Now brand characters have an agency of their own.
It's Danger Pigeon, founded by creative industry veteran Pat Giles and his copywriting partner (and wife) Amy Giles, dedicated to highlighting the importance of brand characters and icons in connecting with audiences in direct and authentic ways.
While the husband-and-wife team started the shop about two years ago, it wasn't until this January that they decided to fully brand the company as a "character agency."
Mr. Giles, a former creative director at Saatchi and Grey, has had a long career working on brand icons, such as Lucky the Leprechaun, My Little Pony, McGruff the Crime Dog, Trix Rabbit, The Pillsbury Doughboy, Count Chocula and The Green Giant.
"What I love about brand characters is that they can connect with an audience very directly in a way that sometimes a logo or a brand can't," said Mr. Giles, "and a lot of times brands will treat characters like they're just pitchmen that read off product benefits, and we don't think that's true."
The best brand characters, he said, are "really strange creatures" that are memorable and can even last 50 years. Until Danger Pigeon, Mr. Giles said focusing on brand characters has not been an accepted expertise at ad agencies.
"Inside agencies we find that creative teams often roll their eyes at brand characters and don't want to work on them because they have too much legacy that they don't feel they can do something cool with it," he said. Mr. and Ms. Giles, on the other hand, want to "treat brand characters as the celebrities they are and get them good work."
The concept seems to be paying off so far for Danger Pigeon, which is working with the likes of General Mills, Blip Toys, Girl Scouts of America, Sesame Workshop and Portfolio Animation. Mr. Giles said the agency is currently working on a web series for Sesame Workshop and it recently developed a web series for Blip Toys' Squinkies line because it had "no backstory or unifying theme" to attract consumers. The shop is also working with Vayner Media on some "character-related" projects, said Mr. Giles.
Even though Danger Pigeon specializes in characters, that doesn't make it a youth-focused agency, said Mr. Giles, because characters and icons can span a wide range of brand categories.
The idea to start their own agency came to the couple after they realized that between Mr. Giles' career as a creative and animator and Ms. Giles' expertise as a copywriter and author, almost everything they were working on was character-related. As for the unique agency name, Danger Pigeon was chosen because the team wanted an adjective and a character together, so it chose "Pigeon" from an animated series Mr. Giles created called Dober-Man and Pigeon, and "Danger" because it liked the way the word sounded next to pigeon.
Mr. Giles currently holds the title of creative director and chief creative officer of the agency, while Ms. Giles serves as CEO and chief copywriter. The duo is based out of Long Island, New York. Other staffers include Character Designer and Creative Director Jonathan Royce, Animation Director Michael Foran and Compositor and Motion Graphics Animator Johnny Ng. Danger Pigeon also works with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Endless Noise on production.