POV: Interview with Jim Scott, Co-founder of mono

Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



JimScott_HeadshotTell us about mono. What differentiates it from other agencies?

To start, we built mono differently — from the ground up. When we formed mono nearly 10 years ago, agencies were slow, bloated and couldn’t think or work in new and modern ways. Work was done in silos, and as ads were created, everything else was bolted to them – without regard for real engagement, impact or change. Everything was focused on “the work” and the status quo, not helping the client change their business.

We set out to do things differently. We built a collaborative working model with a belief in simplicity at our core. At mono, there is no division between strategy and creative, advertising and design and traditional and non-traditional media. Our ideas are discussed and debated in an open environment, and the best ideas win, no matter where they come from and no matter the medium. If we believe an idea is going to change our clients business, we pursue it — regardless if it’s a TV spot, interactive initiative, experiential campaign or design centric project. We’ve created an environment where new and innovative thinking is fostered and celebrated. And because of that, we’re different, and our work is different.

Mono believes simple is better. Why do brands need to focus on simplicity in order to create great creative campaigns?

How many ways do you have to connect with friends, family, social networks, and yes, brands? That’s the problem we think we need to solve.

The marketing landscape is much more complex than even five years ago. And we believe the really smart, simple ideas are the ones that will navigate that complexity most successfully. We talk about eliminating the unnecessary so that the necessary can be heard. And when you eliminate the unnecessary, new and innovative ideas that will capture the fascination of consumers make their way to the top.


Many agencies lack a strategy for developing new business. Why is this so important for an agency’s stability?

You know that phrase “you are what you eat?” Well, it applies to agencies as well. We don’t chase new business; we curate a list of clients we work with. And we seek opportunities, not just brands: opportunities to do really engaging work, opportunities to innovate and challenge the status quo and opportunities to truly make a difference. And as we hold ourselves to the ideal of working on only the most meaningful opportunities, the bottom line works itself out.


Why do so many agencies struggle with growth? What problems do young agencies face as they start to scale?

The biggest problem is losing sight of who they are or want to be. Most young agencies grow for growth’s sake, not because it serves an end they have in mind. With every new client, every new employee and every new space we move into (we’re on No. 4 if you count the attic we started the company in), we’re very deliberate about the decisions we make and challenge ourselves to ensure these decisions are helping us achieve our ultimate goal – to be one of a handful of agencies doing the most innovative work on the planet. If growing (adding people or accounts or taking on new space) will help us achieve that objective, then we’re all in. However, if it feels like it will just be “growth,” we don’t do it. It’s almost as simple as that.

The second problem we often see is assuming the world will know who you are just because the agency is “bigger.” It still comes down to the work the agency produces and its ability to truly have an impact on its clients’ businesses. Growing by taking on mediocre work will lead to a bigger agency doing mediocre work.

Mono’s experiential campaigns have garnered a lot of media attention. How do you approach this type of work? What element makes this type of campaign successful?

Like most agencies, we start with really smart strategic thinking and then work tirelessly to solve the problem. Unlike most agencies, though, we don’t set out to create a TV campaign or a print ad. Sometimes that is the result of our work – but we don’t begin with that end in mind. Rather, we approach the problem holistically and often the end result is experiential. Which, to us, is really just about finding an innovative way to engage consumers. It’s like a different kind of ad, really.


What trends in marketing/advertising do you find most interesting?

Honestly, the experiential and social work we just talked about. But not as individual “tactics.” Rather, I’m interested in a well-orchestrated campaign approach where brands leverage truly engaging experiential ideas into powerful social movements. The Holy Grail is a “campaign” that can’t quite be defined as experiential or social. In our minds, the two work hand in hand.

One reason you love what you do: Every day is different, and the rules are constantly changing. Actually, I really love working at mono because I think we are changing the rules.

Favorite ad: I really liked Kia’s Super Bowl spot. Mostly because it captured my life as a dad – it’s just one big improv show. Making it up as we go along, and even if we know the answer, all too often we just can’t seem to get it right.

Must-read book:“The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach

Where can readers connect with you?

Write me a letter. That would be cool and old school. And I haven’t see one in a while:

c/o mono

1350 Lagoon Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55410

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