By David Angelo, David&Goliath/Los Angeles
It was the summer of 2007, the economy was starting to tighten up, and we had just invested an enormous amount of time and money on three huge pitches—a win would have changed the dynamics of our agency in more ways than one.
We were the dark horse in each review, the challenger brand that most clients are intrigued by but rarely have the guts to go with. We loved the work we presented—we just needed a brave client to step up and buy it.
Needless to say, all three clients went with the predictable agency and the work ended up being exactly what you’d expect. However, the setback gave birth to something far greater than billings.
It was at that moment we decided in order to be successful, we needed to truly embrace our name, David&Goliath, and our challenger spirit. After looking deep inside we found one word that sums up what we’re all about. Something that comes right out of our DNA: Brave.
Brave is more than a word—it’s an irrefutable truth. A truth that gives you permission to believe that if you face your fears, anything is possible. Brave isn’t about charging blindly down a hill wielding a huge sword—it’s about outwitting the competition, being nimble, scrappy, and relentless.
So we decided to fully embrace “brave” and give it more meaning than ever before. We started putting everything we do through a “brave” filter.
First, we created a new website—it’s very different and purposely designed to attract a certain type of employee and client. In other words, if you don’t get it, then we’re probably not right for you. And we’re okay with that.
As a reminder of our cause, we plastered our mission statement on walls in every workspace. Here we defined the two types of people in the world: those who are content with the status quo, and those who refuse to stay idle.
We redid our logo to support a braver tone of the brand. The stationary (your name here & Goliath) is customized to reflect that everyone is a “David” with Goliaths to slay.
We created swag that people would actually be proud to wear. Buttons, stickers, caps, hoodies—we even created military-style badges that are awarded for extreme acts of bravery.
This brave philosophy has been great for morale on many fronts. Planners added brave criteria for all their briefs. HR stepped up and endorsed our brave initiation process where new hires had to participate in random acts of bravery.
Our lobby displays “The Wall of Goliaths” where every staff member has their biggest fear framed as a daily reminder to conquer it. Some employees have already defeated their Goliath. One employee took on his fear of marathons and completed the Boston Marathon. His numbered bib is now proudly taped over his former fear. Simply, the more we turned up the brand, the more people got involved. Further proof that we were on the right track. Because brave is more than solving the toughest marketing challenges, it’s about living it 24/7.
To launch all of this, we threw a huge party. Attendance of over 500 included many actors, musicians, and creative types. Naturally, the theme was “brave” and guests were asked to face several stages of fear including lie detector tests, speed dating, and eight-foot pythons, just to name a few. Even Ron Jeremy and his entourage paid us a visit to see what the hell it was all about. The invitation came in the form of a waiver of liability, which attendees had to sign to release the agency from any potential injuries incurred.
This mindset has become bigger than an internal mantra. Brave encourages people to live beyond their comfort zone and make a difference. In fact, we believe that if everyone adopted a braver approach to daily life, the world would be a better place, which is why we created the Brave Alliance (bravealliance.org).
The Brave Alliance LLC is a non-profit organization dedicated towards making the world a better place by encouraging people to be brave. Here we band together with like-minded artists and organizations in an effort to raise funds for noteworthy causes. Although still in its infancy, the Brave Alliance has already started working on various projects.
After a visit to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles, we discovered there are more than 70,000 homeless living on the streets. While it might be easy to ignore this, we found we could not. We joined forces with the Weingart Center, a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping the homeless break the cycle and get back on their feet again. We began a project to encourage pedestrians to imagine themselves homeless, if only for a moment. First we enlisted the help of renowned photographer Ewan Burns to photograph the homeless. Each homeless person held a handwritten sign that read, “Before you turn away, put yourself in my place. Weingart.org.” Then we enlarged the images to life-size and made them into photo-realistic cardboard cutouts. We cut out their faces and positioned them on populated street corners, upscale shopping centers and in front of stores. As pedestrians interacted with the cutouts, the homeless crisis could no longer be ignored.
While the project brought awareness and ultimately funds to the cause, we were emotionally rewarded as well. As we interacted with the homeless and photographed them, we were embraced with warm smiles and tears of joy. A 73-year-old homeless woman named Loretta validated our efforts further by saying that “helping us with this project was the reason she was still on this earth.” With this project, our advertising did not simply move people to try a new consumer product. Rather we moved people to look inside themselves and think of this issue with a brave new perspective.
Another project of ours was a vote initiative for the past election. Clearly, there was much
riding on November 4th. We could either sit and hope for the best, or inspire people to get off their couches and go vote. So we collaborated with XLR8R
magazine and created a non-partisan poster in the hopes of reminding a young and jaded audience how much was truly at stake with the ’08 election.
This last Christmas, the Brave Alliance adopted an elementary school in South Central LA. Together we played a huge role in collecting over 250 gifts for these underprivileged students. It was a surge of holiday spirit and merriment through giving to others that brought even more unity to our agency and alliance.
Currently, the Brave Alliance is collaborating with musician and board member, Dave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics) on a documentary to launch an album for female rap artist, Nadirah X.
These are just a few examples of what a meaningful philosophy can do to inspire an organization, regardless of the economic condition. Brave has given us focus, a grander sense of purpose and meaning. It makes us feel like we’re part of creating something much bigger than an ad agency. Further proof that there’s nothing more powerful, nor more rewarding than when you embrace who you are.
Because the way we see it, nobody ever became great without first being brave.
And with a name like David&Goliath, how could you not?