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Fortnight Collective, The Agency Cracking Briefs within a Two-Week Window

Advertising Agency
Boulder, United States
Founder and CEO Andy Nathan on lessons learned over a 20-year career, an inspiration line from Sir John Hegarty, and how a project with Michelle Obama informed the agency’s ‘AdHack’ process
Andy Nathan founded Fortnight Collective because he thought there could be a better way, a way to circumvent the process and procedure that had got in the way during his 20+ year career. Prior to launching his own shop, Andy had held roles at the likes of TBWA\Chiat\Day, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and BBH. 

He witnessed the way time can corrode brilliance and, in his eyes, found that some of the best creative ideas come early in the process uninhibited by groupthink. With all this in mind, he launched Fortnight Collective as a new breed of agency that's built to liberate the strategic and creative development process, tackle real client problems and create actionable, creative solutions - all in two weeks (hence the name!) with Fortnight's AdHack process.

LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Andy to find out more.

LBB> Tell me about Fortnight – what inspired its launch and when did you launch?

Andy> As a 20+ year account/new biz person in the advertising industry, I have nearly seen it all. The good, the bad and the indifferent. And I’ve always thought there had to be a better way. But process and procedure got in the way. So rather than pushing a boulder uphill, I leaned into a new approach. Hence Fortnight Collective was born in November 2016 in Boulder, Colorado, then in London one year later. 

LBB> What were your main aims and ambitions upon launch?

Andy> We set out to disrupt the expected flow of the industry. We wanted to give clients a differentiated perspective on working with agencies. Full stop, anything short of that would be a letdown for me. Second, I wanted to look at the business of advertising – from hiring practices, to unique disciplines, work/life balance and putting gut and fun into everything we do. Our startup mission – the conventional way is broken, let’s break convention.

LBB> On the Fortnight site, there's a lot of mention about loss of time during the creative process and how it can corrode even the best of ideas. Can you expand on that? What is advertising's issue with time in 2020?

Andy> In today’s highly-pressurised agency landscape, it’s almost impossible to grow without evolving to the new needs of marketers. Speed is of the essence as marketers demand constant content and award more assignments on a project basis. We often say: if you want to change the world, all you need is the right people and not enough time. While a bit tongue in cheek, we think there is a lot of truth to that. Especially with regards to marketing. We strongly believe that forced deadlines make us and our partners better. The shortening of the time involved with strategic and creative development is advantageous to the creative process. It bulldozes overthink, politics and groupthink which ultimately gets us to ideas faster, and in turn helps our client get to market faster. We believe some of the best ideas come early in the creative development process, when it’s unencumbered by politics, overthink, etc. The issue of time is that it can become a distraction. And at Fortnight we aim to give full service at full speed. We aim to keep creativity front and centre.

LBB> This all feeds into the agency's AdHack process. What inspired that? How is that your agency's differentiator?

Andy> The AdHack process was inspired by a few things. For starters, gut instinct. After working at a lot of big agencies with slow processes, I just thought there had to be a better way and so I started tinkering. Also, it was inspired by circumstance. At a previous agency we were doing a project with Michelle Obama’s team at the White House to help eradicate Childhood Obesity. As you can imagine, they were time starved. So, we went to the White House and did an all-day ‘hack’ with all the key stakeholders. It was all a bit of an experiment and the necessity of that specific project. We walked out of there and thought, this works. As time went on, I kept playing with the process and here we are now. Three-and-a-half years later, we are hacking for all size clients. AdHacks are built around rapid cognition, because we believe that spontaneous ideas are often as good as, or even better than, overly produced ideas. It is our differentiator because it works on many levels. For us, we have the opportunity to make a lot of work and for clients, help them get to the heart of strategy and creative, fast. The AdHack process is usually accomplished in a two-week timeframe, aka a fortnight. 

LBB> Logistically, how does it work with current and prospective clients? Are they quite involved in the process? How important is that?

Andy> Our clients are not only involved in the process, they are critical to it. We are marketers, idea makers, thinkers, visionaries, but we couldn’t possibly know the intricacies of their business. This is where they make the biggest impact. Our desire is to get incredibly smart on every aspect of their business, and they are the enabler of knowledge. We find that bringing them on the journey is far better than surprising them with ideas that perhaps they were not expecting. We are at our best when we are shoulder to shoulder with our clients, sharing and collaborating every step of the way.

LBB> Which projects that you've worked on at Fortnight are you particularly proud of and why?

Andy> Really tough question. Of course, the polite thing to say is: we love all our babies equally. And it’s somewhat true. That said, some clients (rather than projects) rise to the top. Ultimately, it’s always great when clients want to be collaborative, need our help and are open minded to new ideas and thinking. We found Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt early on in our lifecycle and we’ve sort of grown up together as agency and brand. Working with them has been an amazing ride. And I love that they’ve recently moved their operations from Boston to Boulder.  We seem to be finding our stride with Odell Brewing Company right now, pumping out great work and fun projects; including the launch of the Odell Wine Project. Also, I love that after 10 years of collaborating on the Baby Carrots 'Eat 'em like junk food' campaign with the Bolthouse Farms CEO Jeff Dunn, we are developing a new marketing campaign with the California Carrot Advisory Board called 'Crunch Out', led by Bolthouse Farms and Grimmway Farms. There are also clients that do great work for society like EndCAN (The National Foundation to End Child Abuse & Neglect). Their work is really important and reminds us why we are in advertising. And I hold both Premier Lacrosse League and Vail Resorts close to my heart as they are both things that I’m passionate about in my personal life and it’s often work that I love sharing with my kids. And my kids also love product tasting the Yasso bars! Too many clients to mention. We are having lots of fun. 

LBB> You've worked at big shops like TBWA, CP+B and BBH – how did you get into the industry in the first place? Was it the plan or more of a happy accident?

Andy> Definitely a plan. I had an internship in college in finance at Smith Barney and knew pretty quickly that I wanted to work in a more creative industry. My sister worked at Ammirati Puris Lintas in New York and based on our conversations, advertising seemed to be a good path for me. And if that didn’t seal it, watching Nike’s ‘I Can’ spot with Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony track sealed it for me. Once I saw that, I was hooked on advertising. 

LBB> What's the most exciting thing about advertising today? 

Andy> Advertising is not as invasive and rule-ridden as it was years ago. It’s about shared experiences. Beyond just buying, and rather what you are buying into. Maybe my colleagues will give me a wrist slap, but the scrutiny of dollars can also be played into your favour. There is something akin to not enough time, where a fixed budget forces you to be incredibly resourceful, scrappy and nimble to make impact. The pebble in the pond effect. 

LBB>  And the most frustrating? 

Andy> Too much time, too many constituents, too much negativity. My belief: if you can’t say yes, you can’t say no.

LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why? 

Andy> In advertising, I’d have to say BBH’s Sir John Hegarty. Working at BBH NY was probably the most informative experience in my career and I learned a lot. Zigging when others zag. The primacy of the idea. Being nice AND good. Yet, what I loved the most was when Hegarty said: ‘Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.’ I try to subscribe to that philosophy every day. 

Outside of advertising I’d say Jerry Seinfeld & Tina Fey. I often joke that the world can be explained by two sitcoms: Seinfeld & 30 Rock. Both are beyond insightful, unpredictable, laughable and very incongruous much like life is. 

Work from Fortnight Collective
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