Agency Brief: Gut founder talks about the agency turning 2 during the pandemic
While the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, naturally making some feel like a light may never appear at the end of this catastrophic tunnel (it will), it’s important to celebrate any positive news or successes when possible. That was Ad Age’s thinking in moving forward with the release of our 2020 A-List this week, which saw Wieden+Kennedy deservedly take top honors for the third year in a row. On that note, Miami-based Gut had reason to celebrate recently, and not just for landing a spot on Ad Age’s 2020 A-List Standouts list.
Two weeks ago, Gut quietly toasted to its second year in operation. Since it was founded in 2018 by Anselmo Ramos and Gastón Bigio, with the two initially working solely together in Miami, the agency has grown into a dual-location operation with 90 employees. It’s landed significant assignments for big-name brands like Kraft Heinz’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Tim Hortons and AB InBev.
Ad Age recently caught up with Ramos to discuss the agency’s rapid growth and how it is continuing to forge ahead during the pandemic. The following is an interview lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
How has it been working remotely?
This is like week six. So far so good. We’ve been working a lot; more than ever. The first week was crazy. We had some projects get canceled, then briefs started to appear.
Any learnings you’ve taken away from all this?
Everyone is adapting. No one has all the answers. We’re very lucky that we can work remotely. In the beginning, some creative teams felt it was hard to brainstorm on Zoom because you’re not there in person. But it’s not a big problem. Production was a challenge. Very fast we learned that you just have to get creative. Try new techniques. You find a way. We are adapting, learning and producing a lot.
So how are you producing creative?
We’ve used a lot of existing footage. Historical footage in the case of Stella Artois. (Editor's Note: Watch the agency’s “Ayudá un Restaurante” ad for Stella Artois here.) So, yeah, we’re finding ways. The biggest challenge right now is finding the right message. I feel we are at the end of phase one of 'Here’s what I [as a brand] can do to help; providing meals, making masks, offering free coffee.' Now we’re getting to phase two of 'How can we cope with this? What else can we do?' Little by little brands will get back to being themselves.
Have you had to take any cost-cutting measures?
What we did was cut costs on entertainment, travel of course. Everyone’s here and we’re very proud of that. We’re doing everything we can to protect our people. People come first. We started doing Gut checks where basically all the leadership teams get five people to have one-on-one conversations with. We ask them how they are feeling, how we can help from a professional or personal perspective. We’ve learned a lot in doing that. If you are anxious and living alone, it’s not easy. We tell people 'It’s a pandemic; it’s OK to be anxious right now.' We’re also doing founders chats where we talk with the entire agency on Zoom. We try to tell them exactly what’s happening; be very transparent.
As a two-year-old independent agency, how confident do you feel operating in the current environment?
We became an A-Lister with Standouts. That was amazing because it was a piece of great news. It was very positive for the agency and the team. Overall, we’re very lucky because we are a new agency. At the end of last year we got a lot of new clients, several [agency of record assignments] across the offices. We feel we have momentum and that’s good. In the last couple of weeks we had some clients calling us to explore new projects. We couldn’t believe it.
Of course, we worry about the fact that we’re independent. We don’t have a big holding company behind us. It’s just us, but it’s so far so good. I think we’re doing pretty well and I’m very thankful to have great well-known brands. I think we will be OK.
And a very happy birthday to you, too
On Monday, April 20, Omaha, Nebraska-based Bailey Lauerman celebrated its 50th anniversary as an independent agency. Forgoing a quiet celebration like Gut, Bailey Lauerman instead has opted to honor its milestone birthday on its social media feeds throughout 2020. The agency was first founded by Rich Bailey as a publishing company, then called Bailey Lewis & Associates, in 1970. Whether Bailey had any inkling that the birthdate of his agency would become a widely-recognized holiday for weed smokers may never be known.
The agency got its start putting out an events guide in the Nebraska towns of Omaha and Lincoln, called “Around Town.” Over time, Bailey Lauerman would grow into a fully integrated agency with capabilities in research, strategic planning, creative, package design, corporate identity, production, media, social and public relations. More recently, Bailey Lauerman has worked with clients like Disney, Netflix, Panda Express, Union Pacific, UnitedHealthcare, Phillips 66, AMC Theaters, Conagra Brands, American National Bank and more.
