In a sense, they had taken a move right out of the soap opera playbook. But this time, instead of romantic radio or TV dramas for the apron-clad homemaker set, the agency was producing music programming for young people, who often ignore ads. The giveaway was technologically a long way from the type of promotions popular in the ’50s, such as the free-towel-in-every-box gimmick for Silver Dust laundry soap. But it worked on the same principle: reciprocity. The basis of most good digital marketing campaigns is not new. What the young creatives bring to the table is an ability to take those old ideas to where people are gathering now.
Ironically, Persico—like many young people in the advertising industry—does not prefer to work on Facebook, and says it is rarely his first choice for a campaign. “We don’t decide where media’s going,” he says. “Every brief we get, it’s what the client wants. But we’d rather go and figure out what’s right for the brand.”
HOW TO GET HIRED IN ADVERTISING (BEFORE YOU WOULD BE ALLOWED TO STAR IN YOUR OWN ADS)
In a darkened ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Toronto, waiters glide around, refilling wine glasses as the advertising industry toasts itself. It’s the Cassies Awards, with Arthur Fleischmann, president and a founding partner at the agency John St., presiding as emcee. He reflects on the year gone by and acknowledges the arrival of a new agency. U.S.-based Anomaly, part of Miles Nadal’s MDC Partners network, opened a Toronto office in the spring of 2012.
Before Anomaly had officially opened its doors, it released a beer commercial that went viral, placing it on the radar of advertisers. By the summer, Anomaly was lapping up business such as the Canadian accounts for Budweiser and Mini.
“Welcome to Canada, Anomaly,” Fleischmann says. “Now get the hell out.”
For Anomaly Toronto’s president, Franke Rodriguez, it was a welcome jab; an acknowledgement of Anomaly’s stature as a hot agency. It is also young—the baby-faced Rodriguez himself is just 34, something that is often noted in client meetings. “First impressions, definitely it’s there. ‘You’re the president? How old are you?’ ” he says later, standing in the agency’s open-concept office, where a communal iPod dock plays a mix of ’90s hip hop.
Compared to some of his employees, Rodriguez is a veteran. In a nearby room, the creative team of Jesse Hornstein-Goldberg and Eric Neal are slumped on Fatboy beanbags, conducting a conference call to explain a new assignment for Budweiser to an animatics agency that will produce mock-ups of ads. The call is held via an iPhone sitting on the distressed hardwood floor, on speaker mode.
“ ’Sup?” Hornstein-Goldberg says, before the team begins running through the scenarios.
They make a note about casting. By industry convention, actors in liquor advertisements must be older than 25. At 21 and 22, Neal and Hornstein-Goldberg would not pass muster to appear in the ads themselves.
The pair was hired while they were still at Humber College. They were drawn to working for Anomaly after seeing Rodriguez speak at Ad Lounge, an industry event where, as volunteers, they were pulling curtains and working microphones. From the stage, Rodriguez said being in advertising made him feel that “I haven’t worked a day in my life.”
Sold. Neal and Hornstein-Goldberg turned to Google to get his attention. In his speech, Rodriguez had mentioned that he had been a rapper. So the pair hunted down his album. From that, they lifted a verse: “I’m not stressing you/but blessing you/with the opportunity/for you and me to get together/and live beautifully.”
On a poster, they copied the cover art and printed out the lyric, changing the last line to “work beautifully.” They snuck around the back of Anomaly’s building and taped the poster to a window, facing in.
It took a while for Rodriguez to notice the poster. When he did, he saw a URL at the bottom. It led him to a web page built just for him, headlined “Will the real Franke Rodriguez please stand up?”—a gloss on an Eminem line. The page included Neal’s and Hornstein-Goldberg’s portfolios, and a request for an interview.
Rodriguez hired them. They have been joined by more young hires, as the agency has rapidly expanded in recent months. “Everyone, here particularly, is very young,” Neal says.
And they have been getting noticed. Lately, Neal and Hornstein-Goldberg have won a few “shootouts,” where creative teams compete internally on a pitch (the client picks their favourite). They also won a free ride to Cannes for the yearly advertising festival this summer, their bounty for snagging a gold at the National Advertising Awards in May.