had little idea of the trials and tribulations that would fill our journey to where we find ourselves today. Some 3 ½ years later, we’re no longer sat working from a Leicester Square Hotel reception (free Wi-Fi, you see) but from our own offices overlooking Oxford Street – a stone’s throw from a number of our clients – with 12 other like-minded individuals who have seen fit to join our ranks. These individuals are what make Tommy.
At Tommy we all work in flexible teams that consist of designers, technologists, producers and strategists; and everyone here ‘makes’. Cross disciplines come together to make things quickly that are simple, functional and ultimately attain a level of polish you would expect from higher-end agency’s marketing campaigns. Strategists at Tommy don’t just make diagrams for example – they will work hands-on alongside the rest of the team, contributing copy and even user-experience or visual execution ideas to projects. Making is never “someone else’s job”.
Unlike most large agencies, Tommy creates smaller cross-functional teams that have few layers between the makers and the clients. This enables us to communicate clearly, to work faster, smarter and with more diligence.
In our relatively short existence we’ve built up an impressive portfolio of clients which includes the largest Hollywood movie studios, the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, not to mention smaller companies, enterprises and individuals. These have ranged from a leading architect, a bespoke chocolate shop and even a cage fighter. Being an independent agency means that we can walk the exciting balance between the all-important accountant’s bottom line and creating work that we’re genuinely impassioned and excited about. We’re free from the constraints of large agency life, appeasing shareholders, and are able to be responsive and in large parts choosing to take a risk when an exciting opportunity arises.
With this being Drum’s Independence Day issue it seems fitting for us to focus on some work for one of our American clients by way of an example. Having worked closely with Paramount Pictures International for a number of years, we recently worked on the release of the movie Jack Reacher.
We were tasked with creating a suite of digital advertising materials that ranged from easily localisable toolkit style display formats through to custom pan-regional homepage takeovers. The brief was a familiar one in that we knew certain basic essential elements were expected, but our longstanding relationship with Paramount and the trust that we had built with them left some space for innovation in our proposed solution.
For the homepage takeovers, we worked closely with the team at Yahoo! to push their advertising platform to its limits and created an advertising experience that engaged the users, encouraging them to reach for more. This high-impact format ran on the movie’s release day and was displayed in 9 key territories around the world.
Being a Microsoft Innovation partner allowed us to explore the possibilities within the In-App Windows 8 advertising platform to further promote the film. We maximised the new opportunity with gesture language control to introduce key elements of the film as navigational tools in the ad experience. Targeted at a strongly male demographic, this ad within the BBC’s Top Gear app allowed the user to manipulate a gear stick using swipe or trace gestures, opening up different content windows such as the trailer, film stills and screening information. Each unique gesture delivered a specific piece of Jack Reacher movie content. Tommy led the overall concept and worked in tandem with Microsoft for the HTML5 build. If the user wished for even more content, a quick tap yielded a fully branded parallax environment chock full of information, galleries and video clips. With soft KPI’s always being video views and dwell time, our format’s results were way beyond industry average figures.
Working in collaboration with Paramount Pictures, Microsoft and the media agency MEC, this enormous and multi-faceted project not only showed the level of trust placed upon Tommy by these much larger parties but it also demonstrated that they valued the level of responsiveness, creativity and risk-taking that only an independent agency like Tommy can bring when confronted with such a ground-breaking opportunity.
Being a small and equally young agency often means we sometimes venture into the relative unknown – being challenged to work in new industries with new technologies. This variety keeps our talented team on their toes but also allows us to work with an external network of individuals who are masters in their own field. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. This is one of the key secrets to our ability to compete with the ‘big boys’ and create opportunities to excite our clients new and old.
Tommy’s independence means we do not sit in meetings all day, nor are we slaves to the bureaucracy that can engulf production, like a choke weed, at some larger agencies who can be confined by their allegiance to quotas, accountants and their network.
We focus on the core of what we do: the work. We believe that our agency serves a purpose that is higher than just ‘making money’. Our business is driven by our core values: producing exceptional work, nurturing talent and working collaboratively. We all have a sense of shared responsibility for a project done well.
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