What is the future of Ad Agencies? Creative Director Roger Baldacci talks work-life balance, fighting the industry, and building a new kind of agency.
What is the future of advertising agencies? As the world modernizes and the old methods give way to native, targeted, and subversive advertising, how is a studio meant to keep up? Strange as it may seem, the issues facing independent ad agencies are very similar to the evolution of the motion design industry.
Roger Baldacci is a co-founder of Strange Animal, a new ad agency that is built for modern times. Fully-remote, lean, and stacked with talent, they have already made a name for themselves and worked with some high-end clients such as Starbucks, Volkswagen, and Apple before all joining together under one roof. But prior to starting Strange Animal, Roger had a storied career in the agency world of Boston, MA.
As the world becomes more saturated with visual media, Roger adapted his methods and coached his team to deliver forward-thinking concepts for their ad campaigns. He’s a true “conceptual thinker.”
He’s got years of experience, a stacked awards shelf, and some great stories from his years in the trenches… and he’s still one of the nicest people in the business. In this episode, we talk about the world of ad agencies, how they run, their business model, and the massive changes that are hitting the agency world.
There are many, many similarities between what we’re seeing in the Motion Design industry and what Roger has experienced, and there is a LOT to learn here. So grab a bowl of egg nog and your craziest crazy straw, we're grabbing some knowledge with Roger Baldacci.
The Strange Future of Ad Agencies - Roger Baldacci
Joey Korenman: Roger Baldacci, blast from the past. Awesome to have you on the podcast. Thank you so much for doing this dude.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me. It's going to be fun.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, this is going to be fun. We're going to wax nostalgic for sure. So I'll set this up really quick for everyone listening. You and I met, I think when I was probably a year out of college and I don't even remember if I was being paid yet. I might've just been an intern. And you came into the company that I was working at Element Productions, and I'm assuming that what you really needed was someone who could edit a video for free because it was for an award show opener and there was probably no budget for it. And we ended up working together and what really jumped out, and I don't even know if you remember this Roger, but while we were working on this thing together, I told you I was in a band and you came to my band show that weekend.
And you were already kind of well-known in Boston, in the ad agency world. That meant so much to me. And so it's really, really cool to have you on. But for everyone listening, Roger has been working in the Boston ad agency scene for years, really highly respected, brilliant guy. One of the most creative people I've ever had the pleasure to work with. And I wanted to start by letting everyone get a little bit of your history and I thought it'd be interesting to start with something that you actually wrote a pretty awesome blog post about, you kind of climbed your way up the ad agency food chain, and you ended up executive creative director at a big awesome agency in Boston, and then you lost it all. It's like a movie. So maybe we could start there and you can sort of tell that story. How did you end up there and what happened?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, it's probably a perfect story to talk about in these times in advertising and getting laid off at a huge job is pretty sitting right about now. So I was working at Fallon in Minneapolis and I really loved it there and I was working under David Lubars and things were great. And then I got this offer to come back to Arnold to run the Truth National Team Tobacco Control brand. And obviously just a great opportunity, it was really something exciting to me because Truth had just started to take off. Arnold had partnered with Crispin Porter & Bogusky. And it's really starting to gain some traction. So I gave my notice and David Lubars actually offered me to work remotely at Fallon as a way to keep me and I wanted to do it, but I kind of didn't. It was sort of a remote was almost a little bit ahead of its time sort of back then.
So I ended up going to Arnold and running the Truth account and we had a pretty robust group there and we pitched and won a lot of business, ESPN, Timberland. I ended up running the Carnival Cruise Line account and things were going swimmingly. I kind of rose up the ranks, won awards, people under me won awards and just ended up group creative director and eventually executive creative director. And then Arnold hired a new CEO who wanted to straighten the place out and try to rein it in. And one of the first things he did was cut salaries. The cork has ways to be more profitable, right? Is to increase billings and cut salaries. And I was one of the salaries he cut along with a lot of other sort of department heads. But it was weird though, because I just never saw it coming. I was kind of a lifer there. It was kind of Joe Pesci and now, what was that movie?
Joey Korenman: Goodfellas?
Roger Baldacci: Goodfellas, yeah. You know what I mean? He thinks he's going to get-
Joey Korenman: But not baseball bat for you?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. He gets whacked. Goes in the basement, what the fuck? So yeah, I didn't see it coming which is surprising actually. But yeah, so that's kind of what that happened. Is just trying to increase profits and this was eight years ago. Now it's even more challenging. Agencies are facing a more challenging time.
Joey Korenman: Yeah-
Roger Baldacci: But yeah-
Joey Korenman: ... All right. So there's a lot to dig into there. One thing I wanted to talk about a little bit is the Truth Campaign, because I'm guessing a lot of our listeners aren't going to be familiar with it because it hasn't been as prominent as it was when you were working on it. And a lot of the people listening to this are not in the United States too. I don't know if that campaign was worldwide or just in the US. But that campaign was pretty subversive at the time and kind of stood out because it was pretty in your face. So maybe you could just describe a little bit, what was the Truth Campaign and how was the creative in that campaign different from what you would typically do for say Royal Caribbean or something like that?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. So the Truth, it wasn't worldwide, but it was modeled world wide. Literally we'd go to conferences and people who ran public health departments from other countries would model their campaign after our campaign. So basically what made Truth unique really was just the whole positioning. We treated it like a brand, not a public service sort of account. Do you know what I mean? So we had a logo, we had brand colors, we had a brand voice and a brand tone and really strategically, what set us apart was we never told people to stop smoking it all. All we tried to do was let people know the tobacco industry is lying and manipulating you. And when you're talking to teens, that gravitates toward them, because smoking is actually a risk taking behavior, it's something cool, right? Teens want to do that.
It feeds into a need state. To be unique, but also to separate yourself from the crowd. So it's really an interesting dynamic with smoking. And so that's what Truth is all about, is going and telling teens, "Look, do whatever you want. You want to smoke fine. Just know that here's what they said about you. Here are internal tobacco's documents that classified you and targeted you. And executionally, we went at it, we used the best directors and it was very, actually, it was the forefront of all this stunt advertising you're seeing now. Do you know what I mean? All these stunts people do in public and they film it and they filmed people filming it on their phones. We were doing that way back when, we were doing that, I don't know, 15 years ago.
And so it was once very subversive and it got to the point where, because we would go in New York in Union Square and we'd put hidden cameras everywhere and we'd film it. And it got to a point where teens would come up to us and go, "Are you guys shooting a Truth commercial?" They knew the sort of the vibe of what we were doing.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well, that's fascinating. I wanted to call out too. It's interesting because now I think everyone's trying to do that. It's you have a message you want to get out. You can't just say the message anymore. You have to create this whole, this brand around it, right? There has to be a personality to it. I mean, interestingly, I mean even something like Black Lives Matter maybe, it's like there's a message, but there's also this whole brand and this there's someone designed their brand and they have this beautiful website. That's kind of what it takes now.
