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It took years of experience, working in environments we weren’t comfortable in, fighting for titles, building relationships, and feeling stagnant for us to come together and create Kicks Digital Marketing: The Anti-Agency.
But what does that really mean? We can start by telling you what it doesn’t. The Anti-Agency isn’t about putting down our peers or feeling superior or thinking we have all the answers. It’s not about causing a fuss or wanting attention or denouncing our industry. It is, however, about taking a stand and standing out in a crowd where we didn’t quite fit in.
Each Kicks member comes from a different background. Some of us were in tech, dentistry, nonprofit work, corporate sales, retail, and some of us come with agency experience. Regardless, all of us come with a creative mindset and a desire to do things in a way that makes us smile about our work, laugh with one another, and push each other to get better. We all found that oftentimes, that’s more rare than people think. It sounds idealistic and unrealistic, but here we are, a small team that isn’t racing to beat one another for a title, isn’t trying to talk over one another or be the loudest voice, and isn’t being led by egos, but a sense of community.
Call it luck, call it a good eye, maybe it was written in the stars, or maybe we just have a knack for knowing a good fit when we see one—whatever it is, we’re proud it’s made us who we are.
I think it's a good fit for Kicks because it's not a bold statement for us. After years of working within an agency model, we understand what works and what doesn't. We took those lessons and have been doing things differently ever since. We've emphasized the things that work and minimized the things that don't. So Anti-Agency, to me, means we are an agency that operates like a partner.
While the statement is strong—so are we. This company was founded not as an act of defiance, but we did split from another company and formed into a mold all our own, very purposefully. From that time, we learned about what we liked and what we didn’t want to be. We don’t operate, price, or create quite like your standard agency. Since, we’ve shaped into something totally unique, smart, quirky, non-conforming, and authentic. To say I’m proud of it, of us, of our clients who make our work possible, is an understatement. We’re not the anti-agency because we’re anti-other agencies, we’re the anti-agency because try as they might, there’s only one agency like this.
The concept of the anti-agency holds a lot of weight. If heard out of context, one could assume negativity as "anti" is common when referencing the opposition of a concept. But to me, there is a positive element to this term.
Anti-agency doesn't diminish the stellar work that is done by the likes of heavy hitters like Leo Burnette, Ogilvy, and other organizations that have reached an unmatched level in superior work and require the common themes of an agency to grow. However, you will find a common thread amongst such agencies that we choose to push away from. For me, anti-agency is a reference to a mindset and structure.
We broke off from a larger company because the work and morality didn't align with our mission. We wanted to help businesses grow. We wanted their growth to be obtainable. We attached our success to theirs. We didn't tie a team or employee to an account. I've seen teams let go when a client drops out of a political race. I watched others disappear when a few retainers were washed up.
A multi-faceted team that can contribute across different divisions of an agency is far more valuable than a specialized collective that can operate on one frequency. This is how and why we've maintained our team through the down-rounds of COVID.
It's easy to read something with preconceived dislike, but I promise you at some point (and I am speaking to you AEs, Designers, and Developers) ego has been a topic of conversation through private slacks and to your "sig others" when the clock strikes 5 (or 6, 7,8, 9 etc. for the overworked). When you work with a tight-knit team responsible for specific accounts, there is no room for ego.
Each idea, good or bad, is recognized and so is the person who produced it.
Often in the agencies, the hierarchies praise the middle-man (middle person PC) and not the creator. This creates movement upward for those not worthy and animosity against people in a team that is there for one reason; the betterment of the organization as a whole. This one-upsmanship is a disgusting trait that does more harm than good yet when you're too big, the decision makers often only hear or see what their VPs and other management elect to tell them.
Our concept of an agency isn't much different than others. We came from them. We saw what we didn't like about them. We just left those bits behind.
When I think of Kicks, I think of a group of witty individuals who come together to create passion projects. While we are a marketing company, we don’t run by industry standards. I don’t do what Josh does, he doesn’t do what Matt does, and he certainly doesn’t do what Brooke does. But together, we are a complete experience. That’s where I think the anti-agency comes into play. No templates, no cookie-cutter staff, just six people using their talents to create work we are proud of.
When I think of an agency, I think of a lot of specialized people working in one specific role with their specific responsibilities. This is something that can be cost-prohibitive and honestly creativity-prohibitive at times. We're the opposite of that. While we all have our specified roles and responsibilities, we all have skills that span all types of marketing. Bringing that together is what makes us truly unique. We are collaborative in a way that not many agencies are, and I believe this gives us greater impact while we work on projects we love.
The Anti-Agency is one helluva bold statement—but it comes from a place that isn’t meant to put down others, but uplift us. Kicks is this misfit group that is rambunctious at times, energetic, blade-sharp, and interesting. We all bring such diverse backgrounds that strangely swirl together in this rare way that just works. We aren’t saying we’re anti others, but we are trying to go against the egocentric, megalomaniac stereotypes of agencies that we see and hear about all the time. I mean, marketers are polled to be LESS trustworthy than politicians—yikes! We just can’t accept that.
This statement is about us driving our stake in the ground and rallying ourselves to be better. It’s about staying humble, admitting when we make mistakes, treating our clients as our friends, respecting one another enough to listen to all ideas, support creativity even when it seems like a stretch, and never ever engage in cut throat behavior…also, this group is such a stone cold pack of weirdos, we don’t fit into typical molds already made—we wanted to make our own.
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