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Agency Profile: Lean Mean Fighting Machine

Posted on November 8, 2011 and read 11,451 times

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brianna Agency Profile: Lean Mean Fighting MachineBrianna Graves
Operations Manager, Writer
IHAVEANIDEA

The biggest challenge you’ll face in a visit to Lean Mean Fighting Machine is finding the place. The location is idyllic, situated across from the famed Roundhouse Theatre, near Primrose Hill, not far from Regent’s Park and the peacefully winding Regent’s Canal, just north of Central London in Camden Town. But the office itself is cleverly hidden just off the hip hustle and bustle of Chalk Farm Road on Ferdinand Street.

My normally foolproof internal compass was thrown off as I climbed the stairs into the Lean Mean Fighting Machine office worried into a tizzy about my tardiness. I was immediately put at ease, greeted at reception by name, offered tea and water and introduced the partners in the most hospitable of welcomes. I took a deep breath and settled in. Over the course of my visit, every person at Lean Mean Fighting Machine took the time to introduce themselves, talk about the culture, work and agency, and include me in every part of their day.

One part of which included an agency farewell to a treasured employee. In what I learned was Lean Mean Fighting Machine fashion, this was no typical farewell, but rather a celebratory pub crawl throughout each part of the city in which a Lean Mean Fighting Machine office once lived over the past seven years. The partners invited all current and former employees, who turned up in droves, hugging each other and enthusiastically catching up. This was not your average party, but then Lean Mean Fighting Machine is not your average agency.

As in Las Vegas, what happens at a Lean Mean Fighting Machine Agency Farewell party stays at a Lean Mean Fighting Machine Agency Farewell party. But let’s just say that they can play as hard as they work.

_______________________

You might think that winning “Interactive Agency of the Year” at Cannes while simultaneously winning more awards at the 2008 Festival than any other agency would create a shop full of cocky bastards. You’d also think that owning an extensive collection of D&AD, Clio, One Show, Creative Circle and Webbie awards would foster some serious ego and attitude.

But somehow, that could not be farther from the truth for the London-based crew at Lean Mean Fighting Machine. In fact, the Lean Mean crew comprises some of the most humble, hardworking, innovative and collaborative individuals I have met in my travels.

Tom Bazeley, Dave Cox, Dave Bedwood and Sam Ball, four formal Tribal DDB employees, founded Lean Mean Fighting Machine in 2004, leaving DDB because they saw infinite potential to break the mold and do things their own way. That same year, Bedwood and Ball were voted into Campaign’s Top Ten Creative Directors in London (across all disciplines) as well as Campaign’s Faces to Watch. Not a bad start.

At the time, digital advertising was not as pervasive as it is now. There was no social media frenzy or depth of digital media channels, so starting an agency entirely based on display banner advertising was a bit risky. But where there’s a niche, there’s a way. A successful way if you’re Lean Mean Fighting Machine.

The four Partners and their teams immediately got to work creating the best in show, proving the potential of this media when the right creativity was applied.

Like the AOL 0 – 9 Campaign, which not only tackled the difficult task of advertising online advertising to the advertising industry, but also took on the task of disproving the perception that banners are creatively uninteresting. Being that this audience would be naturally cynical, it was imperative that the creative was stunning enough to persuade. As the user interacted with the banners, sliding from left to right, the banner came to life to show how the web has progressed, with client AOL at the forefront of the powerful animation.

The Virgin Bets Campaign was another example of applying the right creativity for the right effect. Lean Mean Fighting Machine created ads that featured the Big Brother contestants who were up for eviction each Friday afternoon, just before the week’s most important show when transactions hit their largest peak. Each ad was written on the Tuesday night, approved Wednesday morning, shot over lunch, edited and trafficked Wednesday night and then went live on Thursday and Friday. But that’s no big deal when you’re lean, mean and a fighting machine.

