Todd Anthony | [Top Agency Series] Peddling Phone Books Door to Door in the Czech Republic to Advising Top Tier Brands

Todd Anthony 11:06

Well, I’ve always you know, like a lot of writers maybe if you interview you know other other writers in journalism or in copywriting, though, a lot of them will tell you like, they’ve always been writers, they’ve always enjoyed it. That’s always been part of kind of who they are. And that’s true for me. I was on the account side and I was jealous of the copywriters and I could see they were having a heck of a lot more fun than I was having. Pushing papers. So I decided to go to the Portfolio Center in Atlanta to put my copywriting book together. So I dragged my wife out there, quit McCann and dragged her out there. While I put my my copywriting book together.

John Corcoran 11:52

What is that Portfolio Center?

Todd Anthony 11:54

Yeah, so that is now called the Miami had school. But it was originally this place. That was when I went there. And 97 had already been around for 20 years and teaching people you know, copywriting design, art, direction, illustration, photography. Those were their primary programs. And so people who wanted to get into the Communication Arts would go there and pay them an ungodly sum of money to teach them how to how to do that.

John Corcoran 12:27

And just like a graduate degree in the creative arts. Exactly. You walk out of there with a, you know, portfolio that you can show and get work done. Yeah, kind of got it and and you. You also were at Ogilvy, which is one of the biggest names in advertising. What was that experience? Like?

Todd Anthony 12:52

I had been at Yahoo before I went to Ogilvy. And Ogilvy was they came in and basically took all our jobs. And we were given the opportunity to interview for them at Ogilvy. And so I did interview, I got the job, and I worked there for about five months. The thing about working there at that time, it was a brand new office in San Francisco was the second time they tried to open an office in San Francisco, they’re not there now. So that didn’t work out either. But that time we were working a lot of hours, because they didn’t want to scale too fast. The talent, they wanted to get a, you know, a good foundation of, you know, income generating business before they started to expand. So yeah, you know, do you know, 7080 9100 hour weeks?

John Corcoran 13:51

Yeah, that’s crazy. And y’all Whoa, you know, you were at Yahoo. In 2002, which is, you know, Yahoo started, what, 94, maybe 95, something like that. So still, kind of early days,

Todd Anthony 14:05

something like that. Yeah, it was still during the time when, you know, their brand was super strong. They had been doing some great advertising through black rocket back in the day. And you know, everybody sort of knew the Yahoo brand. And it was, it was this fun, exciting, irreverent brand that a lot of people wanted to work on it. So that’s why I went to work on

John Corcoran 14:31

that’s cool. bring us up to the present day. So Pinwheel Content, you start in 2014. How did that come about? How did you decide to go out and start your own agency?

Todd Anthony 14:42

Well, initially, I had been at a company called tr x training as the as the head of content for that and it’s a fitness brand. Basically. If If you know they’re these straps that are essentially they’re called suspension training. There are a lot of places now a lot of people have seen him. We we did. We did a lot of video work. And one of the people that I had done some work with there was a guy named Desmond Crone who was running the video team. And so we decided, together, they were going to go off and start an agency. Initially, that was called minty fresh. And it was a, it was an agency that was very video focused, we did a lot of video, video work because he was a video guy. And what I learned from that was that you have to be very careful who you partner with. And so he and I had very different views on what we wanted the agency to be. And, and he wanted to be huge, and I want it to be small, basically. And so I decided, at some point that this wasn’t going to work out, I sold him my shares of the business. And went and started Pinwheel. But before I tell you about Pinwheel, I mean, the reason why I decided to start an agency in the first place was because I had worked at so many agencies where I felt like they were just they were sort of doing a wrong like the model wasn’t right, white quite right. It wasn’t great for the clients, it wasn’t great for the creatives, it really wasn’t great for anybody. And part of the reason for that was because there was this intermediation between the creative and the client. And there was an intermediation between, you know, what, what the business objective was, and, and the creative. And so I felt like nobody was being served well, by this, by this model, having a count people in the middle, the creatives don’t talk to the client. And I felt like you know, in order to do really good creative, you have to really embrace what the client’s objectives are. And you have to really know the client like individually, to be able to create something that you know that they’re going to approve. But that’s also very good. That’s also great advertising, there has to be that relationship built. And it’s just very hard to do.

John Corcoran 17:23

Is that have you changed your opinion as your company? So where your company is now seven years old? Has your opinion changed at all on that?