Roger Baldacci: Exactly. It all worked together. So we had a Truth truck. We did the Vans Warped Tour. We had partnerships with things like that. We had gear. We gave out gear. So it was a total brand effort. And honestly not too dissimilar from what Goodby did with the Got Milk Campaign, similar thing. They were trying to get people to drink milk. And in the past it was all about the health benefits and it just had no emotion, no traction. So strategically with the deprivation strategy they did, you want milk when you don't have it. And they created these great creative spots and they work with top flight directors. That's when they saw the traction and spike in sales for drinking milk and staying with us by doing sort of unconventional approach.
I think one study showed, and this was years ago, but that we saved over 300,000 lives just with our campaign effort. And the thinking was, if you get to teens and get them not to smoke before the age of 18, then they're not going to start. No one starts smoking when they're 40. "I think I'll take up smoking generally." So that was the thing. Get the teens early, tell them that they're being lied to and manipulate to, but never tell them not to smoke and do it in a really cool subversive way. I mean, one of my spots was a Singing Cowboy and it was just poking fun at the Marlboro Man. So we literally had a guy with a tracheotomy and he had a hole in his throat and he's singing about you don't always die from tobacco.
And it was pretty, pretty amazing. we had a campsite set up in Union Square in New York and he rides in on a horse and he's got his cow poke with him and they pull out the guitar and then he interrupts the bandana and starts singing. So it was pretty powerful.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I mean, I remember all those spots. So, okay. So the Truth Campaign won every award. Obviously, I'm making an assumption here, but I'm assuming that a client like that is not bread and butter paying as much as say a Royal Caribbean or something like that, but it's a prestige client where you're winning awards. It's going to bring you new work. You're in the leadership on this account and it's going well. So why get rid of you? And I'd love it if you want to even get specific, because I've heard that this is sort of, at least it used to be the cycle in ad agencies in Boston was you'd do really good work, which meant you got promoted, which meant your salary went up. And eventually it would cross this threshold where it was cheaper to fire you and promote the person under you and pay him slightly less and, I mean, was that what happened or was there more to it than that?
Roger Baldacci: No, pretty much. I mean, I pretty much lived a cliche. It really was upper middle management making a lot of money and they can do it cheaper. And it's really what it was. I mean, the agencies are a business too, and they've got margins and they got cut where they can cut. And it's funny because I didn't ... So when I got called into my boss' office, when I was getting laid off, he was with another woman and I wrote about this in the piece you saw. But that other woman, I assumed it was another meeting. He was wrapping up and he says, "No, come on in." And then he introduces me, "This is Jenna from HR." And-
Joey Korenman: So you knew.
Roger Baldacci: Exactly. [inaudible] HR and I literally wanted to turn and run, but the only reason ... They had already laid off the HR director and if it was her, I know her, I was friends with her. If I knew that she was in that meeting, I would have known right away, but they had already laid her off because she was a department head making good money. And so her replacement came to lay me off. So it was pretty interesting. But that's the agency life. It's not unique.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I mean, it was a common story. And I remember hearing when it happened to you thinking, "I can't believe they got rid of Roger Baldacci." I mean, so this is the next question I had was, I always thought that the product ad agencies were selling to make money was creative. And so you want the best creatives. Writing the best creatives are expensive. But I'm wondering if you could talk about the actual business model of ad agencies, and one of the things that you said in that article and we'll link to it in the show notes, so everyone can go read it. It's really fascinating. You said that this new CEO was hired to double billings and to double billings, you have to win a lot of business, a lot of crappy business. So why is that the case? How do ad agencies make money and why do you have to get crappy business to double your billings?
Roger Baldacci: Well, it all starts with the holding companies. I think the holding companies were really sort of the demise, the beginning of the demise of the current agency model. See with the holding company, it's someone owns you, right? So it's like a mortgage, you got to pay your mortgage to the bank. So you got to kick up a lot of money to these holding companies per month and like a bank they're like, "No, this is in the contract. You've got to kick up 300 grand a month." Or whatever that may be. So because of that you have to go out and you got to win business. You can't go and get this cool, microbrew on the corner and do some wacky ads for them. That's just not going to pay enough.
So not only do you have to make payroll and all that other stuff that goes with running bricks and mortar agency, you've got to pay up to your holding company. So that's the tough part of it. So at the time the agency would literally pitch anything. There was a retail account we pitched and even the agency that had it across town told us, "Do not pitch them. They're terrible. You won't do any great work and you won't make money. Do not pitch them." We pitched them, we won them. And then there was another brand, a high tech brand, a B2B, and it was massive. And literally, there was a whole wing dedicated to this. And people were sleeping over in their offices at night, people were crying, people were quitting, people were quitting and crying.
It was just a drain on the people, but we needed the billings to pair a holding company. So I always say somewhat toying the phrase where you've got to get something out of an account, right? So ideally you want to get rich and famous, right?
Joey Korenman: Of course.
Roger Baldacci: VW is great example. They're a big brand. We made a lot of money off of them and we did a lot of amazing award-winning work, right? So you got to get something. You can have a small account like Truth. We actually made decent money from them in the beginning but the money started to go away. But we did famous work. And like you said, that's like a beacon that draws creative and draws interest. So you've got to get something. You got to get rich or famous, but you cannot not get any of those. Do you know what I mean? You can't not make a profit and not do good work. And that's what I call adult daycare. It's literally, you've got people coming in, they're being busy eight to 10 hours and they're not moving the ball so the agency's not making a lot of profit and they're not doing work that's getting the agency notice. So it's adult daycare. Then they go home. So you can't do that. That's a dead spot.
Joey Korenman: There's so many correlations between what you just said and what happens in our industry. So in motion design, the best studios the ones that grow and do great stuff year after year, the work that you see on their website is generally not the work that keeps the lights on. You never see that work. And now I recognize in hindsight that most of the stuff that wins awards, you go to the Hatch Awards which, and everyone listening is this advertising award show in Boston every year. It's really cool. And you see this amazing work and a lot of the award winning stuff, it's for the YMCA. I mean, there are amazing things for Volkswagen, like you said, and Jeep and Guinness, things like that, where they probably had the money to really do it. But in our industry, there is sort of a trade-off sometimes between the size of a budget and the amount of creativity you're allowed to inject into it. Is it the same thing with ad accounts?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it's tough. Everyone wants to do great work. You just do. I mean, you want to be able to go to a cookout and say, "I did this thing. It's really cool." Right? But it's difficult. Some clients don't want that. Some clients just want to, we want it right down the middle and you can push them to do great work, but you're kind of swimming against the tide. They don't want it. And so what happens is you've just got this struggle and the client is eventually like, "Well, you're not listening to me." So the best thing, sort of you can, the ideal scenario is when you do great work, brands come to you for that. Before I started Strange Animal, the freelance name of my entity is Howard Work Industries and it's from the Ayn Rand book, The Fountainhead.
