How creative agency 18 Feet & Rising keep things exciting and avoid ‘safe’
Soon after its founding in 2010, 18 Feet & Rising became one of the fastest-growing independent creative agencies in London. Set up by former DDB account manager Jonathan Trimble, its client roster includes House of Fraser and Škoda, alongside a dedicated workforce of 48. As the first UK agency to gain B Corporation status, which recognises socially focused companies, their team benefits now boast a whopping 37 days of holiday and mindfulness training. Founder and CEO Jonathan talks us through its evolution so far, and the challenging task of capturing an audience’s attention in a world where “people don’t like adverts”.
I had always wanted to start an agency because I was inspired by the boundaries. I got to the stage where I'd worked for a lot of great creative agencies and there were no new ones coming up that I wanted to work for. There were a lot of big, good agencies but typically they become more corporate over time. We really wanted to be as young and crazy as possible and then see what would happen next. We’re still in the middle of that experiment.
Since the studio was founded we’ve seen a blurring of the line between above-the-line film and content delivered solely online. Film is the thing that crosses that divide, and that’s what we deal in mostly now. We used to do a lot of print and posters, but that's really dropped off, which is a shame because that kind of art direction and those kinds of disciplines really help a brand's voice.
Essentially people don't like adverts, we still feel like we are intruding on their attention, so our approach is: if we're gonna have 30 seconds with you we will treat the time with as much respect as we possibly can. We’re always wrestling with the space and trying and do something interesting, and if our work becomes safe we change it.
Our work is primarily in advertising, design and digital. We’re unique in that both strategic (planning) and creative departments (both writers and design) get going on a project as soon as the client or brand brief is clear. Once early-stage concepts are ripe enough, we involve third-party production collaborators.
In terms of our output, our highlights from the past year include the Christmas campaign for House of Fraser, brand work for National Trust and a hard-hitting campaign for Gamble Aware. We are constantly running self-initiated projects, ranging from music videos to short films and kids’ books; the most recent is the March for Giants initiative to help the plight of elephants globally. Online and on our website, it’s really hard to represent all that goes on in the company, mainly because things move so fast and are constantly changing.
“Essentially people don’t like adverts, so our approach is: if we’re gonna have 30 seconds with you we will treat the time with as much respect as we possibly can.”
A team on any given project will classically be made up of a lead creative, strategist and an account person, often a lead producer as well. We rarely use freelancers, but if we do, it will be for production and design. All work is then filtered through the partners, signed off by the creative partner, strategy partner and CEO.
When we’re adding to the team, we look for creative passion and people willing to work hard to achieve something unique and different. We keep things very much focused on the quality of our product. As a team we get to eat together all the time, alongside sister agencies and studios within the group, as there is a Sky Bar on the fifth floor of our building. And our Christmas party is fairly wild, involving two days and two nights, usually abroad.
As a certified B Corporation, we have a huge charter of employee benefits, including 37 days of holiday, a week’s paid volunteering, great maternity and paternity leave (six months’ full pay, dads get four weeks), alongside training in mindfulness and nutrition programmes. High-performing staff are also given stock options in the company, so ownership is shared between the leadership, staff and investors.
If your primary output is advertising, Soho has an important energy – partly due to its history and partly because of the area’s creative uniqueness and buzz. Inside the studio, music is always on. We’re very lucky to have RockCorps as one of our clients, who produce very high-profile concerts (where the only way to get a ticket is to do four hours of volunteering) and they also handle all of our playlists – the results are eclectic but always fantastic. Our desks are bespoke, hand built and spacious; they can also be lined up so that we can work close to one another when in teams. We have a lot of dark-stained wood, so it feels quite serious. It’s the opposite of primary colours, beanbags and fussball tables…but we do have an office dog.
Photography by Jake Green
Interview by Indi Davies
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