Last week a 30-man operation in Amsterdam stole a
multimillion-pound international launch account for the US telecom giant
Sprint right from under the noses of the world's big networks.
The dollars 24 billion company wants to launch the brand outside the US,
and create what some say is impossible to achieve: effective
The prospect should have had the networks rubbing their hands together
with glee - plotting ways to snatch the work before laughing all the way
to the bank. Instead, the joke was well and truly on them. They didn't
know about it. They weren't even approached.
The ridiculously named Strawberry Frog didn't enter an expensive pitch
process - the client came asking. Sprint had heard about Frog's
philosophy and bought it.
The agency started up two years ago with the aim to produce quality
cross-border work, without a cumbersome network. Founders Brian Elliott,
Karen Drakenberg and Scott Goodson had worked for the networks and
disliked the way these accounts were run.
Elliott and Goodson feel the majority of work produced for the
international market is bland and compromised. 'We are part of the most
over-communicated generation in history,' Elliott says. 'Agencies have
done their jobs too well - so you have to push the limits or change the
game completely. International ads seem to lend themselves to dumbing
down. The time these things take to get done by the networks is not good
This is the challenge that Frog wants to meet. But Elliott admits that
this has only been possible for a short time owing to technological
advancements and deregulation in Europe. To service international
clients creatively, they put together what they call a 'multicultural
agency' (14 languages are spoken at Frog) that, they say, can work
leaner and faster and beat the networks at their own game.
Frog relies on window sales and promotion to drive its new business.
At first it didn't go looking for clients but concentrated on getting
quality work out and letting it speak for itself. Now the agency talks
to brands that it feels matches its philosophy.
'Our simple idea is that in this world today there are frogs and
dinosaurs. Like David versus Goliath,' Elliott enthuses. It seems to
have worked, with clients such as Microsoft's MSN, Motorola's V-box and
Credit Suisse on its list.
The agency has no desire to be the biggest: 'It's not our ambition to
work with as many clients as we can get, just a small number of
prominent, ambitious brands which are passionate about branding across
borders. Beyond a certain size you become a different kind of place,'
Elliott says. He feels the largest Frog can get is up to 50 people.
Andrew Melsom, the managing director of the client-agency matchmaker
service, Agency Insight, says: 'I'm convinced that there will be
international campaigns that will be increasingly appealing to the mass
consumer. I fail to see why it is necessary to use different agencies in
every country, except for consultative research. That can easily be
organised within a network. Now you can go to a 'Strawberry Frog', and
with today's technology they could do it. I haven't seen it work yet but
I'm convinced that it will.'