I don't know if you know that, but that's a story of two architects and one is a no-talent hack who will do whatever his client wants. And the other is a talented, super integrity guy who only does what's right for the client and what's right for the geography. And what happens is Peter Cading, this sort of hack rises up and becomes a partner in the firm and he's got the trophy wife and Howard Roark is near destitute. But what happens is he designs a house for this rich guy, and it's amazing. And people start coming to him for the kind of work that he does. So that's the kind of ultimately where you want to get to is do great work, because you want it and your client wants it. And there's no fighting because great work does work. I mean, we know that. That's not even disputed really at this stage. So that's what you kind of want to get to the stage where you're all on the same page doing great work because it does work.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I talk a lot about freelancing and how to get work and then how to get better work. And the way I always say to get better work is you have to do the work you want to get paid for before someone's paying you to do it. Whether it's doing something for cheap or doing it for free, it almost doesn't matter. And frankly, a lot of times it's better to do it for free, to be honest, because there's less strings attached. Yeah. So I want to talk about the one thing that always blew me away. And I think you were probably the first person Roger, not to blow smoke up your ass but you're the first person I ran into in the industry where I realized like, "Oh, there's this different, there's an extra gear of creative thinking that is available when it comes to ..." And the term I've always heard is conceptual thinking.
I don't know if there's a better word for it, but as an example, I remember you telling me this thing about the Truth Campaign and actually you told me this the night you came to watch my shitty band play. You were talking about, "Hey, you guys need to have t-shirts on it and don't even put your logo on it. Just make them cool." And you were telling me that you did this with Truth. You made these shirts that said, "Get pissed on it." Because there's some chemical in cigarettes that's also found in urine.
Roger Baldacci: Yap, urea.
Joey Korenman: And so it was just sort of, yeah, exactly, right? And I was like, "Oh my God, that's so smart. How the hell did you think of that?" And that's my question to you is ad agencies the best ones foster that kind of idea?" And where the hell does that come from? How do you get people to pull that out of themselves, those brilliant nuggets that once that idea is there, then any creative person with any talent can iterate on that and make cool things with it. But someone has to have the nugget first and that's always the hardest thing. So where does that come from in ad agencies?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, I mean I don't know. It's funny you say that about me because I don't view myself that way. I look around and I see what other people are doing. And to me it amazes me what other people are doing. And I think so maybe that's what helps me succeed a bit is not thinking that about myself and looking at what other people do and getting inspired by what other people do. Because you can look up or down on the ladder, wherever you are. There's always someone doing better than you and always someone doing maybe a little bit worse than you but ... So you being inspired by other people, to me that unlocks different parts of your brain. And so I'm a very visual, I'm a writer, but I'm a very visual person. So I like to hang out with designers and art directors and photographers and look at what they're doing.
And I like looking at work from around the world, because some of the stuff in archive magazine I would look at that in New England and I'd look at how they solve the problem. It was very visual and very weird and I would go, "Wow, I never would've thought of it that way." And it just unlocked this little door and my brain goes, "Oh, okay, next time I know where that little door is." You know what I mean? "These guys did this. Maybe I can do that." You know what I mean? So I think to me, it's just keeping your eyes open and finding those people that have that little spark and it all, most times it takes a keen eye to see something. I'll give an example back to the Truth Campaign, but Pete Favat was the executive creative director running that. I was under him.
He was being shown lots of work and just reams of work from both agencies, Crispin Porter, Bogusky and from Arnold. And he put his finger on a sticker some designer in Crispin, in Miami designed. And it said, "Infect Truth." And it was just a sticker and he goes, "That's the campaign." So that one sticker that designer created became this whole platform that we did work under. And the whole idea was knowledge is contagious. Infect Truth, you know what I mean? So knowledge can be infectious.
Joey Korenman: That's viral marketing.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, exactly. So ...
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I mean, I think I get what you're saying. In one of the biggest questions that we get from students is how do you come up with ideas and ideas for a motion designer, a lot of times, it's not the big idea. It's like, "I have a script and I don't know what I should show, what I should design to fit that script. And so how do I get that idea?" And the answer is always, you need to be looking at lots of stuff typically outside of the field of motion design. And I like your example about seeing something in architecture that then becomes like a pin you're putting somewhere, right. So we've talked a little bit, you actually mentioned that some of these, the boring accounts that at least you don't get famous, but you get rich.
Well, the holding company gets rich. The copywriter doesn't, but it requires this lifestyle that kind of sucks. And one of the things, and I've talked about this on the podcast with a few people. One of the things that always bothered me about the ad agency scene in Boston, and I want to be specific because I've never worked in another city, so I don't know. Maybe it's different in New York. I doubt it. Maybe it's different in LA, but that was universal. There was this always present undercurrent of workaholism. And I use the word cronyism. I don't know if there's a better term. There was definitely nepotism. There was not kickbacks like people handing each other envelopes with cash, but more like, "Hey, we brought you this job and now I'd like you to stamp my parking pass for the next month. That kind of stuff.
And it wasn't everybody. But it was always there and it was always just swept under the rug and it was kind of strange to me and it kind of bothered me. You were on the inside of this thing, did you see that? Did you experience that or is that only from the vendor side that it sort of feels that way?
Roger Baldacci: Well, and I think it's a relationship business. So there is a bit of that. Okay. I did this for you. You do that for me, which I think is kind of universal in a lot of industries. But I think, I mean, the workaholism, yes. We can get into that in a second, but there is a bit of a kind of a click nature that I sort of witnessed and I was kind of on both sides of it, to be honest. There is the cool group, what the sexy brand is doing cool work. And then there is the brands that aren't doing quite the sexy kind of work, but they're keeping the lights on. So there's a bit of that sort of caste system that happens in agencies and honestly that's everywhere, not just in Boston.
And so being on both sides of that, I mean, I was in the Truth group when we had, I ran ESPN fantasy football and baseball. So I was kind of in that clique, but at the same time, there was a VW group and I was a separate walled-off sort of fiefdom and it's very difficult to break into that. And I was wanting to work on VW. And it's funny, Kira Goodrich and I work together and she's 10 times the writer I am. She's amazing. And neither of us could work on VW. But the thing is that what got me to working on VW, I actually went and bent the knee. I went to the creative director and I said, "Look, I know you've got kind of a system here and you've got your group and your people. And I just want to express to you that I love the work you guys are doing and if you ever need another writer, I'd certainly the happy to help out and I'd be happy to work my way up."
So I was offering to do sort of yeoman's work even then I was a group creative director. So I just kind of approached it with humility and just saying, "Hey, I'm here." And it didn't happen for a while, but eventually I did get a couple of VW assignments. So that's a bit of a, the kind of cliquey nature of agency life. And then the workaholism thing that's just, that's prevalent everywhere. And it's so stupid and I'm so opposed to it. And this is why I love being a freelancer because I just, I mean, it goes in spurts now, you know what I mean?