“For 50 years, Bailey Lauerman has been creating campaigns that respectfully and authentically connect brands to the people and culture in this part of the country,” CEO Greg Andersen says. “There is a diverse and complex America outside of its largest cities that represent massive influence and spending power. Our job is to bring an insightful understanding of that America to companies in the region and across the country. Nebraska is the right place to do that from.”
Dagger picks up creative coverage for Aflac
Atlanta shop Dagger was named Aflac’s new agency of record and is behind a people-centric campaign called "Not Alone" for the insurer that was launched on Thursday. The campaign focuses on showcasing the insurer’s commitment to being there for its customers when help is needed most. The first ad in the campaign, “Gratitude” (see below), first ran during the NFL draft on ABC and ESPN. The spot illustrates Americans’ mounting anxiety as large expenses become unmanageable; Aflac then swoops in to provide benefits payments in the ad. “Gratitude” will now be distributed across various other networks and streaming platforms including NBC, Fox, Bravo and Hulu. Publicis Seattle most recently led Aflac’s creative account. The agency declined comment.
CMI/Compass to handle media for Veteran Health Administration
CMI/Compass, a WPP media planning and buying agency for the healthcare industry, won all media-related duties as part of a Veteran Health Administration (VHA) contract awarded to HRS Consulting by the Department of Veteran Affairs. HRS was hired to help the department complete an organizational transformation. The 10-year contract was put in place by the VHA Office of Healthcare Transformation. The contract supports the programmatic and transformational needs of the VHA, including the Office of Healthcare Transformation and its customers. The agreement has a collective ceiling of $1 billion, and a period of performance of a five-year base and one five-year option.
Need help weathering the pandemic? Don't sweat it
Advertising industry PR firm Mister Sweat has rebranded to Sweat + Co and launched a new consulting practice aimed at helping agencies weather the current pandemic. As part of that, Sweat + Co debuted a daily webinar series, “Agencies Under Quarantine,” which features talks with industry leaders who will provide practical tips for shops during and after the crisis. Jeff Sweat, founder of Sweat + Co and former communications head at 72andSunny and Deutsch L.A., says he wants “to help agencies leave this crisis better than when they came in.”
“Agencies were already being squeezed by internal creative groups, large consulting firms and marketers,” Sweat notes. The core Sweat + Co team includes comms experts, former management consultants, new business directors, executive coaches and an organizational psychologist. The consulting practice will be comprised of various creative talent who will operate as “The Vital Squad.” The division includes Teresa Herd, managing partner of Inside/Out and former head of Intel’s Agency Inside; Nancy Alley, former chief talent officer at Deutsch LA; Betsy Hindman, former B2B national account manager at Disney and B2B marketing strategist; Steve Orenstein, chief financial officer at Wong Doody, Havas Battery LLC, and former chief financial officer at 72andSunny; and Jen Patterson, former chief strategy officer at Wunderman Thompson, executive VP at Deutsch L.A. and executive coach.
“When I launched Mister Sweat, it was only intended to be a business of one,” Sweat says. “With ‘Sweat + Co,’ I want to recognize the people who’ve made it a company.”
Fact & Fiction on new business tear
Fact & Fiction picked up five new assignments: The Cheesecake Factory At Home’s new line of ice cream; Blue Ribbon Classics; Coffee House ice cream bars; Madhava, a maker of natural sweeteners, oils and vinegars; and Cocomels coconut milk caramels. Wells Enterprises owns The Cheesecake Factory, Blue Ribbon and Coffee House. For those brands, Fact & Fiction will handle social strategy, creative development and content production. For the other two brands, both owned by Madhava Foods, the agency was tasked with producing campaigns that will boost consumer awareness of them. Fact & Fiction is a Boulder, Colorado-based agency focused on creative, strategy and production.
“Now on our fourth and fifth brand engagements with Fact & Fiction, our organization recognizes and appreciates the agency’s ability to concept and execute ideas that are rooted in strategy and insight, timely and relevant to consumers and culture, while having the power to break through to ultimately impact the business,” says Shilpa Gadhok, senior brand manager of Wells Enterprises. “We’re excited to broaden our relationship even further.”