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Company History

Not Business As Usual.

Business beginnings are often excessively mythologized. But we didn't have a product or a service that was unique, let alone a business plan.


We were a small band of misfits who had just enough experience and chutzpah to believe that we could challenge the status quo by doing things better and cheaper and faster than the bloated, process laden ad agencies we'd previously worked at.


The idea was simple: Build an independent network of creative talent that we can bring in as needed, and simultaneously take the bullshit out of the brand building process.


What could go wrong?

Anchor 1

On the 4th July 1999, my partners and I leapt into the middle of the dot-com tsunami and set-up shop in a filthy, dangerous and yet barely affordable part of the Mission in San Francisco. The first 18 months were dominated by a bunch of messianic digital entrepreneurs. Our founding / biggest client was the largest high-speed Internet provider in the USA. 

"Excite@Home believed they were pioneering 'the new economy'. It turned out they were running around in circles burning cash faster than they could fathom it all out."

Dan Goodin, Wall Street Journal

One day, out of sheer frustration, I put my hand up at an all-hands meeting and asked Excite@Home's CEO for some direction. He simply declared that he was "brand agnostic". The following day I resigned the account.


Excite@Home filed for bankruptcy with $1bn debt [after declining an offer from Kleiner Perkins to buy Google from Messrs Page and Brin for $750K].


When the dot-com crash finally happened and the plug was pulled, the effect was instantaneous. There was no gentle glide path back to reality. San Francisco's once vibrant advertising community was in ruins.

Fortunately, we'd been asked to meet with a mysterious company that had been quietly laboring for thirty years at actually making the next big chapter of the Information Age a reality. Applied Materials were now hungry for recognition - and very keen to take advantage of the free fall in media prices. We pitched against several big name shops, and won the business in a shoot-out with my former employer, McCann. 

In spite of being heavily outspent in the media, recognition and interest in our ads outstripped those from tech bellwethers Intel, IBM and Cisco. And today, even during volatile times, when ownership of other tech stocks decreases significantly, AMAT holds its ground or moves forward.

Teaching a brand building master class at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School.

Looking back, it's incredibly cliched to say how lucky we've been over the last two decades, but, our work has taken us on an epic million mile journey crisscrossing North & South America, Asia, Europe and Africa.


Moreover, we got to help some extraordinary companies achieve the brand fame and market value they so richly deserve. And, if that weren't enough, we also got to help some truly courageous clients defy and reshape the status quo in US healthcare, champion global action for a sustainable economic future, and further the democratic process in some of the most challenging places on earth.


Here's to never offering business as usual.

Mark Whitty

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