The agency does not just create things for our clients. We create things for ourselves, as well. We pursue our own projects and launch our own products and brands. That allows the creativity to move beyond just marketing and gives us a perspective that others don’t have.
It also allows us to only make things that we like because that’s how people in the real world judge things. People react emotionally, and if they say, “I like that,” then they’re more likely to also say, “I’d buy that.”
Other places might have a proprietary process or analytic formula, but the most successful campaigns are strategically simple and emotionally powerful. We try not to think beyond that.
What have been some of your favorite projects produced by Division of Labor? Tell us about the thought and strategy behind these campaigns.
Roku is the leader in streaming TV. And our strategy comes from a simple truth: Americans watch more than five hours of TV a day. We think they can watch more! So, we celebrate the love Americans have with their TVs and encourage them with the line, “Keep streaming, America!”
Ford wanted to change the way people think about gas mileage, so we had this thought: Why is gas the only product that never goes on sale? There’s never a back-to-school sale or an early-bird special or a Presidents’ Day sale, which is weird. That led us to the line, “The only way to pay less for gas is to pay for gas less.” The campaign took the form of a guy going to different gas stations asking for sales and discounts like he gets with other products, but he always comes up empty.
For Groupon, we wanted to talk to merchants and let them know that Groupon not only works, but that “80 percent of the people that do a Groupon want to do another.” So, we told the story of a tire shop that embraced Groupon and, in doing so, ended up not needing the services of a long-standing employee: the huge, 20-foot-tall inflatable gorilla that had been employed on the roof of the place.
Has the rise in the importance of data limited creative?
Data has not limited creativity at all. The digital revolution and changes in media have made it more important than ever to create things that emotionally connect with people. People who can mine data for nuggets of information can dramatically help targeting, so brands know more about whom they’re talking to. Then, they still have to make things that get attention and make an emotional connection. The two go hand in hand. People who use data as a replacement for creativity alone are missing the point. If you only had to plug some data in to figure out how to connect with someone and make them love you, we would have done it a long time ago and retired.
Your new book, “Stop Tweeting Boring Sh*t: The New Rules of Work,” will be released this August. What inspired you to work on this project?
The agency is in an old fabric shop storefront, and we use the big front window as a media space for projects.
The book started as a series of posters inscribed with simple thoughts about the modern workplace that we hung in the office window. People on the street started taking pictures of them, tweeting them, posting them online and asking us if they could buy them. So, we started selling them.
Then the tweets led to pins and press and blog posts across the Web. We started selling them in countries around the world with Fab.com. Ashton Kutcher tweeted about them, Wired wrote about them, and things took off around the Internet.
We looked at the online profiles of the buyers and found that the idea struck a chord with a huge variety of people from housewives to students to businesspeople to designers in countries from Australia to Brazil. We figured “The New Rules of Work” is an extendable brand with a broad appeal that crosses a variety of demographics. We hooked up with Chronicle Books, which are awesome by the way, and here we are.
What are two of the most important lessons you hope readers take away from this book?
We really just want people to laugh and see the humor in the modern workplace. Hopefully, the book sits in lobbies and cubicles across corporate America and points out some of the stupidity in the place they work. But, the bigger point is that we launched a brand with a few posters hanging in a storefront. That’s pretty cool, and it demonstrates the power of simple messages. Create things that resonate with people, and people will respond.
What one thing must great creative campaigns have?
A little piece of truth. The truth can be funny, touching, edgy, smart, sad or whatever. But you need something honest for people to identify with, and chickens are funny, too.
What is the key to creating great relationships with your clients?
Who knows for sure? Everyone’s different. But hopefully, the key to creating great relationships is first creating great work. And another key should be honesty. If it’s best for a personal relationship, then it’s best for a business relationship. And if those things aren’t true, we have no idea.
What advantages does a small agency provide brands?
Access to the principals is one of the main benefits to working with us. We work directly on every client and project that goes through here, and those projects aren’t just client projects. We set the company up to remain small so we can work on our own projects and sell our own products. That way we understand what our clients are trying to accomplish because we have to do it ourselves.
What trends in advertising do you find most interesting/exciting?
The continued splintering of the media world will mean more places to put things and more opportunities to make stuff. And really, all we want to do is make things that get people’s attention and make them go, “I like that.”
One reason you love what you do: We get paid to think of things and then make the things we thought up. Anybody who complains about that is insane. We are the luckiest people alive.
Favorite ad:That’s a tough question. The SportsCenter stuff is pretty great. It’s hard to do one spot — let alone a whole decade worth of great work.
Josh: “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper