You might not have heard of Standard Time, the L.A. based small agency headed up by Michael Sharp who does his name justice, but that would only be because they're too busy working to toot their own horn.
While you were pouring over various adnews, Standard Time nabbed a large national client in competition with agencies ten times their size. They were also working with major retailer CVS, Starbucks Doubleshot, Veggie Grill, Stila Cosmetics, Skullcandy Gamin, and they did work for DC Shoes, Williams Sonoma and Quiksilver. The work spans from perfected identity design to apps, digital sites and commercials airing on MTV, proving that each one of the people at Standard Time has many talents. They may only be nine people, but they're nine eclectically talented people.
"The best creatives aren't just one thing" explains Michael Sharp, "they're not just an Art Director, or only a Designer, they want to do more, learn more and know more. I don't hire people who think they are only a role, who can't fill other roles."
For a brief second I picture thousands of eager interns descending on Standard Time wanting to work for Michael after this quote is printed. So many creatives don't want to be stuck in a role, and this is particularly true of the new crop of graduates. This is, despite many out there nodding their heads in agreement, a very unusual approach in the end. To really allow creatives to be creative, encompassing many job descriptions, is a rarity. Before Michael became a creative, he studied business, but his family creative influence won over in the end. Everyone in his family, including his now wife, works as a visual creative from fine arts to fashion design. Michael can thus take one many roles too, understanding the business before he went on to study design.
Flexible people who can take on many roles, is this the key to land big projects, even when you're a small agency?
"Each agency is really 'a small agency' with a client. When I worked on Target, within large a agency, the Target team was still a small group within that agency. Standard Time is simply a small group for hire."
Proving that small agencies can take on big jobs, Standard Time handles CVS. There's also a lot of project work, which keeps them nimble. Are all agencies project agencies?
"Every agency is a project agency. If you don't deliver, you're done. You're only as good as your last ad."
So how does Standard Time approach a new client project? How do you get the long view vision for a brand when clients so often seems to forget this themselves?
"We do rewrite the brief, but we rewrite the brief together. We need to put a meaning behind the brand. "
Standard Time just moved offices in Los Angeles, from the beach to the heart of the latest L.A. creative neighborhood, District LaBrea, because they're growing and need more space. Michael picked the area because there are streets where you can walk, like a transplanted New Yorker would. A neighborhood where you can people-watch from cafés and see how the consumer actually interacts with the world. This may explain why all the work Standard Time has done, where design styles and target markets vary widely, all feels so very up to date and fresh. Everyone at Standard Time is out there, interacting with the real world where your consumers are and trends are happening, and not just hiding inside some design office all day.
Their Starbucks Evolution Fresh work shows how they've thought of everything from how a consumer sees a shop window when driving or walking past it, to how the consumer is lead through the juice-bar to experience the brand fully while selecting their drink. This also shows you that the devil is in the details, from chalk board like design on the windows, to concepting the path taken past the displays that explain what cold pressed juice really is and why it's better for you.
Standard Time is growing, because their ideas were already big, as big and burgeoning as the city of Los Angeles itself.
“There is no reason an agency cannot create films, products, and people can’t do multiple things,” says Mr. Sharp. “I don’t think you can just be one thing and add value to a client. In LA we can create, shoot, execute in two weeks on some projects. There is so much incredible creative talent here, probably more per square foot than anywhere else in the world. There are companies out here like New Generation Studios, Maker, and Fullscreen that have two to three hundred people working for them, solely to make content for YouTube. They didn’t exist a couple of years ago. What do they say about New York? If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
With L.A., the capitol of creativity freelance, Standard Time has the ability to pick a specialized crew for bigger projects, while still staying nimble with their core people. Not wasting overhead on late afternoon creative meetings to get approval from ten departments, and locating their office close to the action allows for a better life/work balance too. In short, there is nothing standard about Standard Time.