David Angelo founded David & Goliath 20 years ago. The LA agency has maintained its independent, challenger spirit ever since. And 20 years on he still loves going to work, he tells us. He loves the agency’s culture, feeds off walking around the agency, chatting to his colleagues, and rolling up his sleeves and getting ready for battle when he needs to. “My commute is an hour, but doesn’t feel like a journey when you work at a place you love with people you love,” he says.
But, like most of the world, his commute right now is pretty much zero. David and the rest of his goliaths are working from home. And he has strong, passionate views on this period and what it should and could mean for brands. “Ultimately, it comes down to a choice: stay the course or evolve for the better.”
Addison Capper picked David’s brains to find out more.
LBB> In your ‘disrupt the hysteria’ article, you said that times like these “can inspire you to create a new beginning, a new way of making a difference” and you mention a “new normal.” How do you see this new beginning? What is the new normal?
David> Never before in our recent history, have we ever experienced a crisis of this magnitude. One that has forced us all to take a step back and reflect not only how we do business, but how we live our lives both now and moving forward.
For the longest time, there’s been much discussion around the concept of purpose and how important it is for people and brands to be true to who they are and serve an even higher cause. And while there are brands out there who are already authentically marching to this beat, there’s never been a better opportunity to amplify purpose consistently and universally. I see this as the new normal and it starts with action.
Just look at what’s going on right now. Brands, advertising agencies, production companies and individuals are coming forth and finding ways to help each other as a collective, united to help the world around us. It’s our true authentic selves at work. Those who lead with their hearts are being recognised and championed. Those who use this as an opportunity to promote their own self-interests are quickly called out by individuals, the industry and the world. The true question is – who are we when we’re not in crisis mode? And if this caring spirit is coming from an authentic place, then why would it ever end?
The people, brands and agencies who bravely stand up and consistently act on their purpose will be the ones the world looks to for products, leadership and inspiration.
Those who go back to the old ways, will have a hard time keeping up.
Ultimately, it comes down to a choice: stay the course or evolve for the better.
LBB> How are you, as an agency, preparing for this new normal?
David> For 20 years, we have been marching to our brand truth while inspiring people and brands to do the same. Who we are in good times is also who we are in challenging times. And when you’re a challenger brand agency, you’re always thinking about how to fix the roof even when the sun is out. It’s a state of mind, a state of being. You have a proactive approach to life – innovating and making things better for your company culture, clients and world around you. So, when times are tough, and no question we are living in one of the most challenging times, our truth shines more than ever. All this is to say; we’ve been ready all along.
As an agency, we are thriving based on our unity and the culture that we’ve had in place since day one. We inspire each other through our Ten Brave Ways that is painted on our agency wall and serves as a daily reminder of who we are and what we stand for, even if we’re not in the agency. This is the by-product of living your truth from the inside out. Everything comes from this filter – the work, how we live our lives and how we take on the challenges of the world. Whether it’s helping our founding client Kia Motors with an initiative to provide funds and awareness for America’s homeless youth, to shining a light on creators doing good in the world with the Conscious Creative Movement, to inspiring bravery amongst millions with our global nonprofit, Today, I’m Brave.
LBB> What kind of conversations are you having with clients at the moment to ensure they’re ready and comfortable too?
David> For starters, we work with brands that understand that being a challenger isn’t a market position, but a mindset. One that never turns off. It’s about being proactive as opposed to reactive. Those are the conversations we are having. But it all comes back to who you are as a brand, your core purpose, and your fierce commitment to living your truth in both good and challenging times. As partners, we seek out the best ways to help serve their brand, the customers and the communities around them. From this, the impact is far-reaching and relevant to the times, and we are better positioned to evolve from this particular challenge at hand.
LBB> Naturally, these are uncertain times for many businesses. But what kind of opportunities do you see for brands right now?
David> Brands are so brilliantly positioned to live their higher purpose and serve the greater good. When they embrace the true purpose of who they are and what they stand for, they have an opportunity to bring that to life, proactively and give back to those who need it most. But it has to come from pure authentic care as opposed to jumping on a bandwagon or doing it just to be noticed. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve made mistakes in the past, or missteps, it’s the action we take now that matters the most. This is when strength and character is revealed in people and brands. This is when leaders rise. And the value to the world around them is immeasurable and the impact infinite.
