London-based Gravity Road is difficult to categorize. Co-founder Mark Eaves claims to be allergic to the word "content," yet the agency created a video that topped most-shared charts, and a food platform that, while still in beta, is already more popular than TV chef Nigella Lawson's competing effort.
"[Content] has served us well for the last four years," Mr. Eaves said, "because everyone wants to talk about it. But we are about ideas that people want to spend time with -- not advertising ideas."
The agency's biggest clients include Bacardi, Sainsbury's, Bauer Media, and Mondelez, for whom their work crosses borders and spans video, short film, social, and out-of-home. Gravity Road has also created their own fashion channel on YouTube, "Fashtag," where they partner with a variety of marketers.
For Sainsbury's, Britain's third largest supermarket chain, Gravity Road dressed up five dads in its range of Christmas sweaters and got them to perform a dance routine that became the most-shared ad in the U.K. for a week in December, and pushed up sales of Christmas sweaters by 120%.
As well as making news headlines around the world, the same men continued to dance together as "Old Men Grooving," and together reached the live finals of "Britain's Got Talent" in May. Mr. Eaves said, "It was one of those campaigns where we were calling the client almost every day, saying, 'You'll never guess what's happened now'."
Mark Given, Sainsbury's brand communications director, said, "Gravity Road has brought a new dimension to our thinking. They're also able to pull off that rare trick of delivering work that marries the needs of our business with a real sense of what audiences will enjoy and share."
For Bacardi, Gravity Road has a three-year partnership with Jamie Oliver's DrinksTube, which they claim is the biggest cocktail YouTube channel in the world. The deal also meant that Bacardi cocktails have featured in Jamie's popular TV shows, recipe books and magazines.
Bombay Sapphire's "Imagination" proposition was the starting point for a short film competition in partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival, with budding directors asked to create a film from a script by an Oscar-winning screenwriter. The winning entry was the first – and so far only -- piece of branded content to win a BAFTA (the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars).
Co-founders Mark Eaves and Mark Boyd met when they worked together at Drum PHD. By 2009, when the two started talking about starting up their own agency, Mr. Boyd was head of content at BBH. It took two years of discussions, but they finally founded Gravity Road in 2011. Mr. Eaves said, "Facebook and YouTube were maturing as distribution platforms, and the moment had arrived when you could set up a business and put our kind of thinking square and center. We are about generating ideas that people want to spend time with, and the freedom to build the right process around each client."
This year they boosted the management team, bringing in Katie Lee from Leo Burnett as managing director, and Pete Conolly, a former creative director of Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, as creative partner, freeing up Mr. Boyd and Mr. Eaves to focus on creative strategy and innovation. The agency's other 40 employees come from diverse backgrounds including entertainment, publishing, production and advertising, and many continue to pursue other work and interests. "Our work will be bigger and fresher if we are plugged into other things," Mr Boyd said.
The team is currently working on a new food publishing platform for Sainsbury's created (in partnership with the Huffington Post). Home Made, while still in beta, is notching a million unique visitors a month, making it already more popular than TV chef Nigella Lawson's offering.
Does the agency look like they imagined it would four years ago? Mr. Boyd said, "It looks more exciting than that. We got some great work out there really quickly. We want to keep the ability to move between advertising, publishing and entertainment – it's what keeps us different. Bringing those worlds together while moving across them is at the heart of what we do. "