I work my ass off, but then if the jobs over and then I'm just napping on the couch with my dog. But that's kind of a bigger, layered issue because it's tied into, it's tied into everything. It's tied into all this stuff we just talked about. People need to work longer and harder because to the holding companies and an agency staffers are getting smaller and smaller. But also that it's this nature of we tie our self worth into how busy we are. If I'm busy, that means I'm a value, So there's all these kinds of weird things too. People brag about how busy they are. And I just think it's silly and it's high science.
I mean, all the science tells you that you can burn the candle too brightly and you will burn out. In fact, your brain needs a break. I think it's every 25 minutes ... I've been doing this technique called the Pomodoro Technique.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I was going to say Pomodoro.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, you know about that. Yeah, so that's 25 minutes on, you focus on your task. Timer goes off on your phone, then you surf TikTok videos or whatever, and then for 10 minutes and then you go back to it. I think it's silly that this industry does this and it makes no sense.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I want to sort of compare the life of freelance, and then we're going to talk about your new ad agency, which has sort of built in a totally different way, which is really cool. I mean, workaholism is a problem in motion design too. So on our side of things, my experience with it was always that it came as a result of one of two things. Either your client has that sort of ethos baked into them. So they're sending you notes at 7:00 PM and expecting them the next morning, stuff like that. And so it's dance monkey dance or else we're going to a different studio. Or it's just sort of that thing when you're in your 20s and you don't have a ton of responsibility yet, and there's this great group of people you're working with and it's fun and there's a beer fridge, you just sort of find yourself working longer because it's fun too.
And as a vendor, working with ad agencies in Boston, it seemed that there was a slightly different spin on it in the agency world where it was almost I mean, I guess the closest thing I could think of is maybe a fraternity where there was this culture of we're going to go get shit face after this and, "Hey, where are we getting lunch?" And there was a little bit more, I mean, a little hint of admin that sort of mentality of this is our life and this is how we do things. So I mean, do you think that that's accurate at all? Is that part of it, or do you think it's just sort of the thing that happens with most creative industries?
Roger Baldacci: Well, I think it's both. It's definitely something with most creative industries. It's also something that I call the curse of caring. Sometimes I wish I just didn't give a fuck and I could just go, "Yeah, that's good enough. I'm out of here." But like, "Oh let's just keep pushing, let's keep trying." And so you've got that element. Some people who are driven to just do amazing things, just because they're driven to do that, but it's not always the case. When I went to Fallon in Minneapolis and I witnessed, I was just amongst them, just giants. Just Greg Hahn. In fact, I was working next to him. And what struck me about those guys is they would come in, he's very Midwestern, they're kind of quiet, reserved. And they would come in, they would do their work and then they would leave at 5:00. But their work was fucking amazing.
And meanwhile, like you said earlier, you've got people playing basketball in the hallways and drinking and having long lunches. And well, first of all, they're coming in at 10:00, 10:30. So start there. And then they're taking long lunches and then they're working. And the biggest phrase I hate in advertising is when the project manager yells, "Dinner's here." I hate that. I hate that phrase, dinner's here, because you know what? I don't want to eat dinner with you guys. I don't want to go up to the conference room and get the bad Chinese food or the bad Thai food or pizza. You know what I mean? I can't tell you how many agency dinners I've had.
And so a lot of it is self fulfilling sort of prophecies. People think, well, we can work late, so I will work late versus I'm just going to get this shit done and go. And there was one creative director. I love this guy. He was a CD art director and he and I were leaving, getting on the elevator. I'm like, "Where's your stuff?" He goes, "What stuff?" I go, "Where's your laptop and stuff? He goes, "It's in my office." I'm like, "You don't bring it home?" He goes, "No." I'm like, "Why don't you bring it home?" "Because I'm done." I was like- [crosstalk]
Joey Korenman: It's an alien concept.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, like, "What do you mean you are done? [inaudible] "I'm done. If something needs to be done, someone will email me, I'll see it on my phone and I'll handle it tomorrow or ... " But here I am lugging my laptop in and out and check an email and constantly doing all this stuff and it's just a mindset. And I think it's very difficult to break out of that because I think we're all sort of brought up that way. You know what I mean? From a young creative person, that's just how it is.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I mean, it's really hard to say no. Especially when you're early in your career, in a lot of cases you're going to miss out if you say no. But then at a certain point you have to start saying no. And no one knows where that point is. It's different for everybody, but no one's taught how to say no.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. Well, yeah. Well, I did a spot for Truth and it ended up winning an Emmy, but it was over the weekend and they're like, "We need new concepts." And I was like, "Okay, I'm down. And I jumped on it and that paid off versus some other teams didn't. They had some plans to to go to the weekend. So it's hard to find that line. Even look, even as a freelancer, not even tied to the agency, I can't tell you how many times I've been there till 3:00 AM and blowing my day rate because I feel guilty about leaving. I feel guilty about, "Why is he leaving?" So it's really difficult. I don't have the answer.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, So all right. So I want to get into Strange Animal and which we'll link to your website in the show notes. Everyone can go check out the work and the absolute dream team that you assembled to start this agency. But first I want to hear about in between Arnold and Strange Animal, you were freelancing. And so first of all, what is freelancing like for someone like you who's been an executive creative director, but you're known in Boston's as super strong writer too. So how does it work? You juggling those two things. Are you coming in for a week to work on something or are they booking you for three months? How does it work in your world?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, it all depends. I mean, right now, because I'm kind of getting Strange Animal up and running. So freelance is my side hustle. Before I was doing freelance and Strange Animal was my side hustle. So it's shifted a little bit, so I am still doing freelance. I'm working on a gig right now as a matter of fact, but the freelance market man, is flooded. It is flooded and with some amazing talent I'll give you a story. So I freelance a lot with Mullen Lowe. I have a great relationship with those guys and had a lot of extended projects with them. A couple of months, three months could be some are two weeks, whatever. But so I go in there and they give me the loaner laptop to use.
So I can access servers and print and stuff. And I opened my laptop and there's a post-it note with a guy's name on it. So I look up the guy's name and it says, "Kick ass writer." I forget the guy's name, but his book is amazing. 10 times better than mine. I was like, "Damn." So you're not the only one. They're working with other people and there are other people they're working with are fucking kick ass. So don't make that mistake that thinking that you got a good rapport. It's business. They're trying to get it done. They're working with a lot of people. So it's very flooded. And you just do what you can to stay on top of things and reach out to recruiters and friends in the business to kind of promote yourself and be top of mind. That's really what it comes down to is being top of mind to try to get new gigs.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So, I mean, it sounds similar to motion design. I wouldn't say motion design is flooded with freelancers. Though it's probably the opposite at this point. And I'm guessing that's just because ad agencies scale. They get really, really big and then cut off the, what's the term? They decimate. They take one-tenth right off the top. And then most of those people become freelancers and some make documentaries about it and go into completely other businesses. So why not? I mean, did you enjoy that? The freelance thing or, because I'm wondering, there's a big thing in our industry too. People go freelance and they're loving it and it's a great lifestyle once you get it ramped up, but then there's always this thing like, "Well, what if I opened my own shop?" Right? I always tell people it's not what you think it is because I've done both. So what made you decide to do this and to open Strange Animal?
