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Agency Profile: David&Goliath

Posted on July 8, 2008 and read 5,212 times

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Los Angeles is a great city, but it’s very different from other major North American locales. In New York, getting around is a snap; you’re never far from a subway station, and then the world is your oyster. Boston is sometimes called “The Walking City” and armed with a decent pair of shoes, you can pretty much see all there is to see on foot.

LA, on the other hand, is not only big, but everything seems to be a million miles from everything else. On my short trip there, I don’t think I took a cab trip that was less than forty bucks. So after emptying my wallet trying to get to independent hot shop David&Goliath, I asked Executive Creative Director Colin Jeffery why the hell they were located in a business park all the way out in El Segundo, instead of some trendy part of Los Angeles. He gestures out the window at a low flying plane. “We’re mere minutes away from LAX. You have no idea how beneficial that is in a city like this.”

David&Goliath was founded in by multi-award winning creative director David Angelo. The San Franciscan native had much success working at places like DDB and ChiatDayNew York before eventually spearheading a creative upswing at Cliff Freeman & Partners as its ECD. After five years at Cliff Freeman, David decided to take a sabbatical from the advertising industry. “While I was off, I got a call out of the blue from Kia Motors, who asked me to do something I had always wanted to do: start my own agency. We opened our doors in November of 1999, with just me, a copywriter, an accounts person and a producer. Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.”

Of course, it wasn’t just yesterday, and in the nearly nine years since they’ve opened, David&Goliath has grown from that original quartet to a staff of nearly a hundred, and has done notable work for Kia, Bacardi, Universal Studios and Zoo York. Very recently, the agency has also redefined its philosophy, summing it up in a single five-letter word: BRAVE. “While there’s always the biblical connotation in the agency’s name,” explains Colin, “we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just about a little guy taking on a big guy. It’s about bravery. David had to be resourceful and quick to face the challenge of Goliath, but most of all, he had to be brave. And we’re about brave creative, and showing clients how to be brave.” David concurs. “It’s not enough to tell clients they should be brave, that they should be taking risks. We believe we lead by example, and we show them why the risks are worth it.”

So how is this ‘brave’ agency structured? “We have about twenty people in our creative department, which includes traditional copywriters and art directors, as well as designers and interactive people,” says Colin, “but nobody is really attached to any one discipline or client. Seniors, middleweights, juniors, they all can be working on everything, from TV to guerilla stunts to in-store design to online work.”

“We’re constantly looking for new ways to attack each project,” . “This can result in a junior team working closely with a senior team on a major project. This is especially helpful for the juniors, as they get to learn from the seniors. And when they get to work on major pieces, such as a big budget TV campaign and website, they’ll have that experience to guide them. This set up also benefits the seniors, as it gives them the opportunity to learn how to be leaders. As we expand our digital and design capabilities we’re also experimenting with interesting ways to staff projects and ultimately produce innovative work.”

So what are the hours like, and how the hell does everybody make into work in the infamous Los Angeles traffic? . “I’m usually here by 8:30 AM. I like the creatives to be in by 9:30, but there’s always a few stragglers. Car trouble, again.”

“Regardless of what time we arrive, we all put in a full day’s work,” Colin continues. “We do work long hard hours for the most part, and when the pressure is on, we do expect our people to work long hours, nights and weekends. But I think that’s the case with any agency that wants to be greatbe great. That all said, when the heat’s off, we like people to get out of here and go to the beach or go snowboarding, go see family, go out of town or whatever it is they need to do. No need in keeping everybody cooped up in the office if it’s really quiet.”

While hard work is the mainstay of any good agency, a non-stop flood of long hours can often be soul-sucking. What to the folks at David&Goliath have in place to keep everybody excited and motivated? “We have our own bar, which is pretty cool. We also happen to have Bacardi as a client, which helps. We definitely try to play as hard as we work.” Colin continues. “What’s very important to us is that we have a culture that encourages creative thinking.” says Colin. “We have concept sessions where we work together and throw around ideas and opportunities that our clients might not have thought about. We also like to put ideas up on the wall, and by ideas I mean any ideas, ads, visual reference, lyrics, thought starters. If you’re walking down the street and you think of something put it down on paper and stick it on the wall. You never know when you will need that idea or find a home for it in a completely different context. We encourage our team to have creative outlets beyond the office. Some have written and directed their own short films, some have their own apparel lines, blog sites, attend stand up comedy classes and so forth. It definitely has a positive impact on the work.”

Long hours, plenty of brainstorming and idea sharing, you must really have to fit in with your co-workers to fit into David&Goliath, huh? “We are a pretty close-knit group. Again, being a relatively small agency, you kind of have to be. We need camaraderie, and we don’t have any room for egos, says Colin. “There is no time in the day for politics and bullshit.

I have made it very clear in the interviews to everyone I brought on board, I’m a straight shooter, I don’t play games, I don’t have time for egos, only for hard working people want to help build a great agency. That chemistry is crucial, especially in a small but growing agency such as us. When the chemistry is good, then your own employees are your best PR people, gladly putting the word out about why they’re happy to be here.”

So what’s in store for David&Goliath, coming off of its “Brave” identity reworking? “We would like to be one the great mid size agencies,” says Colin. “We don’t want to be big, we’d much rather be great. And we’ll continue to be on the lookout for challenging brands; brands that aren’t necessarily huge, but have Goliathesque obstacles and are brave enough to meet them. When David&Goliath becomes an industry “household” name, and the young creatives talk about us and people are watching for our next move, then I know we’ve achieved that.” Citing their recent campaign for Zoo York, a viral that received 1.2 million hits within a day, it appears they’re well under way in establishing their ‘brave’ new world.

As I get ready to leave David&Goliath, Colin has one more thing to say about their location in Los Angeles. “‘El Segundo’ is Spanish for ‘The Second.’ Very appropriate for an agency that champions the challengers.

Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer/SBN2
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