Creative agencies are idea factories, and sometimes the ideas don't always have a client to go with them. That's when agencies branch into sidelines. Isobar in Athens, Greece has started up two new business lines: sunglasses and a coffee shop.
This moonlighting is driven by a desire to understand on a smaller scale the production and marketing challenges faced by Isobar's clients -- which include Mondelez, L'Oreal, Heineken, Vodafone and Nestlé.
The sunglasses brand is called We Are Eyes, and the agency tackled everything itself over a period of 10 months: production, design, logistics, pricing, and selling. The advertising campaign, done in-house and starring Isobar employees, was actually the easy part of the whole process and only took two weeks.
The coffee shop idea came about when the executive team realized the agency's 80 employees spent a total of around $60,000 a year on coffee. It seemed to make sense to provide good quality, low price coffee at the agency. The plan includes reviewing pricing every three months and bring down the cost of a coffee if enough people were buying it. After the first review, prices were reduced by 15%, and there are plans to drive down prices even further by taking online orders and delivering locally to expand the customer base.
The agency also sees the coffee shop as a great way to test out consumer behavior. It now sells client Nestlé's ice cream, and has started giving the product away free to the first ice cream customer of the day. That's to test the theory that ice cream consumption is one of the most viral things that happens in the physical world, and will tempt others to buy their own.
Isobar is not the only agency to try a sideline. Huge, Atlanta opened Huge Café, which operates under its own P&L, in October 2015 as a way for the agency to test retail ideas and concepts. And digital shop Baldwin& made a marked entry into the craft beer space when it spawned off a pet project between founder David Baldwin and two friends into a full-fledged brewing company that now acts as a client. The agency aimed to have revenue streams outside of advertising from the get go, so when Mr. Baldwin noticed the craft beer scene in North Carolina exploding, he turned his hobby for homebrewing into a business. The result: Ponysaurus, a brewing company with eight Belgian-inspired beers, including biere de garde ale and weissbier ale, that is distributed at restaurants and stores in its home state.
If you are looking for a creative agency unafraid to implement its ideas and learn from them, turn to Lookbook.