Small Agency 2010

Small Agency of the Year, 11-75 Employees: Mono

Founded by Big-Agency Hands, Shop Trades in Simple Ideas, Attracting Design-Focused Clients Such as Blu Dot, Apple

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Founded in 2004 by former Fallon and Carmichael Lynch executives, Mono was created with the premise that simpler is better.

"I don't think there's a client that would say they hired us because we believe in simplicity," said co-founder Michael Hart, "but that's why we're growing."

Consider the Minneapolis-based agency's approach for client Blu Dot, which sells affordable, modern furniture under the premise that, as Mr. Hart put it, "really good design can go anywhere."

Mono attached GPS devices to furniture left at the curb.
Mono attached GPS devices to furniture left at the curb.
Mono wondered, if design could go anywhere, where would it go? Taking advantage of the one-year anniversary of Blu Dot's store in SoHo, where "curb mining" is a local custom, Mono placed 25 Blu Dot chairs around New York, each equipped with GPS devices. Armed with real-time GPS tracking, a live Twitter feed and, eventually, a documentary-style web video about where the chairs wound up and how, the campaign scored 230 million media impressions in two months. It boosted sales chainwide 35% with a media budget of $0.

The effort won a Silver Cyber Lion at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes last month, the second time the agency has been honored in the global competition in its six-year history. (It won a Silver Cyber Lion in 2007.)

Blu Dot is one of several design-oriented clients that have flocked to the shop, which also works with Herman Miller and Apple. The retail-centric Apple work is a sentimental favorite among the agency's executives because the client's ethos of simple design is very similar to the agency's. "Apple represents another brand that has a very simple idea of how they present themselves," said co-founder Jim Scott.

Other clients on Mono's roster include Sesame Street, Harvard Business School, MSNBC, General Mills, EMD Serono and Rolaids -- in all, a remarkably broad and national client base for a 36-employee operation.

That was the goal from the moment Mr. Hart and fellow co-founder Chris Lange left Publicis Groupe's Fallon and teamed with Mr. Scott, formerly of Interpublic's Carmichael Lynch, to start Mono in 2004.

The founders were following in a long, local tradition of entrepreneurial agency executives striking out to experiment with new agency models. (Pat Fallon himself rose up the ranks at Martin Williams before staking out with Bozell & Jacobs executives Tom McElligott and Nancy Rice to start their iconic firm.)

And thus far, highly integrated Mono looks like the latest of those to be successful. "We set out to be an agency with a national presence and a national reputation," Mr. Lange said. "This award is an acknowledgment of that."

RUNNER-UP: KYP

Kyp doesn't do commercials. Not in the traditional sense. The agency's seemingly simple mission for clients is to find the physical means to attract consumers' attention; to put something in their hands that they will go away and interact with of their own free will.

The agency's signature tool is the iKyp, a patented invention that plugs into a USB port and engages consumer with a brand -- all of which is, with the user's permission, tracked by analytics that provide extra value to a marketer.

"It's a simple but devilish little thing," said Kevan Lawton, the agency's CMO. Response rates for the iKyp are impressive: Against a direct-marketing-industry average of 1%-3%, the iKyp delivers response rates as high as 53%, which it achieved in a project for the British Music Experience, an interactive museum dedicated to popular music.

The $7.50 BME visitor's guide includes an iKyp webkey, which customers can use at home to link up to a personalized MyBME web page. From the web page, they can access free downloads and exclusive offers, as well as relive their experience at the museum by, for example, watching a dance they performed there or listening to a song they recorded during the visit.

Kyp has also developed a digital audio player, with earphones, that can be produced economically enough to make it work as a direct-marketing tool. Said Mr. Lawton, "Some clients like the intimacy of the medium, and some have sensitive messages that they don't want people to see on a 48-sheet poster." Pharmaceutical companies are a natural fit, and so far one has used the device.

But Kyp does not want to be seen as a techie company. "We are focused in physical engagement and finding ways to move people between the physical and digital worlds," said Mr. Lawton. "

The agency's clients list includes Verizon, American Express, Victoria's Secret, Charles Schwab, Hard Rock Hotel, the BBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. It also has a strategic relationship with Sony to help it build the market for the eBridge (a customized interactive digital disc) across Europe.

The name Kyp is a jumbled acronym for "information you keep" and is, according to Mr. Lawton, meant to be "different and friendly." The agency was founded in 2005 by Nicholas Miller, who has a background in promotional merchandise, working with marketers including McDonald's, Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood.

The agency is headquartered in London and opened a New York office in 2007. Since then, San Francisco and Chicago have been added, partly because of the traction Kyp quickly gained with pharmaceutical companies. Despite having only 48 full-time employees, Kyp also has offices in Germany and Turkey, and has plans to expand across Western Europe and into the Asia/Pacific region and Canada.

"What we do is address problems of clutter. We are tackling fundamental marketing issues and I think our offering would work in any country. World domination is on the cards," Mr. Lawton said, "but we still have a long way to go."

-- Emma Hall
Most Popular