This Wednesday at our winter kickoff meeting, we had the immense pleasure of hosting two amazing speakers from Wexley School for Girls, an ad agency that’s one of the coolest on the West Coast, and, as their website points out, “PROBABLY THE BEST AGENCY IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM.” They’ve created campaigns for everyone from Nike to Sephora, and all those Seattle Sounders scarves? Yeah, that’s them. Needless to say, it was a packed room.
Just in case you missed it, here’s what we learned.
The following recap has been lightly edited for length.
Speakers: Nick Minnott (Senior Account Manager), Claire Tannler (Account Manager)
What makes Wexley School for Girls so unique?
Nick: Our founders believed that creativity should drive any communication plan, and we aim to create fans for brands instead of customers.
Wexley considers itself a fan factory, so it is our core belief that what we are trying to do is build a fanbase for a brand. Fans spend more, they are ambassadors, and advocates. They spend more on you because they believe in your product and your values. They’re talking to their friends, posting on Facebook, and they’re so much more likely to spread the word with authentic testimonials.
So how do you actually create work that creates fans?
Claire: It’s not exactly a linear process—but the general process is as follows:
The discovery phase: In this phase, we figure out what the client is all about, what they want to accomplish, and we do a TON of research to figure out what we need to do for them. This stage largely dependent on strategy.
The ideation phase: This is where the creative gets to shine. We have presentations, we collaborate closely with the client to narrow down to exactly what they want.
The execution phase: this is when things come to life. When I was an account coordinator, we finished up one of the biggest campaigns I’d been a part of for Darigold: there were so many components from huge billboards to magazine print ads, and I got to see a print ad live in a magazine and FREAKED out to my hairdresser in Portland. And being in Seattle, I get to see Wexley creative every day, on tv or in a radio ad, and it’s so fun.
The measurement phase: We develop certain metrics and goals throughout the process so we can take a look at the end and optimize for the next time around.
We also got a peek behind the scenes of a few Wexley campaigns—first up, Planned Parenthood.
Nick: A local chapter of Planned Parenthood wanted people to be aware that they offered more than just sexual health services—actually, you can get everything from flu shots to primary care. So our job was to show how PP could be your go-to for any health need. We needed really relatable people telling an authentic story, and we needed to give a little nudge to how people usually see Planned Parenthood, like, “hey, we’re more than that.” We knew casting was going to be super important to this, so I flew out of Seattle at 6 a.m., drank so many lattes that day, and casted the heck out of this thing in L.A. The next day, we had a 12-hour shoot and the next day I had a 7 a.m. flight out of LAX. It was a quick job, but we’re really happy with how it turned out.
It ran on Hulu and on Facebook, and it was actually so well received at Planned Parenthood that the Orange County chapter licensed it and ran it themselves.
They also created some magic with a campaign for Nordstrom Rack.
Claire: So here’s the situation—Nordstrom Rack has insane growth, opening dozens of new stores every year, and they needed surprise-and-delight tactics for their stores in new markets, especially those who weren’t really aware of the brand. On the east coast, for example, we were going up against TJ Maxx and Marshalls, which had huge presence in the area. Our goals were to create excitement before grand opening, execute tactics that can be replicated across multiple markets, and drive foot traffic and sales during grand opening weekends.
For example, in Reno and Miami, we did guerrilla style pop-up fashion shows throughout the cities. In Charleston, with Operation Fashion Drop, we had drones deliver luxury handbags to the front porches of individual winners.
Finally, in New York, we wanted to target the locals…so we went to wear the locals were, and filmed it.
Nick: Who wouldn’t want to win a whole new wardrobe when you go to the laundromat?
And of course, we had to open it up for a little Q&A.
How do you come up with your crazy ideas?
Claire: It’s super collaborative. We brief the creative team on the ask, the objective(s), what we need to ultimately fulfill for the client, then they come back with a million awesome, crazy creative ideas. From there, we have internal meetings where we narrow it down to the top five or three overarching campaign ideas and that’s how we end up choosing our final campaign. It could even be outside the box of the original brief—like let’s say, we’re just supposed to come up with an integrated campaign for tv, out of home, and radio, but we also come in with additional activation ideas. It just helps to show that we’re thinking about it holistically, showing that we’re actually out of the box thinkers instead of just task-doers.
Is your job a 9-5?
Claire: Technically, our hours are 9-5. But you’ll find yourself working late on a big project, or at other times it’s way less busy. It also depends where you are in a campaign process—during the ideation phase when the creatives are making their magic, it’s more hands-off.
Nick: You might not be traveling all over the country either, but we do try to get as much face time with clients as possible. That in-person face to face experience is just so much better than a conference call and trying to stay on the same page of the slide deck over the phone, in our opinion.
What personal traits drew you to this role and make you a good fit?
Claire: I think being a people person helps, having a positive solution seeking attitude helps. And you have to able to have the hard conversations when you need to, so I find my communications skills are really important. Also, attention to detail is so important in this job, because you can’t miss the tiniest thing.
Nick: I’d say you have to be candid and develop great relationships—that’s one of the things I think we’re both good at, is forming those meaningful relationships with our clients. It helps make those hard conversations just a little bit easier.
Finally, what’s up with the pickles and Pilates tabs on your website?
Nick: There’s really nothing significant about it except that it’s funny. Ian [one of our founders] was just really into pickles.