New York agency Figliulo & Partners celebrates its five-year anniversary today, and to ring in the milestone it has rebranded to, simply, Fig.
"When we started, it was me and Mark [Figliulo, co-founder and original chief creative] and we didn't have anything but his name," says Judith Carr-Rodriguez, the agency's founding partner and president who as of today also steps into the role of CEO. "We had a client before we had a logo, so we needed to do something quickly."
Hitting its five-year milestone seemed prime time for the agency to scratch a longstanding itch. "When I joined, we talked about the logo and shared the view that it wasn't that great," says Chief Creative Officer Scott Vitrone, the industry veteran who joined the agency in February 2017 and previously served in creative leadership roles at shops including Wieden & Kennedy, Barton F. Graf and TBWA. "I asked about changing the name as well and thought Mark would be offended--he wasn't. It's been a running joke for most of his life that no one can pronounce or spell Figliulo."
For the record, phonetically the name reads "Fee-lee-oh," but the confusing amalgam of letters is ripe for parody, an idea played out an ad above the agency created to ring in the announcement. Written by Vitrone's former creative partner, Ian Reichenthal, it likens the plight of the agency's former name to that of Theistareykjarbunga, an Icelandic shield volcano that happens to also have two unfortunately named fissure vents, Theistareykjahraun and Borgahraun.
And while Theistareykjarbunga and Figliulo have similarities, they have one key difference, which you’ll discover in the ad’s reveal.
"It sounds silly, but the pronunciation and the spelling is a practical thing," Vitrone says. "It's funny for a little while and a good ice breaker for first meetings, but after that, it's a pain in the ass."
"Fig" also happens to be Figliulo's nickname, so it retains the spirit of its founder. "The fig is also an amazing fruit," Vitrone adds. "It has loads of medicinal properties, it's also believed to be the world's first cultivated fruit. In fact, it's been said that the fig tree helped shape human history. I'm not implying that our agency will do that, but it's nice to think about."
Those ideas are reflected in the new logo, branding and digital design created by Juan Carlos Pagan, Max Friedman and David Mitchell, with illustrations from botanical artist Rose Pellicano.
While easier on the tongue, the rebranding serves as a bow, of sorts, to tie together the agency's many developments since it opened in 2013 with a single high-profile client, Sprint. They've since parted ways, but Fig now counts among its clients CNN, for which it created the much-buzzed about "This Is an Apple" ads; Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines, whose campaigns include a pop-up pub in the U.K. featuring 230 different kinds of American brew; as well as Vanity Fair, Seabourn Cruise Lines, Carnival Corporation and American Century Investments, Bright Health and Pete&Gerry's Organic Eggs. The agency has also expanded its offerings: It opened an in-house media department in 2017, is home to digital agency Hungry, content studio Cousin, as well as Quiddity, a video-based review site that rivals the likes of Wirecutter.
Founders Figliulo and Carr-Rodriguez are joined by four other partners--Vitrone is the most recent addition; COO/CFO Richard Tan, Chief Strategy Officer Caroline Krediet and Chief Content Officer Robert Valdes came on board a couple months after the agency opened. The 75-strong shop also recently brought on former New York Times VP of ad innovation Nick Van Amburg as head of distribution to oversee planning in the media department.
As for how she characterizes the agency culture today, Carr-Rodriguez says, "We're pretty smart, and I know we're really nice--that's such a shit word, but people like to work here." (The agency has ranked three times on Ad Age's Best Places to Work list.) "We give our people space, but we also challenge them. We tell them the truth--there's so much information leadership at other agencies hoard from their staff. It makes it seem the agency doesn't trust everybody, but that's the antithesis of what we think.
The agency is growing and Carr-Rodriguez says it expects to move to a bigger office next year. "We're thrilled and amazed that we made it for five years and we do want to celebrate where we got to," she says. "We really wanted to become a really progressive communications company. The heart of what we are is that we're storytellers, so we just need to continue to tell the very best stories in the most modern way."