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Invest your Creativity

Anomaly

One thing the web – as a communication tool – really pushed is co-creation. The network helps you to find peers. And it more often extends a hierarchical organization into a network where everyone is part of the product or process. You might even call it the end of the enduser.

Co-creation is already reforming marketing, but it is also reforming the way creative companies work. Not only consumers are invited to be part of the process also creative companies see this as a new way of collaborating by investing creativity and becoming part of the process. Take higher risks and get more involved with the product.

Marco van Heerde – an old colleague from de Volkskrant and friend – recently told me about these new creative companies. He is currently doing an internship at Nothing in Amsterdam (Nalden wrote about the amazing cardboard interior). And interviewed Paul Graham, the founder of Anomaly in London. Both companies were founded recently.

From the interview: Ê»You have to behave a bit like a venture capitalist. But instead of putting your money in, you put in your time and effort.’

Read the interview he did below.

Interview Paul Graham: ʻYou have to be a hustlerʼ
Interview Paul Graham founding partner Anomaly London February 13, 2009, London, Marco van Heerde & Ianthe Sahadat.

Barely seated, Paul Graham starts talking. Anomaly London – which has been founded 10 day ago – has just scored his first client.

One could have called Paul (32) eclectic, as a student. ʻI studied art and design, till a specific point. Later on I studied French and business administration as well as doing literature, law and economics.ʼ In between these studies he went abroad to live in Paris, ʻtrying to figure out what to do with lifeʼ and launching a bar. After graduating back in the UK, he still had no clear vision of what to pursue. But somehow, and fortunately, he ended up working as an account manager at the agency M&C Saatchi and via various employments made it to be Managing Partner of Saint at RKCR/Y&R. In the past he has been characterized as relentless, which he dubs ʻa rather dubious, but not so much false complimentʼ.

Currently he is setting up the London office of Anomaly, and he already has his first pieces of business.

So you already have your first client, congratulations. How do clients normally approach Anomaly? It may sound a bit vague what Anomaly actually does.
ʻA lot of the work Anomaly gets in New York is based on personal recommendation. This can be from the work we have done for entrepreneurs, business-owners and large organizations. Our reputation can kind of precede us, so rather than pitching, we are often approached by clients. We prefer not to pitch.ʼ

Do you work with fees, or do you have a different model?
ʻWe try not to work with fees. We actually become a business partner with our clients. We will try sharing the revenue of the success of what we do. Then you really want it to work. ʻThere are different types of creative people. Everyone at Anomaly is highly creative and has done incredible things in their previous lives. This can be in publishing, production, design, advertising or business school. The creative director of Urban Outfitters is now head of design at Anomaly. They are all focused on return on creativity. You only go into business with the things you can genuinely make a difference in.ʼ

How did Anomaly London get started?
ʻAnomaly started in New York about three years ago and I have worked with them on some occasions. As time went on, we realized it was good to start a business in London as more and more work was being asked to do here, in Europe. ʻHopefully this year we will start to work for Converse, which is based in Amsterdam and Manchester United. Besides that, we are going to work for Umbro, who are also the tailors for the English football team.ʼ

How do you handle the wide range of questions these clients might have?
ʻDepending on the different business-problems these clients have, Iʼll work with different people. Anomaly is based on never knowing what the answer is. We have different sets of concentric circles. In the middle of it, are the day-to-day diehard Anomaly people. In the second circle are freelance or project base people and outside of that are interesting people you will work with one day but maybe you havenʼt worked with yet. Itʼs really important to have a very large network. With a lot of these people I would love to work full ,time but we have to stay flexible.ʼ

It is quite difficult to label Anomaly. With what kind of requests do clients approach you?
ʻThat can be all kinds of business problems. For example, Umbro is an authentic English fashion brand. They were already sponsoring the English football team many years ago. Overtime they lost their position as a authentic brand. Nike recently acquired the brand and has asked us to give them back their heritage and relaunch Umbro into the media.ʼ