Roger Baldacci: So I think it's sort of finding the white space, right? Because like I said, the freelance market is flooded with all levels. Juniors, mid seniors, really heavy hitter seniors. And they're really awesome. So really what we want to do is just rise above that a little bit. And by creating this collective and branding it, so we're a step above just freelance dudes. But we're below the agencies, you know what I mean? We're even small agency. So our kind of elevator pitch is big agency thinking without the big agency. And what I like to say is our agency model is that we have no model. We can be a single cell organism, or we can be an apex predator.
You could hire us to do a logo design, or we can do a fully integrated social and digital push in branding. So really, so that was the goal is to just kind of carve a niche for ourselves and go more direct to clients. If an agency wanted to hire us, we would certainly do that and we would scale that if you just want me and my partner, great. Well, we can work for you that way, but really, so it's the intention is to go direct to client and to just rise above this massive flooded pool that is freelance.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I mean, that's excellent. Because it seems today that's the way you succeed is you differentiate. And a lot of times that means niching down, but it seems what Strange Animal is doing is sort of your selling proposition is I'm guessing, first of all, the team, the leadership team has quite the pedigree and you've all worked on some amazing stuff, but you're fully remote. I don't think any of you were in the same state, even.
Roger Baldacci: No, we were all over the country, yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and so I think that maybe five years ago, if I'm a client that's has a business that's 50 years old or something, I might see that as a disadvantage, right? Well, how the hell do you brainstorm? So I don't think you'd probably run into too much of that anymore, but why is it an advantage that you're not in the same place?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, I think, well, I've always fought for this for years actually. I mentioned David Lubars has offered me a remote gig back in 1999. I always felt-
Joey Korenman: That's early.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. Really, and the reason I didn't take that one because the Arnold offer was amazing to run Truth, but I also didn't want to be, I think it was ahead of its time. I didn't want to be the radio raider in Boston. Let's just kick him radio scripts so ... But I think it really doesn't matter anymore because we think, and we use our computers. We're not out digging ditches. And I think what COVID has done, it's kind of helped us and it hurt us. It helped us in that, it normalized sort of our model, our behavior. So everyone is doing what we're doing right now.
So that's great. So now even clients are like, "Okay cool. I'm even working remotely. I get it." It's hurt in that so many people are doing this right? And it's more and more entities are going to be coming out. But again, by branding us and getting that sort of elite level sort of expertise, we get it. We've been in the belly of the beast. We've all worked on difficult assignments and we've run global pieces of business. So I think the thing was Strange Animal is there's very little learning curve. We get it versus hiring just whatever, a junior team. And it takes a while to get them up to speed. And we've done that. We've come up the ranks, we've we run groups, we've been creative directors, so we can get to the solution a lot quicker and a lot cheaper because we're remote.
Joey Korenman: Well that's what I was going to ask you about was because, so there's a dynamic right now in motion design, where you have studios they've been around a while and they've made it over the hump. And the hump in our industry seems to be around 50 employees. And then you get past that, and maybe you get an account with Google or Facebook, and they're just throwing tons of constant work at you and you scale up and you're two, 300 people now. Or your doing something similar to Strange Animal. And it's a small collective, it's four or five people, you can scale up and scale down with freelancers. And what's interesting to me about that in the ad agency side is that there's a trend that maybe is going to stop because of this, of bringing everything in-house, right?
Like, "Let's not stay lean, let's grow and bring all this capability in-house, so we can just do everything." And what you're doing is kind of the opposite of that. You're saying, "Let's not have all that capability. Let's scale up as we need it, with freelancers and then get rid of it when we don't need it, so we don't have to pay for it."
Roger Baldacci: Right.
Joey Korenman: So I'm curious does that ring true to you? When ad agencies started bringing post-production in-house, I remember people freaking out in Boston and now it seems this might be a good thing for post-production people and for small post-production collectives and stuff like that. Is it going to play out that way?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, I think it's kind of, honestly, it's like the Wild West out there. It's like Blade Runner. It's all crazy. Because you are seeing migrations of talent to the client side. I know several of my colleagues at Arnold, run businesses on the client side. So you're seeing that migration going there and I still have some other creatives that run their own small shops. So it's all going everywhere. I think what, this is just me speculating, but I think what you're going to see is more and more brands saying, "Well, let's just build our own internal agency with great people."
In the past it was, "Yes we have an internal agency, but they'll just do trade show booths and below-the-line stuff. But now you're seeing them staffed with really top tier creatives and doing high profile brand work. So I see that happening more and more, the shift of the client side. So I think it's kind of the middle-class is going to die. I think the small agencies are going to struggle and maybe the big agencies will survive because maybe there are these big global brands that still need a big global powerhouse agency. But I think there's also a tier of smaller clients that would come to us because they can't afford a big agency. And maybe the agency in their local town don't have the experience, but now they can tap into someone like us that do have that experience. So it's kind of a nice sort of balance, I guess.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So as an agency creative, I'm curious how, and I'm sure you've talked to people about this, how do people evaluate these opportunities? And yeah, I know you freelanced at Apple for a while, you said. And there's a lot of great motion design talent that ends up there. They work at imaginary forces for a while or they work at buck or Royale or a place like that. And then they go and they take a job at Facebook or Apple or Google or Airbnb or something, because those companies can pay you so much more. Because their product is not the creative, their product is the product. So they can pay you and give you stock options. But as a creative person, you want to do really, really cool work. So how did you balance that? Because I'm sure you had opportunities to go do things like that.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I mean, I love freelancing in Apple because there's was no middle man. You were the brand. So you do the work and, but the standards are really high. It's Apple. So do amazing work. But back to balancing, we talked about earlier they're not trying to impress the client because they are the client. So you could go home, you go home at 5:00 or 5:30. In fact, I was that guy that would be first in the room and last to leave. Still clutching to my agency or young junior copywriter mentality. So yeah, I think there's a talent drain going to the client side which is also going to affect agencies.
