Welcome to Independent Influence, a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies across the country. This week we're featuring Omelet's maker space.
Creative agency Omelet is no stranger to big-budget work.
Last year, the Los Angeles shop created Pokemon’s first-ever Super Bowl spot, and since then has rolled out elaborate broadcast campaigns for the likes of Final Fantasy XV and Far Cry Primal. The agency also recently dabbled in virtual reality to create a three-minute 360-degree video for Smashbox that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes tour of the make-up brand’s headquarters.
But as brands increasingly look to their agencies to churn out snackable, social media-friendly content — and as the death knell continues to ring for the once-heralded TV spot — Omelet is beginning to beef up the capabilities of its “maker” space to keep up with client needs.
Led by production artist and resident social maker Fabienne Wente, the studio is where Omelet creates bite-size content for clients ranging from AT&T to the American Cancer Society. Stocked with confetti, paint, glue and other art supplies, the space provides Omelet’s staffers with a plethora of materials to experiment with so they can create content for clients at a fast clip.
“It has anything that you could really imagine yourself needing in order to make something out of scratch,” said Wente.
Before joining Omelet earlier this year, Wente worked at agencies including 72andSunny and David&Goliath where she created social posts for the likes of Kia, Tillamook and Starbucks. According to Grant Holland, partner and chief creative officer at Omelet, Wente was brought on board to help the agency master its “ninja maker skills.”
“She helped us become quicker, more nimble, more stealth-like creators, capable of doing a higher volume of fun stuff without over-thinking it,” he said.
With a passion for concocting (as well as photographing) ornate cocktails and a love of letterpress, Wente considers herself a maker in every sense of the word. And with more than 12,000 followers on her personal Instagram, it’s clear that Wente has a knack for creating artful posts that people actually want to look at and engage with — a skill that brands are looking for more and more.
“I get my hands dirty with a lot of different things, and I think it reflects a lot in my Instagram because I’m just so inspired by the city of Los Angeles,” she said. “I was born and raised here, so going out and exploring my hometown and capturing the beauty of it and then relaying that through Instagram is definitely a big hobby of mine.”
Bringing the ‘trying it’ mentality in-house
Like many agencies, Omelet has been creating social content for its client for years. But Holland said the addition of Wente to the team has helped the agency really embrace a “trying it” mentality that it was somewhat lacking beforehand.
“We were using more traditional approaches, encumbered in layers and process. We weren’t trying stuff in the moment. We weren’t rolling up our sleeves and getting as messy as we needed to, or as often as we need to,” he said. “She’s great at coming up with cool ideas and seeing what works and doesn’t work.”
For example, AT&T recently asked Omelet to create some social videos for its ongoing ‘It Can Wait’ campaign that warns drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. With minimal funds and a short timeline, Wente said the team working on the brief had to quickly come up with a concept for the videos and execute them in-house.
Rather than overthink the process, they ended up turning to an elementary school staple to bring the short clips to life: construction paper. Using paper cut outs and stop motion techniques, they created two colorful videos that each illustrated why it’s important to remind your friends to not text while driving.
— AT&T (@ATT) April 17, 2017
While each brief is different, sometimes these types of projects involve nothing more than a marker and a willingness to try something. Case in point: on World Cancer Day this year, some of Omelet’s staffers wrote the words ‘We Support World Cancer Day’ on their hands. After taking pictures of their hands outside, they stitched together the photos to create a looping gif for the American Cancer Society.
“It didn’t need a lot of resources. Just an idea and a trying mentality,” said Wente. While these one-off ideas don’t always work out, Wente believes that taking the time to at least see what happens is usually worth it.
“Most of the time it turns out great, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s just the trying mentality that’s important to us,” said Wente.
Creating a ‘wake and make’ culture
Holland acknowledges that the concept of “making” at ad agencies is nothing new. Nowadays, most agencies boast of some sort of maker space, lab or studio where they can create and prototype for clients.
“Regardless of whether you’re with a holding company or you’re independent, I think everybody is trying to move quicker and be more nimble and make content in a more efficient way,” he said.
Even so, fostering a culture where things can be made on the fly without much fuss is something that he believes is important, particularly since it mirrors the way that people actually use social media in their day-to-day lives. Just as people don’t spend weeks and weeks coming up with social posts or putting them through lengthy approval processes, brands too should be able to put out content that feels natural and doesn’t look like it’s went through dozens of iterations.
“We’re able to make a ton of content pretty quickly, and I think ultimately that’s the biggest thing, being more nimble and more flexible. As we all know, social works that way too. Whether it’s for ourselves or for our brands, we just have to be able to make stuff [in] a more cost efficient way.”
And because Omelet is a self-described “fiercely independent” agency, Holland believes that the shop is uniquely positioned to create this kind of work.
“Because we’re independent, we’re able to take more risks. We’re able to turn stuff around pretty quickly because we typically don’t have the process and the overhead that larger companies have,” he said. “It’s tricky because making this type of content isn’t always the most profitable — the margins aren’t typically as high — but if you are able to do it in a way with less people and less overhead, you can crank a lot of this stuff out and have fun doing it and still make it profitable.”
This mentality isn’t something that’s just reserved for clients; internally, Omelet encourages its staffers to “make” on a day-to-day basis. To celebrate its 13th birthday last month, its employees gathered to create a heart-shaped balloon wall — then filmed themselves popping each balloon to reveal Omelet’s logo underneath. Just last week, a few of the agency’s staffers created a video that shows paint dripping up to reveal Omelet’s ‘wake and make’ mantra (see below).
“I don’t know that being a maker or doer is necessarily anything new, but I think being true to that philosophy and living it on a daily basis is something that we’ve gotten really good at,” said Holland.
Independent Influence is supported by Choozle, an independent digital advertising platform.