Creating Balance in a Creative Industry

As a 13-year-old girl, I always wanted the ability to fly. Then I’d be able to go to the beach during the muggy Michigan summers without begging my mom to drive me there. I used to spend the weekends sleeping until noon not knowing what to spend my abundance of time on. Now I’m 26-years-old and scrambling to find enough of it.

Nowadays, I’d love to have a time machine instead. One that I could pause at will. I would use it to get Laundry Mountain off my bed without interfering with my Sunday family lunch. I could free up some time to mow my lawn that is taller than I care to admit. Then, I could finally put to use that haunting gym tag that’s hanging on my car keys.

Running out of time has a domino effect on our lives. Sometimes it feels like there is no stopping it.

At Faktory, we value dedication to our work as well as thriving in our personal lives. These are a few ways we try to incorporate “balance” into our vibrant schedules.

Be Realistic

We were designed to require rest. We need to do things that give us life and joy. Our to-do list might not always get done. But, do we ever ask ourselves if it was doable in the first place? We aren’t robots, so we can’t expect to function like them.

Strive for excellence in your day, not perfection.

Be Picky

Identify who and what matters to you on a daily basis. It’s easy to get distracted when we are spread thin. It takes a while to decide what is worth sacrificing to make time for something, or someone, more important. Decide what is important to you. This is crucial to prioritizing and trimming activities that are making your dominoes fall.

Be Organized

It’s hard to know how to find the balance in our time if we don’t even know what we spend our time on. Think big picture. Discover how much time you spend in all areas of your life. Decide which areas are lacking and the ones that have too much attention. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and neither do minutes. Treat your time like you would money – make a budget and stick to it.

Be Intentional

Give your care and attention to where you are in every moment. It’s hard to be intentional if we are constantly just trying to get the next thing done. Allow yourself to be present by removing distractions. Put your to-do list away.

Be Humble

It’s hard to admit that we can’t be everything to everyone and that we will have to let some things go. We’re only human. We have limits. The sooner we communicate our expectations of each other and ourselves, the sooner we can accept the fact that those limits exist.

The reality is that we don’t have a contraption that gives us control over how the world spins around the sun. We have the time we are given. It’s our most valuable resource and it seems to be the only one we can’t get more of. However, we can spend our time more wisely and begin to understand more of what “balance” means.

For the record, I still can’t fly.


A short, (mostly) fascinating history of Faktory

If all of history were one long movie, it would be extremely monotonous. The exciting parts would be few and far between, with the majority of the movie being of workers stuck in traffic during their commutes, kids sitting in school, and hour after hour after hour of people sleeping. No Oscars being won there, for sure. Faktory’s history is no different. Sure, we have our red carpet moments. But if you were to watch a day of our story, it would consist of pounding out emails at our desks, working through hours-long meetings with clients discussing strategy and Friday all-agency lunches. (Okay, our Friday lunches tradition here is actually pretty exciting.)

Like all great accomplishments, though, the seemingly mundane parts of our history are what have brought about the moments of glory. For example, as two lone creatives back in 2005 without even a name for our fledgling agency, we would have never landed one of the nation’s most respected healthcare systems without the countless hours at McDonalds or the library — we didn’t have office space yet — generating ideas to pitch. Finally renting our first offices, then our second, then our third, and then buying and renovating our own 10,000+ square foot building — none of that happens without tens of thousands of client calls, hundreds of hours doing media strategy and untold weeks on TV shoots.

The accomplishments are the highlight reel portions of our history, and those are called out below. But we’re most proud of having a culture and people focused on putting in the Serena Williams-Lebron James-Lionel Messi type of work it takes to achieve greatness for our clients. And that might actually be our most impressive accomplishment.

A very brief Faktory history

2005: Richard (art director) and Bryant (copywriter) decide to form their second agency after “learning a lot” with two other partners in a previous agency. They get invited to pitch IHC, one of the nation’s leading healthcare systems. They win the pitch and celebrate by coming up with “Factory” as their new agency name, soon changed to “Faktory” because Richard likes how the “k” can make two smoke stacks in a logo. Faktory rebrands IHC as “Intermountain Healthcare.” Intermountain continues today as one of Faktory’s largest and most valued clients.

2006–2007: Faktory moves into office spaces in Clearfield, Utah, North Davis County’s hotbed of advertising (ok, that part is a blatant lie). Faktory lands America First Credit Union, one of the nation’s largest credit unions. Faktory begins doing pro-bono work with Catholic Community Services, Utah’s most trusted resource for refugees and the homeless. Faktory begins winning awards.

2008–2010: Faktory continues to grow in work with both Intermountain and America First. It also adds Manhattan-based ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Bureau) as a client, which involves a lot of traveling to New York and playing video games, both of which the partners are fine with. They add other clients, including Sinclair, Nature’s Way and the LDS Church. New office space is acquired, slightly larger than the first (which isn’t saying much). Faktory wins even more awards.

2011–2012: Faktory adds Dominion Energy to its client roster. It tackles the unique task of convincing consumers to buy less of its client’s product (energy conservation). Faktory also adds the Utah Jazz as a client, helping brand the NBA franchise. Faktory employees begin to tell people they now hang out with NBA players, which is technically true because hey, photo shoots. Faktory moves to its first stand-alone building in Layton, Utah. Services get added. Employees get added. More clients get added, including work for Children’s Miracle Network and Mountain America Credit Union. Oh, and Faktory wins yet more awards.

2013–2015: Faktory adds WCF Insurance (Utah’s largest workers compensation insurance provider) as a client, re-imagining its “Be careful out there” brand. Faktory also adds other clients including Resource Management, a regional HR firm, and Durci Chocolates, a specialty chocolatier. As Faktory continues to grow, the partners begin to search for a building to purchase. Oh, and did we mention the awards?

2016: Getting this out of the way, more awards. Faktory brings on Ken Garff Automotive as a client. Ken Garff is one of the nation’s largest auto dealers and one of Utah’s most recognized brands. The partners also find a building to purchase in Centerville, Utah, just 10 minutes north of downtown Salt Lake City. More employees join the Faktory team.

2017: Faktory moves into its new digs in Centerville, having taken an old real estate office and made it into an agency dream space. Growth continues as Faktory adds Ivanti, an international security software firm, to its client list. More employees are brought on. More services are added. Oh, and awards.

2018: Faktory adds BD Medical to its client list. BD is one of the world’s largest medical products manufacturers. Plans are made to take over the entire 10,000+ square feet of the Faktory-owned building, with renovation to start in July. Growth. Client success. More growth. Happiness. Awards. More happiness.


Our Own Gold Medal Olympic Performance

The Olympics are about competition. They’re about gold medals, clutch performances and wiping away tears through the national anthem. They’re about sponsorships. Wait, what? Yep, the golden opportunity to associate your organization’s name with the world’s most iconic and honorable — closing our eyes to the figure skating judging scandals and teams shooting steroids — athletic competition. And when you pay for your sponsorship, you deserve to be recognized for it.

 

For the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics, that was our responsibility: ensure sponsors received the recognition for which so many corporate dollars had been sacrificed. As a young group of advertising executives at a small agency in Utah, this was our Michael Phelps moment. The eyes of the world were upon us; okay, not the eyes of the world, but definitely the eyes of the sponsors who shelled out the money for recognition. So, we launched into it like Shaun White launches off the lip of a half pipe (unfortunately, without the flowing red locks).

2002 Winter Olympics, Opening Ceremonies (Credit: Steve Greenwood Photography)

Mark Spitz, renowned for his swimming gold medals and his rowdy moustache, once said, “If you’ve failed to prepare, you’ve prepared to fail.” So, like any dedicated Olympian or agency overseeing Olympic sponsorship recognition, we knew our success would start long before the actual games. We began planning meetings with marketing executives from the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Panasonic and Samsung (shameless name drop). Where should logos and signage be placed in-venue based on attendee traffic patterns? What local, national and international media would be used for recognition? Which organizations should be most prominent based on spending levels and sponsorship tiers? We felt like Simone Biles: 12 hours a day of Olympic preparation. (Note: at the time we didn’t know we felt like Simone Biles, because she was only 4 in 2002. But looking back, we definitely felt like Simone Biles.)

Then the Games began. We had curves thrown at us, even though baseball hadn’t yet been reinstated as an Olympic sport. But we managed them well. There were moments we doubted our abilities to pull it all off, much like we’re certain Rulon Gardner doubted he could beat Alexander Karelin. There were long hours walking venues checking placements, and longer evenings putting together emergency ads or signage. And somehow fitting in work for other clients in between it all. Of course, it wasn’t all labor. There was the occasional perk of attending an event for free with our special venue passes. We’ll never forget watching that hockey game between Canada and Finland. Or was it Canada and Switzerland? (Our passes weren’t of a high enough level to get us into any of the really popular events.)

2002 Winter Olympics, Skyline (Credit: Deseret News)

After all was said and done, those marketing executives from the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Panasonic and Samsung (in case you missed the first name drop) left the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics with smiles on their faces. Sure, those smiles might have partially been due to the amazing skiing they did here in Utah, the excellent seats they had at events (sponsors had much higher-level passes), or their visit to Mormon Temple Square. But, there was no question in our minds those smiles existed mostly because they were recognized for being part of a successful Olympics. Which meant, like team USA that year, we had a successful Olympics, too.


Victors from the Super Bowl’s Battle of the Brands

If there’s one thing better than the big game, it’s being the judge and jury for the commercials. It takes months for an agency to produce a TV spot, and only seconds for us to decide the fate of their work. According to our crew, these guys did it right.

Tide, “It’s All the Tide Ads”

Tide’s approach to the Super Bowl was an avalanche of awesome. At first, it was a fun play on trite commercials, followed by piggybacking on iconic brand identities that are also members of the P&G fam. By the end of the game, it had everyone guessing which commercial might also be a Tide ad. Poor, poor Persil.

 

Amazon, “Alexa Loses Her Voice”

Recent campaigns for Amazon’s Alexa are :15 commercials. They tossed aside brevity, and showcased a whopping :90 spot. It was worth every million. It was a spot with a simple premise and packed with unexpected celebrity personalities. However, we will dock this spot .01 points for a missed opportunity to utilize Tom Hardy and his inability to enunciate.

 

Doritos & MTN Dew, “Tongue Twisters”

Good riddance to 2017’s puppybabymonkey. In an ad of redemption, the Dew-v-Doritos spot was flawlessly bizarre. The execution here made all the difference. The juxtaposition of actors and artists was an excellent choice. Anyone with the ability to lip sync to Busta Rhymes is next level.

 

Tourism Australia, “Crocodile Dundee 2”

This spot was a payoff for a lot of ground work, including weeks of teaser ads for what appeared to be an actual movie. Just as the audience might have been chalking this up to just another film debut, it presented a twist. Plus, if it were a real movie, it would likely be terrible.

 

Avocados from Mexico, “#GuacWorld”

Adding avocado to anything is always extra. And this spot was extra. We’re not quite sure if the ideal world would only wear khakis, but we are convinced the perfect avocado would be included and worthy of pandemonium. Of course, a reference to avocado toast is also a directed wink at those coveted millennials.

https://youtu.be/ijVLdH5dt-c


The One Talent All Great Creatives (and people) Work to Develop

Faktory is the second agency we’ve owned. The first was a huge success, but not in the way most people define it. (By most measures, it might be defined as exactly the opposite of success.) We failed a lot more than we succeeded. Many of our decisions were questionable. We didn’t lead the company as we should have. But we learned, and that learning has helped Faktory fit into the more standard definition of success.

One personal failure I distinctly remember happened with a certain employee (I won’t use her name). She was an excellent designer; talented, hard-working, drama-free, etc. She was a valuable part of our company. At the time, we were struggling. The dot-com bust had just happened and, like many agencies, we were strapped.

With the financial stresses weighing heavily on my mind, one evening while working late I walked to the printer to retrieve something. There, sitting on our expensive large format printer was a number of freelance projects by this designer (who was also working late). She arrived as I stared at her projects and looked at me sheepishly, knowing she hadn’t gotten permission to use company assets for personal work. I don’t remember our conversation, but I do remember I chastised her quite harshly. I felt justified. We were watching every penny and she was using our printer for her personal projects, costing us money. Probably not coincidentally, she quit about a month later.

I’m sure I’ve had many less-than-stellar moments like that in my life. But this specific encounter has stuck with me because I later found out she was dealing with some hard things at home that made the personal projects (and her need for a way to print those projects) make sense.

I sat down to write about empathy being the one talent all great creative people work to develop. And I believe that. Effective, exceptional creative contains truths people relate to, and only empathy can help a writer or art director find those truths. But as I wrote, it felt too narrow. Empathy is a talent all great people work to develop, not just great ad people. Had I been seeking for the talent of empathy while standing at that printer, I would have handled the situation differently.

Empathy is what lets us step outside of our narrow, self-focused world and understand others. It helps us assume the best about people rather than the worst. Empathy allows our minds to be softened a little by our hearts. It makes us better humans.

The people I most respect in my life — both professionally and personally — work to obtain the gift of empathy. They don’t practice it perfectly, but they strive for it. They attempt to put themselves in others’ Vans, Tom’s or Nikes. It’s a talent that makes creatives better at their jobs, and all people better at life.


Ad agencies are always right. Except when they’re not.

“You’re right and we’re wrong,” said almost no advertising agency ever. It’s odd that we in advertising talk about being our clients’ partners (more on that cliché concept later) yet insist we’re always right. What kind of partnership is that? Would a marriage work that way? Would a business partnership? Heck, I can’t even be a good parent if I think I’m always right.

So where does this need to always be right come from? I postulate it’s the same place it comes from in any relationship: insecurity (probably mixed with a healthy dose of ego). Ad agencies are worried. The ground is shifting beneath them and they feel like “being the expert” is their only USP. And as “the expert,” you obviously can’t ever be wrong about anything. About a media plan. About a strategy. About what color the background in a photo should be. Nothing. What a huge mistake.

Yes, we’re experts. But so are our clients. We bring value from an outside perspective. A client brings value from an inside perspective. Both are important. Both need to be heard. It’s the melding of those two perspectives that leads to answers and success. A great agency isn’t afraid that a client might have a better idea than it does. Great agencies embrace brilliance no matter where it comes from. This doesn’t mean you roll over. It simply means you judge objectively. Best ideas win.

But what’s left for an agency then? Well, that brings us back to the partnership idea. Ad agencies constantly insist they’re “partners” with their clients. First, can we please stop using that cliché? It’s tired. But more importantly, it’s not enough. A partner still suggests two entities; there’s a division between two organizations that at times have opposing goals. Great agencies are more than partners with their clients. Great agencies are a part of their clients. There’s very little separation or distinction between the two. Examples? W&K and Nike. Chiat and Apple. If the company were a body, the agency would be an arm, not simply a tool the arm uses. Partnerships can separate and dissolve. But nobody wants to lose an arm.

Bringing these two thoughts together, what I’m really talking about is what DDB calls “co-creation.” Working together with clients as one in the development and execution of work under the premise that nobody has a monopoly on creative thinking. Everyone has roles, but those roles blur. Successful agencies are getting better and better at working this way. And successful companies are expecting this more and more of their agencies.