The Umbro case could also be done by a more traditional agency. It is brand strategy in essence.
ʻYes, exactly. But a traditional ad agency would probably give you a traditional approach. We have removed the walls and apply our creativity where ever it is needed, for any given problem. We are not limited by our own production departments or ʻblindedʼ by our own specialization.ʼ

Then what is the difference between Anomaly and the agency Naked, because this is what Naked also claims.
ʻIn my opinion, Naked, though awesome, is more strategic consultancy and quite theoretical. At Anomaly we also want to deliver. We try to be part multimedia, part media buyer, part PR, part ad agency, part marketing a part of everything. We would want do all of that and really make it happen.ʼ

Can you tell us more about the IP ventures or product development of Anomaly?
ʻHaving an idea or developing a brand or product is not easy but still relatively simple. An innovation company as ?What If! or IDEO do very good product development and venture capitalists invest in products. But what they both donʼt have is a high understanding of consumers imagery and brands. Which weʼd like to hope we do.

ʻWe also have the experience to grow something with very little money. This makes you more credible. You actually say, I know how to do this for you, without taking loads of money off you.ʼ

How do you get paid?
ʻWe never charge for time or man hours. When you work fee based, you actually put an incentive on working longer to tackle a problem. If you figure out a problem within one day, you will actually make less. This is certainly not the most creative way. ʻYou should put value to an idea, not hours. Hence your profit is made by doing the job quickly and the rest of the money is yours to put in the bank.

ʻOr, again, if youʼre partner in a small product, your are incentivized to maximize your profit. You have to be efficient, quick and open minded. You have to be a hustler. It makes you think differently.ʼ

What would you consider more important for Anomaly: the media independent approach or the fact that you become partners and do not work on a fee basis?
ʻThere are actually three important pillars for Anomaly. We are open minded about which solution is best for a problem. We have an entrepreneurial approach about how we get paid. Which is never charge for time and value an idea. The third one is to get a share of the commercial action and really making it happen.ʼ

Can you give us an example?
ʻThere is this girl in New Castle, her name is Lauren Luke, sheʼs a single mother and living with her parents. She does “how to” make-up tutorials. She can teach you to look like Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and other celebrities. In front of her webcam, she shows you inch by inch how to apply the makeup and puts it on Youtube. Every single one of her videos has over a million views within a day. We approached her and now we are helping her design her own range of makeup. We part-own the company with her and we put in the creativity, the communication and the design.ʼ

You approached her. But how about the opposite, is it also possible for anyone to approach Anomaly with a product or business idea?
ʻAbsolutely and people really do. The trick is to be quite selective.ʼ

How do you choose which project to invest in?
ʻYou have to behave a bit like a venture capitalist. But instead of putting your money in, you put in your time and effort. So this is quite a big investment. Furthermore your have to really like the people involved, you have to be able to work with each other. Secondly; could we be brilliant? Can we really make a difference? Third is, will it make any money? You have to pick carefully and be really sure. It can take two to three years before you start making money, so you have to hold your nerve. Therefore, also having customers for whom you can do communication projects helps to pay the bills.ʼ

Obviously a new type of creative is arising beside the traditional copy and art-direction creatives. How would you label yourself?
Ê»A business strategist, or business conceptor…. Hmm, good question.ʼ

A commercial creative, perhaps?
ʻYes yes, that would be fitting. To illustrate this: at Anomaly we havenʼt got one creative director. That would be a too restrictive view of what creativity is. One person cannot grasp every form of creativity.ʼ

To conclude, what do you think of the traditional advertising model?
ʻWe certainly donʼt think everyone should be like Anomaly. The reason that weʼre called Anomaly, is because we are quite different. Thereʼs certainly still a need for traditional advertising. All we know is, it is not the only answer anymore.ʼ


The image at the top of this post is from the Anomaly website.

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