Joey Korenman: So you have an opportunity, I'm sure, if you want it to go in-house at Amazon or Apple or a place like that, you could get that job and be a creative director there or whatever the title is at those tech companies. And they'll pay you 200K plus a year with stock options and you go home at 5:00, 5:30, or you can start your own small shop and try to do that, which, I mean, obviously the potential payoff is much better if it's really successful. But I'm assuming that the creative potential is way higher doing what you're doing. So how do you balance those two things as, "Well, I could have this sort of this easier existence with a big paycheck or this harder existence, more difficult anyway, more challenging but there's no sure thing here, right? You're going to have to go hustle.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. And I think honestly, doing it our way right now too, is there's no guarantee of great creative work either because you lose a lot of control too in this model and the freelance model. I've done a lot of great work freelance and then your time is over and they produce it and it's nothing like what you presented. So yeah, you could go to in-house and do some great work or not. It really depends on where you go and what you're doing. And I don't know if the salaries are as high as you may think at some of these brands, because they're all about profit too. So they're not necessarily paying what you might think that they would be paying. I'm sure Apple does pretty well, but they're the first trillion dollar company. So I think it really ultimately comes down to personally what you want to do.
I always said for me to go back full time it'll have to be an amazing opportunity. At an agency, I'm not going to go back to run a laminate employing account. I'm just not ...
Joey Korenman: I know which one you're talking about too.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, exactly. And if I were to work at a client, it would have to be a great client as well. I did get an opportunity to work for a client in-house and I turned it down because I really wasn't into that category. I couldn't see myself and it was a very kind of conservative company and I was just, and the money was great actually. The money was great, but it was just it's not for me. So like anything in life, it comes down to sort of what works for you personally and what you want to do. And you just have to evaluate those decisions and sort of act accordingly.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So at Strange Animal, maybe you could talk a little bit about the makeup of your co-founders because you all come from award-winning accounts and you've all done amazing work. Who on the team is going out and dealing with RFPs and pitching and all that? Is that all of you? Do you all have the experience to run the business side of it as well as the creative or do you have sort of the business person, the creative person? Do you kind of split your roles?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. So right now we've unofficially chosen Chris Jacobs as our sort of business guy.
Joey Korenman: Sure.
Roger Baldacci: I don't think he likes that, but he's really good at that. So we've kind of pushed things on him unfairly. But really it comes down to sort of, who's got a fish on the line. For example, I'm talking to a local brand here in [Norwingham] region. It's a very sexy brand and I'm here because I'm here, I'm kind of driving that. So I've had the phone conversations with the CMO and if that progresses further, I'll be that point person. And if Chris has a contact, in fact, one of the first accounts we won, it was a pitch right out of the gate because we started this in the end of 2019, that was based in Milwaukee and that's where he's from.
So he had a contact there and so he kind of drove that. So it really depends on the situation and on the brand. And I mean, all of us can go after anything and we'll talk about this. I'm like, "Hey, let's go after these guys." "Yeah. Okay, cool. How?" So honestly, we haven't really fine tuned it and figured it all out yet because we're just kind of stumbling our way through this, to be honest. As you mentioned, you've learned how to build and run a business and we're kind of getting used to that, but if we do have an account that is very sort of high maintenance or a lot of client interaction, we will pull in a client lead.
We'll pull in a freelance client lead. So we do work with new business people we've got some people that kind of rainmakers also that we work with to kind of help open doors for us. So we'll give them a cut. They'll open a door and then it's up to us to get in there and hopefully cause a sale.
Joey Korenman: It's good to know those people. I want to ask you another question too. And this is something I don't know a lot about, so I might be misguided here, but I know at least in the past big ad agencies would make, sometimes I think most of the money on doing the ad buy and the creative was sort of the cherry on top. And I don't know if that's still the model, but do you plan on having Strange Animal ... Is that going to be a revenue source or do smaller shops typically just try to make revenue from the creative itself?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I mean, I think right now it's mostly creative because even on the agency model, a lot of clients have their own media vendors, their own media partners. So you might have the creative portion of it, but you don't have the media. So that's happening even right now. Obviously agencies want both, they shoot for that because they do get the commission on the media, but it's just the way things are kind of going in this industry right now, all brands are sort of parsing things out and they're looking for the best deal. So they'll work with a media partner that's cheap and maybe they have a relationship with, and they'll give you the creative project. So it is kind of project based. If we can make that we would probably partner with a media entity. I don't think we're going to open up a media department anytime soon. So that's yeah, that's probably how we would do it.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And I would imagine too that, I mean, actually this is a good question. How much of your work is still on traditional media, where you have to do like TV, especially? Because to make even a video and run it on every paid ad account you can think of, is fairly straightforward at this point. There's not really gatekeepers to putting out Facebook ads. It's pretty easy. So how much of that work even requires these old school sort of ad buyers, radio and TV, stuff like that?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. There's not a lot of it. And even then with the radio, it's all sort of internet radio buys, you know what I mean? Pandora, Spotify. So yeah, a lot of it it's social, digital, and getting back to that Wild West sort of analogy, we talked about. I got a buddy of mine that works at Facebook and he works with, or has worked with brands to teach them how to do their own stuff in-house. You don't even need an agency. You don't even need a Strange Animal, just shoot on your phone and push it out. We can get into that a little bit too, but yeah, so it's yeah, it's a lot of non-traditional stuff, which is good and bad.
I mean, what I like about it is the constraints are sort of off you don't have to be in 30 seconds anymore, 15 seconds. You can do a long form video. In fact, Tom Brady just pushed one out for a brand. I saw it on Instagram. It was two minutes long. It's literally an epic, I thought it was a film about his life and it was for some brand, I didn't even recognize the brand, but they spent doe on that, you know what I mean? And they just dropped that on Instagram and that's kind of where we are now. That's a two and a half-minute thing. I mean and I don't even know the media costs to run that today. So, yeah-
Joey Korenman: Yeah. How much of the work is, so it's funny. I mean before we started recording, we were talking about where we met and my old boss Eran Lobel who runs Element. And he was very early on the branded content train. He recognized really early that that was going to be a big thing and what you just described. I mean, that's what I would call brand and content it's just interesting. And then at the end, there's a logo and there's brand affinity there. How much work out there, because to me that was always the most fun stuff to work on. How do you thread that brand voice into this cool narrative or this cool piece? How much of that is there relative to just straight up 50% off, click this banner ad kind of thing?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I think it certainly depends on the client and the brand. Everyone wants that. I've had clients tell us, "Give us a viral video." Okay. It's not that easy. You know what I mean? Ultimately, you want to do something useful or funny or provocative. And I actually think that that's what's happening now is people are trying so hard to do something viral or something clever. And it just falls on deaf ears where if you just do something great, it will get that engagement. And I think back to the Deutsch spot they did years ago with Darth Vader. Remember that Darth Vader VW commercial?
Joey Korenman: Yep.
Roger Baldacci: So that was just a 32nd spot that instead of releasing in mass media, they released it on YouTube and pushed it out. And it just went crazy. I mean, I don't know what the amount of views were or ended up being, but everyone saw it. And because it was just really fucking great and it was really smart and it was really charming and it got a lot of engagement. So just doing something great will get you engagement.
