Toto, I Don’t Think We’re In Advertising Any More

Ian Cohen and Cal McAllister are the founders of Wexley School For Girls, a Seattle-based creative factory for branding excellence. Their WebCAM presentation is titled Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Advertising Any More

More about the agency: Wexley School For Girls are no strangers to doing whatever it takes to create fans and money for their clients. Agency capabilities run the gamut including design, packaging, video games, pr-generating ideas, branded entertainment, short films and events. ESPN, Microsoft, Seattle Sounders and Nike are a few of the clients who have benefited from their innovative, multi(un)disciplinary ways.

Wexley history of advertising: It began with smoke signals. People took to the streets > Newspaper > Magazines > Radio  > Television > Internet > Mobile and so it evolves. At Wexley it doesn’t matter what comes next, it’s about ideas that advertise, not advertising ideas.

A little more background: Cal and Ian left bigger agencies and begat Wexley without clients but trusting their focus on ideas would work. Fast forward a few years. Wexley is now 25 people strong with core capabilities in planning, strategy, creative, and production.

Creating a short film  for Nike was a golden ticket to other places for Wexley. This led to work for T-Mobile.

Working with Microsoft began a few years back. Getting listed as an Agency of Record took some time. They reached a milestone when they were finally added to the shipping & receiving list.  They are now the Agency of Record for a few Microsoft internal marketing efforts including their annual conference, the pushpin project and college recruitment.

Copper Mountain Resorts was the first client who approached Wexley asking for an non-traditional idea. Wexley created a movement for a national snow day, seeded the movement using youtube, created a website nationalsnowday.com, where thousands of people signed up to support the cause. Creation of a swingers pass helped Copper Mtn. achieve their desired goal of bringing tourists to destination sites. Twitter campaigns have also targeted their Texan audience with contextual messages.

Seattle Sounders brought Wexley the task of igniting a fan base for a new Major League Soccer team. Wexley created a green scarf that served as a team icon. It later became the ticket to the first Sounders soccer match. Seattle is still breaking MLS attendance records. With over 100k fans, the Seattle Sounders Facebook page is also setting a high standard for professional teams.

Their creative successes come when they are given freedom to focus on ideas informed by their target’s behavior.

Three Wexley considerations:

  • Everything is Advertising
  • Everyone is exhausted including your clients (busy is how it’s going to be)
  • Everything is measurable (keep this mind while developing creative)

More Wexley Words of Wisdom:

First, solve the problem.

Brands, Clients and Campaigns must Live in Authenticity. (Cal points out that this works in relationships too!)

Everything is an Opportunity. Ensuring that every brand interaction counts is exhausting but worth it.

Q + A

What is the agency process?

Ian: An early focus on the client, their goals and their budget is important.

Cal: We started out more like a production company. 92% of business is repeat business. Being truthful + upfront about budget and its ability to accomplish the clients goals is key.

Q: How do you ensure compensation for your wild successes?

Ian: Well we win new business, like the Seahawks (Vulcan)

Cal: Why try different payment/compensation models. We do our best to get paid fair for the work. When it explodes we use those results to get new business. We also have colossal failures. Not too many of them. But it happens.

Q: How did you first get Seattle fans involved in Sounders efforts?

Ian: Engaging the bloggers and fans that were most active and enthused about the Sounders.

Q: What do you have in-house?

Cal: We have a small core staff but with almost every project, we tend to try and find people externally who are excellent producers.

Ian: We’re looking for SEO.

Q: How did you come up with your name?

*Video explains that they are named after an English nunnery devoted to farming cantaloupes.

Further explanation reveals that the name is the result of dumb luck and the phone book.

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