It takes a special sense of informed humor to get the world talking about the trajectory of a poo, but Lean Mean Fighting Machine was able to accomplish that, too. In support of World Toilet Day 2010 and in partnership with client Domestos, they launched “Flush Tracker” asking site visitors if they “Ever Wondered Where Yours Goes?” While raising awareness about the lack of sewer systems across much of the world, something most first-world citizens take entirely for granted, the Flush Tracker enabled site visitors to enter their address and, well, track where theirs went.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

And Lean Mean Fighting Machine not only instigated thirst for beer on the interwebs, but motivated people to satiate that thirst by clicking their computer mouse, hitting ‘refresh’ on their browsers to take a virtual sip of a virtual pint of Strongbow. The challenge? It took one million clicks to drain the pint, which had prizes like a case of beer hidden within. A challenge only in theory, though not in practice, as site visitors drained the pint not only once, but twice- the second time twice as fast. That’s more than two million clicks of the ‘refresh’ button for a virtual sip (or many virtual sips) of client Strongbow’s most refreshing pint.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Lean Mean Fighting Machine’s client roster also includes, and has included, Unilever, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Heineken International, Fosters, Emirates, Dr. Pepper, Virgin, Samsung and more.

It’s not surprising that Lean Mean Fighting Machine achieves this kind of success considering the environment they foster. Culture is very important at Lean Mean Fighting Machine, but it’s not formalized in any way. The vibe is casual, inclusive, and fully supportive of the realm of possibility.

As Technical Partner Dave Cox said, “My policy is ‘don’t say no’ until I have an alternative.”

Summer time at Lean Mean Fighting Machine equates to half-day Fridays and an agency-wide holiday. Not a holiday as in time off for all, but a voyage together as an agency for team-building merriment. Though it’s abundantly clear that the Lean Mean Fighting Machine crew gets on well and has a great time together, it was also clear that everyone is in it for the love of the work.

The onus at Lean Mean Fighting Machine is dedication to hard work, but that does not equate to long hours tethered to a desktop. The partners enable collective ownership of the work and strongly believe that allowing teams the freedom to be independently creative allows the agency to reach its pinnacle moments. Whether it’s the Tate Modern, the Roundhouse or a walk through a park, all four partners recognize that the best ideas don’t always come from sitting in front of a computer screen. As they say, “a good idea can come from anywhere.”

Though working within the four walls of the office at Lean Mean Fighting Machine is really not so bad at all. If creativity is best fostered when given the room to grow and mutate, there is no shortage of room to expand at Lean Mean Fighting Machine. The space is open from front to back, top to bottom, and lined with huge windows, creating a huge hall of creative possibility. Four meeting rooms sit balcony-style overlooking the workspace below, which affords a bit of privacy in conversation or presentation as needed, while still maintaining an open flow of energy throughout the office.

Each treehouse-like meeting room offers something unique (aside from, you know, a place to meet), such as an insanely well-stocked liquor collection (it is agency tradition to bring a bottle back from holiday to share with the crew), a small putting green (yes, it is possibly to discuss the intricacies and potential of Facebook whilst putting a few holes), an abnormally large Legos structure, and a more client-appropriate flatscreen-equipped room. Every meeting room has large skylights that illuminate the discussions within and the workspace below.

In the center of the agency sits the world’s longest* conference table and about 30 Lean Mean’ers, who work together or keep their heads down as necessary with no walls to separate them or their work. They sit according to group, from account to developers to planning to creative teams, but it’s certainly no far distance from one to another. Lean Mean Fighting Machine does embrace the traditional copywriter-art director team, but in constant collaboration with developers, planners and account management teammates.

They don’t brainstorm at Lean Mean Fighting Machine. They “Columbo” (as in “Lieutenant Columbo” from the ’70s American crime TV film series). Every project at Lean Mean begins with a Columbo, during which the team (a full team representing creative, account, planning and development) taps into the detective within to populate a blog with everything that inspires. From random facts, to cartoons, pictures, articles, drawings and videos, each person on the team takes the time to dig around online to find everything they can possibly unearth about the subject at hand. Once the blog is populated, the crew sits down together (in the previously-mentioned flat-screen equipped meeting room) to review the contents of the blog and the gems of inspiration. In “show and tell” style, each person shares why each post was contributed, how it relates to the client or project, what it spurred in the mind and how it could be used. At the end of the session, the creative and technical teams go away to think, write, create and develop.

Despite such success to date, Lean Mean Fighting Machine is continually setting its sights on a higher bar of creative excellence and collectively working to meet it. The incredibly innovative ideas are there. The motivated team is in place. It is only the potential of the future, where technological opportunity and ideas collide, that is yet to be seen.

(*Claim debatable)





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  • Ben Eames

    Wow. Incredible. Literally amazing. New life ambition: work for LMFM.


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