Joey Korenman: Well, let's talk about that. I do want to dig into that. So I remember when, I forget what year it was, I think it was probably five, six years ago. Red bull did this stunt where they had this lunatic go up into a balloon that went into space. It went up, I don't know, eight miles, 10 miles something like that. And then he jumped out and they broadcast the whole thing, live and it was insane. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Everybody was talking about it afterwards. Amazing thing. And the next day I was in the studio, one of our clients was in and they had this weird take on it that I didn't understand at the time. They were like, "It's kind of sad actually, because I cannot imagine how much money that cost, how many people worked on that for months. And I promise you, no one's going to be talking about it in two days."
And he was right. It was gone. It was poof, and it's 100 times worse than that now. Make us a viral video. Well, it could be viral for one day, two days, but then what? Nothing's viral longer than that anymore, right? So how has that impacted the industry? Just the attention span of anybody certainly no longer than two days for anything.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I think it's actually bigger than advertising when you think about it because the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, your team wins. It's the biggest game of the year. It's the most popular sport and everyone goes out and buys their t-shirts and sweatshirts and two days and you talk smack in social media, and then literally three days it's gone. They're talking about the draft, they're talking about baseball. It's just gone. And so it's just this society and this culture is sort of this kind of disposable. Everything's like, "Oh, that's cool. What's next?" And so I think what's happening is you just have to constantly churn out stuff, just to get baseline. You know what I mean? It's almost like when you take drugs, I mean, I don't take drugs, but it's not enough to get you high here. You got to take more, do you what I mean?
Joey Korenman: Right.
Roger Baldacci: So then you get to that plateau and it's like, "Well, you got to take more." So we're kind of at that with marketing is, it's not enough to just do something cool. And it got a shit ton of likes and shares. Well, all right, now do it again and do it again. And so what you're seeing is trying to do that and it's very difficult to keep that level up. So ...
Joey Korenman: And you used to get millions of dollars to make one commercial that would run for months. And now I'm assuming that's rare. What are clients asking you for if you're doing a campaign for them, because everyone has an Instagram account and we need this and we need story ... How do you even manage that kind of, just that amount of stuff that's going to be made.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I call it the shotgun approach, you know what I mean? If you shoot a shotgun, pellets go flying everywhere, right? And that's really what brands want now. They want cheap and they want volume to throw shit against the wall and see what sticks, "Oh, that one sticks, then we'll try it." Because with digital, you know what works and what doesn't, right? And which we never had in the past. So, all right that one shit the bed, this one's working, let's do more like that. And I think you see more of that happening, just keep throwing stuff against the wall and keep throwing stuff against the wall and see what works. And that's basically what marketing and advertising is right now.
And it's, like I said, it's almost, it's like confetti. Here's a secret, I think that will, I almost don't want to share, because I-
Joey Korenman: Same metaphor.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I think one way to stand out in this climate is to go the opposite. Is to go analog. And here's what I mean by that. So there's a woman in my town, she's a lawyer and her side hustle is making amazing cookies, right? Deb's cookies, whatever. And they're amazing pieces of art, but yeah, she has social channels, right? She has Instagram, Twitter, all this. My point is anyone can have an Instagram or a Snapchat but Deb's cookie, she can't go up and afford to buy the side of a building or to do a station domination in New York.
So in a way, I think to stand out from all of that clutter, all those social influencers, all those digitals, all those tiny brands trying to look bigger in the social space is to actually go analog. If Deb's cookie started running massive billboards, I'm like, "Okay, that's a real brand." And she's still doing it out of a kitchen in her garage. But I think that might be an interesting way to pivot and it's kind of come full circle and in a weird way, I don't know. It's just an insight I had that I thought was interesting.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that is fascinating because I mean it's almost, I mean, I remember when I was in bands and we would still put up posters on telephone poles and shit and no one does that anymore. Now it's you have your Facebook page and your Instagram page and your Sound Click and I don't know. Maybe we go back to posters.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. [crosstalk] I don't know. I just thought it was just interesting.
Joey Korenman: So you mentioned what's cool about digital and why this shotgun approach works is that you can measure everything. You instantly know how many impressions it got, how many clicks, what's your click-through rate, your pay per click, everything. And I mean, it's amazing to me how effective it is when you're doing sort of a direct sales thing where it's click this to buy this thing. But a lot of the work that agencies do and the kind of stuff that you're known for, it's not that, it's brand building and brand awareness. And I'm curious, I assume it's true, but I'd love to know your take. How much of a correlation is there really between impressions that you get from a viral thing that was viral for 24 hours? And then sales, which in the end, that's what the company is buying, right? They want people to buy their stuff. That's the thing it's easy to forget. Do impressions turn into sales? Is that true or is that sort of an illusion?
Roger Baldacci: I love that you asked that because I find it interesting too, because right now, what we do is we talk about the success of the campaign by the engagement of God and the shares and likes. And when you think about it, most people are looking at your video, they're scrolling on their social feed mindlessly that while the TV is on in the background and they see something funny and they click it to like and they keep going. And to the brand, they're like, "Oh, we got all these likes." But to the person, they literally just clicked on that for a nanosecond before going on to something else. It's not like they saw it and was like, "Oh, I'm going to go out and buy this burger now because they did this really funny thing."
But I do think it can work. If you cultivate a brand voice like at Wendy's, speaking of that, Wendy's Twitter has a great brand voice, a very, very snarky and cheeky. And I think that can translate. Once you start to really get a feel for the brand and sort of like that brand and have infinity, then that little shotgun confetti thing can work. It's like, "Oh, that's cool. I really liked the voice. And that's cool. Let's go to Wendy's for lunch." But I don't think just because your piece got 60,000 likes in two hours, I don't think that necessarily translates to success. And I think it's kind of a mistake to do it that way sometimes.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I always wondered, because back when I was freelancing, I used to do a lot of work, very unsexy, but I'm sure you've worked on this stuff where it's a video that the ad agency puts together so that they can prove to their client that they're worth the retainer basically. And it was just pages and pages of that. This many views, the brand affinity went up this much. We know because we did surveys. And I always wondered if that really translated into the business doing better. Because now as a business owner, when we spend money on Instagram ads, it's nice to know that, and you can track this stuff. It turned into sales, it was worth the money. And that's kind of the promise of digital advertising is you know. But do you really know? I was always wondering.
Roger Baldacci: Right. Yeah. I don't know. It's tough to say. I had a buddy. He's got his own company too, and he did Instagram ads and he didn't really see any return, so he's not going to do it anymore. So yeah, I don't know. I just think, I think you just have to be careful with some of these analytics. When you know definitively, of course, that works, that makes sense. Then keep doing that. But if you don't know, I don't know what to say. Just go back and try more things. You know what I mean? But I do think the brand is just the culmination of all these different touch points. It's not going to be one thing. That's why I always hated focus groups because we would focus group a commercial and then they would ask you 47 questions about that commercial and your purchase intents, brand affinity and they do things with the dial testing where on second three, they spiked, you know what I mean?
