In a casual 50 minute interview
Produced by Peter Camburn & Kendra Howard for AIGA Philadelphia
AIGA Philly: As stated on your site you said you would do anything for your client; what’s the most outrageous/ ridiculous thing you’ve done thus far?
Steve O’Connell: We did this installation piece for a ski resort called Copper Mountain in Colorado where the goal was to build local buzz for the resort to get people around the area to go. We got this ice sculptor to create hitchhiking snow men along the side of the road that held up signs that said “we will work for lift tickets”. We found a farmer who had some land near the airport and we paid him with lift tickets to let us display the sculptures.
The whole scene ended up causing a huge traffic jam leading out of the airport because people wanted to stop and take pictures with them. It was just really cool and it’s just one of those things you never really think you’re going to end up doing. It’s advertising technically but you don’t really know what to call it.
Jared Scott: Another thing to add to that is that when the company bought into the idea and we were going into production they told us they really didn’t have the money to go through with it. That’s another thing about the business that we really pride ourselves on, is getting the ideas to come to life.
There was really no money exchange for that project, both the farmer whose land we used and the sculptor were paid in lift tickets and although the tickets cost money, they were donated by the company. In essence, this thing gets produced for nothing. That’s really the greatest feat that defines successful agencies, how you can handle the backend, figuring out how nimble and smart you are to get stuff done.
AIGA Philly: Where does the inspiration come from?
Steve O’Connell: We always had a good relationship and enjoyed working together. We were working together at Crispin at the time, in Miami, and after Jared left, we still kept in touch over the two years. I stayed at Crispin and was thinking of starting something on my own and then after speaking with Jared we started talking about starting something together.
Jared Scott: I spent some time in New York at Young and Rubican. It was my first job in the business, I was the account coordinator, we were working on Blockbuster field marketing and it was something that no one in the market wanted to touch but we both worked on that together. We didn’t keep in touch but it wasn’t until we got to Crispin that we were like, “you look familiar” and we started to piece it all together.
AIGA Philly: How did you get to Philly? Why here?
Steve O’Connell: I had been in Florida for six years and I was kind of getting tired of the whole endless summer thing so I wanted a change of venue. I’m from New Jersey originally so I was thinking Northeast, I had been to Philadelphia and I started judging the Philadelphia ADDY’s and I thought the work wasn’t spectacular but it was solid and I was surprised by how much work was actually getting done here. It got me thinking there was a lot of talent here but there’s no agency that’s performing well on a national scale. We wanted to be in a major city—there’s New York but competition’s bad, Boston I didn’t really like and D.C. was too political so Philadelphia seemed like a good place to make a splash so we started here.
Jared Scott: There’s something about the city that attracted us here, there’s an emerging creative class here and I read a little bit about it before coming here that the city was trying to transform itself. My dad grew up in Philly so my experience with it was through his stories and from my understanding it was a completely different city back then.
Something I really fell in love with is the notion that there’s this growing creative class whether its designers, ad agencies, or artists, sculptors, or even cuisine art, I really love being connected to that. And the city is just so much more manageable now, I mean I have a bunch of little kids so the idea of moving back to New York there’s like no way.
AIGA Philly: Does Philly have the potential to become more than it is in the Ad world?
Jared Scott: A city this size is underrepresented in terms of what we offer on a national scale. There are a lot of great jobs here but I think a lot of the agencies around will agree that [Philly] doesn’t have enough of a heartbeat. We have talked to plenty of search consultants and many have told us that Philly is a drawback because a lot of people don’t understand what the city is. I think a lot of it has to do with the stereotype that Philly is this gritty, blue-collar city but it’s a misunderstanding of what it really is and what it has to offer. It’s a lot bigger than Stick and Move but it’s nice being apart of that solution to changing it.
AIGA Philly: What’s the best way to get to know your clients?
Jared Scott: Usually Alcohol… Chemistry is often the most important part. We always say that we would never want to work with a client who we wouldn’t want to go out to dinner with or have a drink with. We have to make sure that anyone we’re potentially going to work with trusts us and our abilities if their hiring us. If there’s a misunderstanding about why they’re coming on board we don’t really want to be apart of that. Usually we learn those things early on just through conversation and the chemistry thing is an immediate thing, you can tell within 5 minutes whether or not the client is right for you. But really it’s also about just having honest conversations about what they want from us. We also have to rely on them and their knowledge and expertise as well because you can’t do good work without having a good client and it goes both ways. And alcohol.
It’s interesting too because we have a pretty diverse group of clients so we like to say we’ve talked to everyone, we have diversified our client list. They each come from different places so just having a universal understanding of what people need helps us a lot.
AIGA Philly: What’s the biggest challenge running your own firm?
Jared Scott: Continuing to be relevant and stay relevant in the marketing world. We’re trying to build a business, and we don’t want to stop at 20 employees. We want to be 100 people and then see where it goes from there. So we’re always on a constant mission to find new opportunities. That’s a real challenge.
Steve O’Connell: Trying to figure out how to make it a profitable business. Which is one thing you never have to worry about if you don’t run your own business. Especially in this economy with ever-shrinking production budgets, clients spending less on advertising and then every day there’s more and more good agencies popping up.
AIGA Philly: How do you think a branding agency should be branding itself?
Steve O’Connell: That’s a great question. Especially when you don’t have time to work on yourself because you’re always working on your client’s work. Most agencies seem to find their own nitche. Like Saatchi uses Lovemarks, that’s the way they do it. Our philosophy is conversationality, which is about infusing conversation and personality. So one of or new missions is to actively make Stick and Move a client. We’ll have projects that are setup with timelines like it’s a real client.
Something I’ve noticed that’s new is that agencies will make things like chocolates or liquors. I think that’s interesting but it’s not something I want to do. Branding and advertising for liquor, sure, but what I’ve learned in this business is that there’s so much more to the success of a company than branding and advertising.