Sam Ball and Dave Bedwood, the joint creative directors of Lean Mean Fighting Machine, have earned a reputation for being one of most exciting creative duos in advertising. And not just in the relatively small world of online advertising.
When Ball and Bedwood left Tribal DDB in February 2004, their intention was simple. They wanted their agency to produce the best online advertising in the world. Not only that, but they wanted their work to be judged against the best traditional agencies could produce too.
With a D&AD silver Pencil, a Clio, a BIMA and a One Show award to their names, they're on the right track. In fact, they began their careers in traditional advertising, as freelancers at the likes of M&C Saatchi and Springer & Jacoby, and their approach to online advertising is no different.
"There's something about the spirit of Sam and Dave," David Eastman, the managing director of rival Agency.com, says. "I admire the passion they inject into their work, and I can't help but admire their audacity."
In 2004, Lean Mean Fighting Machine made some of the online campaigns of the year. Not only for AOL, with a business-to-business campaign that extolled the virtues of online advertising, a subject close to their hearts.
But the agency's "It's time to fly United" campaign for United Airlines received higher praise, and was cited as one of the best examples of what can be achieved creatively online.
This year, a campaign for Eyeblaster has already won admirers, and a dose of controversy has spiced up its appeal.
The campaign, to promote the rich-media technology company's ability to carry ads of unlimited file size, featured a human turd next to the tagline: "Eyeblaster (Don't waste it.)." The Guardian and Haymarket, Campaign's publisher, duly banned it from their websites, so it was replaced by a rotating turkey.
More campaigns for United Airlines, including a brand push that involved creating 150 ads (each depicting a different US airport) and a multi-digital platform effort for the International Herald Tribune have proved that Ball and Bedwood can consistently deliver quality work.
Their contemporaries think so, too. In a Campaign peer poll of the online advertising industry earlier this month, Ball and Bedwood topped the list, seeing off the likes of glue London's Seb Royce and Dare's Flo Heiss.
So what's the secret to their art? In an essay they wrote for Campaign this year, Ball and Bedwood argued the case for the banner ad. "The purpose of the banner is to grab attention, capture imagination and say the right thing about the product," they wrote. "It's our job to do the same thing, not with the luxury of a poster or a double-page spread, but in a format the size of a midget's bookmark."
"Consider this," they concluded. "If David Abbott had been born a quarter of a century later, and ended up writing 'management trainee' for The Economist in 2010, his words would have been housed within a banner and no less impressive because of it."
CV February 2004: They leave Tribal DDB to launch Lean Mean Fighting Machine with Tom Bazeley as the managing partner and Dave Cox as the technical director January 2004: The creative duo are earmarked as Campaign Faces to Watch 2001: Ball and Bedwood appointed creative directors at Tribal DDB 1999: Advised by Steve Henry at HHCL to try online so, new to the internet, they try working at Tribal DDB 1998: Ball and Bedwood graduate from Bucks College. They join the freelance circuit, working at agencies including M&C Saatchi and Springer & Jacoby in Hamburg