When Barton F. Graf closed at the end of 2019, Baliga went to Mother for two years. He then jumped to Maximum Effort, the agency started by Ryan Reynolds and George Dewey, where he’s been for the past 18 months. The shop specializes in leveraging cultural moments at lightning speed, and Baliga said the pace—and the lack of bureaucracy—were inspiring.
“It was structured unconventionally. We were a very small, nimble group of people with, to some extent, shared sensibilities and taste,” he said. “The thinking was, let's be faster. The time from thought to execution—how do you shrink that? Jeff has a phrase, which actually could work well at Max Effort, which is, ‘Making is thinking.’ In this industry, it takes a tremendously long time to make stuff. But kids make stuff so easy and quick. Why shouldn't we?”
The power of openness
Baliga starts at Tombras on June 5. He will be based in New York, where Tombras currently has about 25 employees, and will be tasked with growing the agency's presence in the city. He will collaborate with Benjamin, who’s in Knoxville, Tombras' largest office with 300 employees. It also has 50 in Atlanta and about 90 working fully remote.
Read more: Creative momentum continues at Tombras
“I think for every creative, the dream is to find a place that’s coming up,” Baliga said. “Knoxville already has it. It's been around for a long time. But New York feels like that opportunity. In my career I’ve worked at places where I wished I’d joined two years earlier. With Tombras, it feels I found it at the right time. It’s in the process of being made. Selfishly, I'd love to contribute to the making of that.”
Benjamin said another of Baliga’s strengths is simply his openness and willingness to experiment.
“You have to be open these days,” Benjamin said. “Open to the thought that this social brief could be the biggest idea of 2023. Open to the idea that a computer could be as creative as you. Open to new ways of doing production. Not all creators are that way. But leaders, especially, have to be that way because the qualities they have are the ones everybody else starts to adopt.”