When the woman flipped her hair that got a lot of spikes and it's inane. It's not how people consume media. In the real world, they might see that spot and like it or not, but on the third time, maybe they'll really like it. So I don't know, we're examining things, sometimes over examining things. I like to think of the analogy when you plant a seed in the ground and we've got 14 people standing over and going, "Why isn't it growing?" All right, let's change the soil. Let's change the water." It's like, "I don't know. Maybe just let it grow.
Joey Korenman: Right, wait a week.
Roger Baldacci: Yeah, let's wait a week and just see, and there's very little patience for that. And again, two examples come to mind is two of the biggest sitcoms ever, The Office and Seinfeld. Both when they were launched, got critically bad ratings and bad reviews. The Office bowling scores, the nightly bowling had high ratings, than The Office in the UK. And when Seinfeld came out in the, whatever late, it was '90s, the focus group said it was too New York, too Jewish. They did. But Larry David and Simon they didn't make it less New York, less Jewish. They just kept doing what they're doing. And now it's the most successful sitcom ever. So there's very little patience to let that seed grow anymore because of digital, we want to know. We know what the soil is made of. So there's just no patience to let things grow and live and breathe.
Joey Korenman: I love it. All right. So I got a couple more questions for you. Let's talk about, you said something interesting in your email to me, when we were setting this up. You said, obviously when I invited you to come on the podcast, it was because I wanted to find out about Strange Animal and this idea of a fully remote distributed ad agency. And obviously since you've started this, you're going to have to promote it and maybe you go on other podcasts and, I don't know what your strategy is to get more business, but you're going to have to market yourself. Luckily, you're good at that. But you said you have a love, hate relationship with self promotion. And I thought that was ironic given what you do for a living. So I was wondering if you could ... Talk about that a little bit and how do you promote your ad agency? What's the strategy?
Roger Baldacci: Well, strategy isn't quite fully formed, clearly. [crosstalk]
Joey Korenman: Maybe strategy is a word. But ...
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I mean, this is part of it, right? So this is part of the love-hate relationship. I will certainly push this out and merchandise this podcast, but I don't know, it's not in me personally. And I think a lot of agency people just, we were so used to promoting other brands that we don't promote ourselves well. And so it's just, I don't know, it's something, I have a hard time going on LinkedIn now because it's literally everyone promoting themselves constantly. I'm humbled and blessed to work on this campaign like, "Oh, shut the fuck up. You want to brag, you did this cool thing and you want to put it out there and you want other people to hire you."
I just wish we could say that. And I typically do. I've done things, in fact, when I did the Apple spots, freelance when I pushed that out, I did humble. I was just one of an amazing team to work on this. And then Brad, I did call him, I did something called Rebel. I did something called Rebel. And that's ultimately what we want. We're all hustling, we're all pushing stuff out. We all want more business, right? We want to be successful, but it becomes insufferable. You just see so many helpful, insightful articles. If I see another article from an agent creative director on how to write a creative brief, I'm going to just puke on my lap.
It's just like, "Come on. Can we not do that?" So I don't know. I don't know the answer. I mean, obviously we have to promote and I have to promote, and I will promote this, but I don't know the answer. It's just, I have a hard time with it. That's all I could say.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, well I think I mean, I see it too, and it's the same in our industry and there's always, there's people who have a knack for doing it in a way where it's endearing. They do it in a, the way you just described where you're sort of like, "Here's one line where I'm pretending to be humble. And then in the next line, I'm just telling the truth. Look what I did." Or, I mean, the example that came to mind and I had to look up his name because I had forgotten it. But there was a guy in Boston when I worked there named Lawson Clark. And he made a website and it got so much attention at the time because no one did this, but he got the URL mail copywriter.com and you'd go to it and it was this really beautifully shot picture of him naked on a bear skin rug with a-
Roger Baldacci: [crosstalk] He seemed quite happy I might add.
Joey Korenman: ... hairy chest. It was it was amazing. And and it's funny because it's how do you not talk about that? And how are you not curious about the person that has the guts to do something like that? And so I guess my question is as a small studio, the way you promote yourself, I'm assuming, or a small agency, it's also reflecting on your creativity, right? Do you feel the bar for your own marketing is as high as what you do for your clients?
Roger Baldacci: I do. I think so. And he got a lot of juice from that actually because he told me, well now he got jobs just for that website. And luckily he's very talented and he could back it up, but if you weren't, that still works. That kind of stuff does still work. It is different. It does get noticed. So yeah, I think some of the stuff I want to do for Strange Animal is strange. And I just want to push out really interesting and kind of weird things and thought provoking things. And we've got some things in the pipeline, some things that I want to work on and some projects I want to work on just having that time to do that yet. But yeah, I don't think you're going to see a banner ad for Strange Animal anytime soon, but I think I think you'll see, hopefully something interesting that will just pique your curiosity and say, "All right, this guy's interesting. Let me consider them." That's ultimately all we want, right? Is get on the consideration set.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I love it. Awesome. Well, my last question is a lot of the people listening to this are school motion students or working motion designers and one of the things that was always great about working with ad agencies, not universally, but a lot of times the coolest stuff you're doing is when you're doing it with an agency, because of the level of conceptual thinking involved in these cool brands and these cool ideas, and you can really sink your teeth into it. So I bet a lot of people would an opportunity to jam on stuff with Strange Animal. And so when you're looking for this freelancers and people that you can add to your roster and tag them in on this job and this job, what are you looking for? As a creative director, what do you look for in someone you're going to collaborate with?
Roger Baldacci: Yeah. I mean, I look for a couple of things. One is do you really have it? because I think now it's so easy to sort of pop your chest up and put your experience down and ... So that was a shitty way to explain. Let me try to rewind for a second.
Joey Korenman: Got it.
Roger Baldacci: When you work on a good, a big project and it wins a lot of awards, you see everyone promote that. So some junior writer who did the email blast puts the two-minute video on his website. So well, you didn't really do that. You worked on the email blast that was part of that. So it's hard to discern what is real and what's not real instead of in the digital space now.
And so I look for do you really have that talent? Did you do one great thing or have you done many great things? And they've been consistent over the years. But the other thing I look for is kind of goofy, but I call them the three Hs and it's hungry, hardworking, and humble. That's kind of how I sort of manage my own career and what I kind of look for in people. Just people who are just hardworking, it goes without saying, because it's a tough business and you got to bust it. And hungry is about creating opportunities and doing things to get noticed. I've had to do some of those things throughout my career. And lastly, humble is I just think, I don't know, it's just something, it's a strong sort of core belief of mine that just don't be a douchebag. Be a good person and I want to work with you. Most people want to work with good people.