Todd Anthony 17:35

No, no, in fact, I’m just even more strongly held, you know, that opinion. I feel like the better I know the client, the better I know, the more interaction I have with them, the more trust that’s built up between us also, that’s another part of it is they want to have a relationship with the creative, the creative wants to have a relationship with the client. And anything that’s that sort of separating those two parties is just not it’s not helpful in the process.

John Corcoran 18:10

Yeah. So what’s the solution for these larger agencies that do separated out have an account person and a creative person? Do you think that there’s a way that they could reconcile those two?

Todd Anthony 18:22

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that they need to, I think there’s a place for the account person, I really think the account person could be more strategy oriented, and less sort of project management oriented. There is a certain project management component that creatives would rather not rather not do and shouldn’t do. Right, it’s really not their forte, so that definitely still needs to be done. And the more you take that off the creator’s plate, the more they can focus on doing good work. That said, I think there’s an opportunity for account people who have a strategic mindset to go in and help the client think through what they’re doing, because a lot of what we see is, you know, clients who don’t necessarily know exactly what they want to do, but they know they have to do something and they know it’s due next Friday.

John Corcoran 19:21

Right. And that of course, what you’ve just described is you right, because you started on the count side and when the creative side. Yeah, right.

Todd Anthony 19:27

So a lot of times I do step in and you know, insert a lot of strategy thinking and that’s just something I do naturally because I’m like, well, we can’t do anything without you know. Yeah,

John Corcoran 19:40

sort of a focus. I’m fascinated by this because I feel personally like I am one part extrovert, a big part extrovert, but on the other side, I have it, you know, introverted tendencies. No one can graduate from law school without some introverted tendencies, which I did and Then also, I feel like there’s a creative side to me. And there’s more analytical side to me. So do you, would you describe yourself in those terms like that you kind of balance out the different sides to your personality. Yeah, I

Todd Anthony 20:11

mean, I’m, I’m more like, straight up introvert. Yeah. And definitely very analytical.

John Corcoran 20:19

But you have the ability to balance both creative. And, you know, the more project management inside it sounds like, yeah. And it has been hard for you to hire other people that have both sides of their personality that can do both.

Todd Anthony 20:35

Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely not as common, it’s easier to find people who are either creative or good with the project management side of things. There’s just two different sides of your brain. Yeah. And I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily like, Great at either. I mean, I have done great work. But it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of times the project management side is kind of a slog for me. And the creative side, you know, honestly, it can be very, very difficult and painful to I think it’s supposed to be. 

John Corcoran 21:12

And that’s part of the grading process, right? Or the process Exactly. bleed, somebody hate it and love it bleed out on the paper. We’re all masochist. Exactly. Tell me about experience. This is one of the interesting clients you’ve worked with, and take me through what you did with them as a client.

Todd Anthony 21:32

Yeah, I mean, experience been a great client. For us, I was just figuring out today, I think we’ve been working with them for four years now. Which is a good run for an agency to have, as you know, a client agency relationship is a good run. We started out working with their content team, and figuring out how to create a content engine. So you’ve got this huge need to put out lots of content, because you’re a big brand, how do you get enough good quality resources and a process that will ensure that you’re doing good work at a high level, good work at a high volume, I should say. So we created a team of what we have now is, I think, 12 to 14. writers who, who churn out content, maybe 100 articles for experience every month. Wow. And so that’s a pretty high volume. And now that we know how to do that we can create it at in more or less any level.

John Corcoran 22:41

So and you said, it’s really important for the people on the creative side to really get to know the client. And know, you know, in order to create content that is representative them, they need to get to know them. But on the other hand, I imagine your client experience doesn’t want to have hop on the phone every month, when if a new writer comes on board. How do you balance those two? Yeah? Well, that’s a good question. There’s

Todd Anthony 23:06

a lot of different ways that we that we balanced that one is that when you know, when we do have a writer who’s who’s working for us, and they have been aren’t on board it already is we allow that the client and them to work with, you know, in the document together. We don’t, you know, mediate that at all. That’s a direct thing. If there’s an issue, there never has been an issue. So, but if there is, you know, I’m sure there’s a way to handle that. In terms of onboarding. Guys, gosh, well, we, we provide all the information in terms of how to write for the brand. And then I work with that writer when they’re churning out their first article, to help nail the voice. So you know, ensuring that they’re hitting the voice. And also, you know, covering the topics to the same degree that our clients want them. You know, covered, they have high expectations. They are awesome editors over there. They’re really, really smart people who know the topic well. So first off, we hire people who are already creating content in the credit space. So that they know the area very, very well. And then we, you know, we, like I said, we work with them to make sure that they are up to speed. And if they don’t work out, then we just move on to somebody else. Right, right.

