Think like an entrepreneur not Mad Men/Women

As Cannes Lions are handed out this week, Ash Ringrose from Soap – Linked by Isobar, asks the industry: why are we more focused on boosting our egos than the bottom line?

The recent coverage of all the scam work coming out just in time for Cannes begs the question: why aren’t agency heads angry at the wasted potential and more focused on ideas that make their agency rich, rather than famous?

I think we should invest those valuable hours in creating the next billion dollar company like AirBNB not the next Smart Thong that tells you when the surf is good.

ashley ringrose - soap creative

Awards have their value but that value to an agency and its staff is limited. After a few months, everyone has forgotten and you find yourself chasing the next award for that high. Maybe awards are used to attract talent to the agency? But that talent wants to win more awards. It’s a vicious cycle.

One that costs agencies hundreds of thousands a year in time, external costs and entry fees.

My reason for writing this isn’t to poop on agencies doing scam work but to inspire them to put that effort into something else, something that if successful can generate revenue and then hopefully sustain itself.

Mad Men

Think like an entrepreneur not Mad Men/Women.

In 2013 we stopped using our down-time creating mobile games (which as a small nimble agency wasn’t much time at all and resulted in two mobile games for ourselves in five years) and backed ourselves with a dedicated games studio called SMG Studio.

We put four of our team and gave them the freedom to make whatever games they wanted.

SMG Studio Ash Ringrose Soap

The studio now employs 13 people full-time and the five games released in the past three years have generated 20 million downloads. More importantly, SMG is now Soap’s biggest client. That’s something I’m really proud of because clients can be fickle and global pitches can result in you losing a client for no fault of your own. We’re not looking to fire ourselves anytime soon.

The time, effort and budget to do this is less than what some agencies spend on award entries to Cannes in one year alone.

The goal of SMG was to build a sustainable mobile games studio that also had tangible benefits to Soap as an agency. This is millions of dollars in revenue, expanded skills sets and experiences for the team and in-depth knowledge of the mobile scene which is an ever growing and evolving space that none of our competitors can match us on.

It also delivers the satisfaction of creating your own IP and having full creative freedom for your team.

This has boosted the team much more than a piece of metal ever did. For me personally, getting our first million downloads on a game was more validating than any of the hundreds of awards we’d won in the past.

cannes lion grand prix

Running our own games studio has given us the latitude to hire people who’d normally never step foot in an ad agency. They don’t know or care what a Cannes Lion is.

A similar example is Threadless.com. Its founders launched the site originally as a side project to their web design company Skinny Corp. Within two years Threadless dominated their business and they stopped outside work and since have grown Threadless into selling more than one million tee-shirts a year with revenue more than $30 million USD.


So if you work at an agency ask yourself ‘why aren’t we just doing that great idea we had but the client didn’t buy for ourselves?’ And if you are the boss of an agency ask yourself why your team is focused on boosting their ego more than your bottom line.

It could be a games studio like we did, or maybe you’ll produce a TV series or film?

threadless_How_to_direct-a short film

Or start a coffee brand or fashion label. Or even just a podcast that generates millions of viewers each week. Whatever it is, it’ll probably be more worthwhile and satisfying than a scam piece of work you hope won’t be called out by the press.

Hey, you might even be able to enter it into various awards if it’s successful.

Ash Ringrose is a founder of Soap – Linked by Isobar and SMG


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