A new agency puts writers at the core of its business » strategy

Tech exec Jason Fried once wrote, “If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position hire the best writer… Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.” The co-founders of upstart creative agency AndSo would agree with that sentiment.

The skill co-founders Jake Bogoch and Shawn Topp feel is essential and agency overlooked in the ad business. To develop creative for clients, the agency employs a writer’s room assembled from a pool of talents ranging in expertise that includes a Pulitzer Prize finalist and novelist (though they wouldn’t name names), as well as talents, food and non-fiction writers , and even screenwriters.

“We think writing has been devalued for years and have been working in big companies that don’t have many writers, frankly,” explains Bogoch, who also serves as the agency’s CD. Before starting AndSo, he was a creative director at The&Partnership. “Our model is to employ more writers than a company two or three times our size. We’ve structured it this way because we feel it’s more important – everybody is trying to write, and we think it’s a dog fight for talent and to be seen and heard and stand out.”

A driving factor for the agency’s model was an insight that “the needs of and opportunities for clients go far beyond these days,” he adds. This is especially true with respect to writers: “The needs for writing have expanded exponentially and there’s so many specialists out there. There’s brand journalism, stunts, writing for growth and the web, advertising – we thought, we need to concentrate on the skill. Writing is a core skill that creative agencies need to deliver to clients, because quite often, brands are asking for more beyond advertising.”

The agency employs writers across its disciplines, from advertising and branding to content strategy and user experience. The latter is an area of ​​business that AndSo calls “writing for growth,” says Topp, and the agency currently works with both Telus and RBC in that capacity. Topp, who is also the agency’s strategy director, spent the five years before AndSo as the principal at content design firm Outskirts.

“Over the past five years, in web development and design, writing has really come to sit equally at the table with design and development. Before, it was an aesthetic experience or development exercise and writing was a secondary piece – you could use lorem ipsum, but that doesn’t really work now,” he explains. “We see that as an opportunity. Content strategy is such a huge, important piece of how brands communicate online, and how a website or digital experience really unfolds.”

The agency has a full-time headcount of five, four of whom have a writing background, Bogoch says. It also employs an ad hoc team of writers that it brings in on projects based on client needs, and has also worked on projects for the World Wildlife Fund (in partnership with Makers), eCapital (in partnership with The Deli), Loblaws and US psychedelic mental health company Novamind, among others.

“If a person comes up in the ad business, they know how to make the spot – how to make that tidy thing. But does it really connect? By working with novelists, we bring in the perspective of someone who is competing for attention and interest and can invent anything he wants,” explains Bogoch. “He doesn’t subscribe to the blogs that we read. He doesn’t know what all of the brands are doing. We see that as a tremendously important quality.”

The model is possible because “we don’t have a baseline we have to get back to,” he adds.

“We’re not trying to cast doubt on other people, but we’re doing it in our own way,” Bogoch explains. “The output is still the same – brands want to do experiential things, commercials, stunts or growth writing, or whatever else. We just have a different way of arriving at those results.”


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