John Corcoran 24:37

Now, you’ve created all kinds of different content over the years. What are you watching as the content world develops right now? What areas what platforms? What types of content do you think is going to continue to be big or bigger? Yeah, I

Todd Anthony 24:57

don’t mean I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask that. Question two, but I will say that one of the areas that I’m most interested in right now is the concept of brands becoming educators. And the potential that they have to put out these really robust educational experiences. A good example of that is actually something that we’re doing for Experian is putting out a credit course. So this is one of the things that everybody graduates from, you know, high school or wherever they graduate from, and nobody has taught them anything about credit. So we all learn the hard way, which kind of sucks and is sort of dumb. So we created the the missing course, if you will, or for credit, take people from zero to expert in 45 minutes or so. 

John Corcoran 25:54

Wow, that’s cool.

Todd Anthony 25:54

I think brands, I think a lot of brands out there have, you know, the have enough content have enough to teach to where they can create something like that?

John Corcoran 26:05

Yeah. Does it take some educating to teach them to teach your brands the importance of doing something like that? Like, why should they plow money into creating a course it’s about how to, you know, how a young person can understand the credit?

Todd Anthony 26:20

Yeah, I mean, to the degree that you can make the case that there is friction in their sales process, and that that friction comes from a lack of understanding and or a lack of awareness, or, you know, a lack of something, the education course can start to make sense. So for example, with Experian. You know, the more people understand credit, the better they’ll be at managing it, the more that they’re going to start to pick up credit cards, and the more money that Experian will make in their credit card marketplace. So I guess, yeah, yeah. I mean, people having better credit is better for really everybody. Honestly, it just means that everybody is more reliable with their money.

John Corcoran 27:07

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So go ahead. I want to, we’re running little short on time. So I want to wrap up with the question about gratitude. I’m big fan of gratitude and big fan of acknowledging, especially people that have helped us get us where we are today or peers and contemporary. So you know, if you look around your peers and contemporaries, however you want to define that, and you’ve interviewed by the way, you got a great blog here on the on your website, where you’ve interviewed different creative directors, who of your peers and contemporaries, do you respect and admire the work that they’re doing?

Todd Anthony 27:48

Oh well, this isn’t, it’s sort of appear and sort of not appear. But I’m gonna go ahead and give a shout out to Kelly Campbell, she’s our agency growth coach. And she created a an agency that had you know, 2030 people, learned a lot from that experience, ran it for 14 years, and then just decided that she wanted something more of a lifestyle business. And now she’s, you know, coaching other agency owners, to help them be more profitable and to grow. And I’ve learned so much from her about being an agency owner. But I’ve also learned, I’ve partnered with her on some content projects, as well. And I’ve also learned a different approach to you know, being in business to being in the world, a sort of more balanced approach that is, you know, embracing not just the sort of masculine, drive, grow, succeed thing, but also the sort of sit back, think, be curious, investigate, listen. And, and she’s really helped to sort of introduce me to that, you know, the feminine side of business, and to really embrace that. And so that’s, that’s what I’ve gleaned. I’m very grateful to her for that, for that journey.

John Corcoran 29:19

Great. Any other ones you want to mention or leave it at that?

Todd Anthony 29:23

Yeah, there was this one. When I was in Prague, the creative director, there was this old guy named John Crank Shah. And he is just this small guy, very unhealthy. smoked a lot of cigarettes, drank a lot of vodka. And he would talk just like he would spew just information just constantly and one day I’m walking down the street with him. And he’s in the middle of this like long rant. I don’t know who he’s talking to, because I’m behind him, and he’s talking in front anyway, at one point, he just stopped. And he turned around and looked at me and he said, Todd, never lose your humanity. It’s what will make you great. And then he turned around and kept walking, talking. And for some reason, just the way that all went down, and the way that he said it, just it really stuck in my mind. And I go back to that now and again, and I think that really has been kind of a guiding light for me.

John Corcoran 30:26

Never lose your humanity. Yeah, that’s, that’s great advice. Make you great. Todd. is the website. Anywhere else people can go to connect with you or learn more about you. Let’s see. LinkedIn again. There it is LinkedIn. Go connect with Todd and LinkedIn. Todd. Thanks so much. Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

Outro 30:52

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