Small Agency of the Year, West, Gold: Odopod

With Digital as Its Bread and Butter, Shop Serves Up a Hearty Helping of Ingenuity

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It's sometimes tough to call this 11-year-old firm in spitting distance of Silicon Valley anything as straightforward as an ad agency.

"Since day one at Odopod, we've always tried to do product work and marketing work since our interests have spanned both," said Founder-Creative Director Tim Barber.

As he sees it, the agency was built from the ashes of the dot-com bubble. After the company that bought their new-media boutique went defunct, Mr. Barber and partners David Bliss and Jacquie Moss dusted themselves off and started Odopod, a name that sews together Godzilla's island "Odo" and "pod" to be reminiscent of seeds. Its first client in 2000 was a startup, and the agency designed not an ad, but a file-sharing tool. Next up was an online marketing campaign for Nike 's then-new skateboarding line.

For new client Electronic Arts, the San Francisco agency built a whole new way to sell. Odopod designed a desktop app to shift the marketer's business model for distributing PC gaming. The EA Download Manager is basically an iTunes for computer games, letting the games publisher move away from selling packaged games at third-party retailers to digital downloads, which mean higher margins on each game sold and sales that can easily be shared.

"The last year-and-a-half has fundamentally changed the way digital dollars are spent," Mr. Barber said. "You now see brands create apps, and we're in a fantastic position to help brands move into that world. It's a different world to design, build and support applications than to build campaigns."

Client Dominic Weir, head of consumer marketing for watch company IWC, calls the work Odopod creates not a website or a campaign, but a "highly polished digital business tool."

Thinking beyond just digital, Odopod designed retail pop-up stores for electric-car maker Tesla because it doesn't have an extensive footprint in the U.S. For Google, Odopod built YouTube Trends, so users can find new videos on the site with its Trends Dashboard, a filtering tool to see which videos are popular by country, state or viewer demographics. Revenue for 2010 was $11 million, up 100% from 2009.

To help foster the entrepreneurial spirit that brought the shop to life, Odopod encourages and sometimes funds its employees' pet projects.

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