LBB> We’ve seen some clients – like Coca-Cola in the UK – cease all marketing for the time being. What are your thoughts on reactions like that?
David> There could be a host of drivers that cause a brand to cease or limit marketing. Rather than question why, I’d rather look at the opportunity that is being presented. Because of the crisis, the majority of people are staying home. Which means we have a more captive audience for messaging than perhaps even the Super Bowl, minus the huge price tag. This is an enormous opportunity for marketers. What they communicate and do now will shape their relationships with consumers for decades to come. And as history tells us, it’s the ones with the challenger mindset that rise up during tough times. It enables them to be heard and embraced when others pull back.
LBB> What are your thoughts on the long-term implications of this period for brands and agencies? Is the new normal here to stay? Why?
David> The long-term implications can yield extraordinary, unimaginable, positive results where the motivation around a campaign, initiative, product or service, centres around doing good, giving back, making a difference. We are already living extraordinary times and seeing brands and individuals give in bold and remarkable ways. And it’s gaining more and more momentum. There’s power in the combined efforts of humanity. As global citizens, I would find it hard to believe that we are not deeply impacted by all the gestures of human kindness, care and empathy surrounding us. So yes, as such, I’d like to believe that this new normal is here to stay.
LBB> How are you navigating the challenge of working from home across D&G?
David> Through advanced technology systems, we are consistently in communication, from conducting account team meets to creative brainstorming sessions to client presentations, to production, our agency is seamlessly conducting business as usual.
What keeps us going is our commitment to the work and the brands we serve. As I mentioned, our Ten Brave Ways is a filter for business and life created to inspire our employees to face challenges head on, live their truth every day and step into their greatest potential.
Brave Way #1 is Great Work Is Everyone’s Agenda. Inspired by this, we created a proactive think tank where everyone contributes ideas on how our respective brands can not only stay relevant, but where they can evolve too.
It’s enabled us to come together remotely and think of even greater opportunities for us to silence the fear and inspire true change in the world around us. As we all know, great ideas can come from anywhere, even when you have 200 satellite offices scattered throughout Los Angeles.
LBB> And then from a morale point of view, how are you ensuring employees are kept happy?
David> For starters, just last week we held our first agency town hall/happy hour on Zoom. It was incredible to see everyone show up and celebrate each other and our latest news and successes, from birthdays, to client initiatives supporting the vulnerable communities, to innovative ways in which we’re activating creative ideas.
As well, in line with Brave Way #10, Join the Family, Not the Company, we created an agency group email titled ‘famsupport’ and what began as a forum for the agency to help our D&G family, immediately turned into a forum where they stepped up to help each other and the communities around us.
From positive words of encouragement to suggestions on where to locate stocked groceries, medicine and, yes, toilet paper, to sharing online resources for free workouts, educational sites, to online extracurricular activities for kids at home, our D&G family keeps giving. Online meditation, free livestream concerts and trivia game night, round out just some of the ways we’re keeping the morale and spirit up.
LBB> What are the main challenges for an ad agency when it comes to inaccess to an everyday office?
David> Energy. As humans, we feed off each other’s energy on a daily basis. That is the part we all miss the most. For me, walking around the agency and talking to people, working one-on-one with them, high-fiving, laughing and rolling up our sleeves in the trenches is what keeps me still engaged after 20 years. I love our culture. I feed off it and, in turn, it feeds me. That is the infinite power of our collective energy at D&G. Also, my commute is an hour, but doesn’t feel like a journey when you work at a place you love with people you love.
So, whether we are together or apart, it will never change the commitment we have to being braver together.
LBB> Do you think that companies being forced to work from home could change the way agencies work in the future more generally? Why and how?
David> What this crisis has reinforced for me, is when you’re surrounded by like-minded people who are excited to work with each other toward a singular goal, anything is possible. As long as you have the best-in-class technology and the right ‘casting’ of employees and a clear authentic purpose, the agency of the near future has the potential of working from anywhere in the world and find immense success for themselves and their clients.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
David> To everyone out there, let’s take one step forward and leave our fear behind. Let’s evolve together as an industry and the world. Future generations will look back at this time as the moment we united in force for the greater good.