These achievements have enabled Translation, one of the relatively few Black-owned general market agencies, to bring on more high-level talent. Wool, who joined from Ketchum, began her first day at the agency on March 16—working from home, just days after New York went into lockdown. Campbell, recently a creative director at Wieden+Kennedy Portland, joined in August. Head of Integrated Production Alison Hill (via W+K New York) and Creative Director Ray Smiling (from Johannes Leonardo) also joined the team early this year.
“We’ve been in the extraordinary position to acquire talent when other people were trying to divest or change, or do whatever they had to do,” Wool says.
And those new hires, which brought the agency to 156 employees this year (and making it ineligible for this award next year) have the opportunity to own part of the agency if they choose. In 2020, Translation offered equity grants to all employees, along with educational materials on private equity.
“Everyone should feel like they own a piece of the company because of the work and the time and the effort that I expect,” Stoute says. “And whether you're the receptionist or you work in facilities, the idea that you can get equity the same way any other tech company provides equity, I believe it's very important.”
In exchange, Stoute says he wants employees to bring their “whole selves” to work, including extracurriculars and hobbies the agency calls “minors,” à la college degree programs. Campbell paints, Wool has attended about a half dozen Olympic Games and Stoute claims he makes “the best playlist in the business.”
It is those extra pieces, the ones that make up the life beyond the office, that find their way into the work. Whether a side hustle, a passion, an identity or an ethnicity, the team is adept at pouring diverse skills into what they create. Unfortunately, there aren’t many agencies that could have pulled off “You Love Me,” not successfully, in a way that felt authentic and born of lived experiences.
“Last year,” Stoute says, “if you weren’t connected to culture, to empathy, you were speaking in the wind.”
See all of Ad Age's 2021 Small Agency Award winners here.