Outsmarting the Competition: Fallon Featured in Graphis Journal #377

“An advertising agency for companies that would rather outsmart the competition than outspend them.” That was the headline of Fallon’s very first ad, introducing the agency in 1981. At the time, it meant an idea could be—and should be—more important than a budget. And it was rooted in the notion that creativity was the last legal means of gaining an unfair business advantage. 40 years later, “Outsmart vs. Outspend” is still their mantra. Today, outsmarting means creating big, juicy ideas that can travel across the sea of emerging media. Today, outsmarting means using data in artful ways to inspire insights and inform message delivery. Today, outsmarting means an ad is anything a brand does, whether it’s 60 seconds, six seconds, six characters, or some other thing that doesn’t fit squarely in any size or shape. Today, outsmarting means brands aren’t only owned by marketers who architect their every move. They’re co-owned by consumers. Or, as Fallon likes to call them, people. Today, outsmarting means MODERN CREATIVITY.

Here is part of our QA with some of their talented employees:

What inspired or motivated you to have a career in advertising?
Travis Parr, Creative Director, Walmart: I was a pre-dental major (every dentist I knew worked very little but owned a boat). But my college girlfriend was taking an advertising class. She hated it, and I started doing all her homework because it was fun. She got an A, and I decided against putting my hands in people’s mouths (and owning a boat, apparently).
Joe Johnson, Creative Director, Arby’s: In my freshman year of college, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. I subsequently got into dance music and the Midwest rave scene, and I found myself collecting rave flyers and keeping the best-looking ones. There were a few standout designers, most notably Cody Hudson. His work was so standout compared to all the rest—his designs considered paper stock, overprinting, beautiful illustration, and typography. It was the first time I noticed the power of design and how that can influence perception. My obsession with design was born.
Abby Gross, Art Director: I was a painter and an artist at my weird hippie high school, but creating without boundaries always felt unfulfilling. I wanted to create to problem solve and to create with purpose. This gave me that.

What is your work philosophy?
Mike Behrends, Creative Director, Arby’s: Be human, be compassionate, and make sure you’re getting a lot of full belly laughs in along the way.
T.P.: Be my customer. Stay curious. Be brave. Be kind.
J.J.: Have the most possible fun while making the most responsible irresponsible work.
Meredith Oberg, Designer: Be nice, be efficient, and keep learning.
Nikki Baker, Chief Creative Officer: Do great work. Don’t be an asshole.
Sara Cummings, Copywriter: Never show up unprepared. Be kind to the people you work with. And remember, it’s just advertising.

One of your company’s core beliefs is that you believe that creativity is the last legal means to an unfair advantage. Could you explain what that means and how it applies to Fallon?
T.P.: So, Nancy Rice (cofounder of the original Fallon McElligott Rice) ran our ad school when I was there. One night, she was recounting the launch of Fallon to a few of us dumb nobodies. They did it with an ad that read, “If you can’t outspend them, you can certainly outthink them.” We’ve staked the place in a belief that you can outthink people at scale. We can’t help make your company an actual monopoly. But we can be so good at what we do with you that in most people’s minds, you’re the only choice. There’s a reason BMW is more popular than Audi, and it’s not what’s under the hood.
J.J.: It’s been a core belief at Fallon since day one, and as mediums have changed, this belief still applies. Another belief at Fallon is to outsmart the competition, not outspend them. For example, one way to get six billion media impressions is to pay for them. Another way is to make french fry-flavored
vodka and let the internet do what the internet does.
L.S.: There is so much happening with new channels and shifting technologies and behaviors. Yet time and time again, people come to us and say we need an idea that holds everything together. No matter how fast and how much things change, an idea wins. Still. Always. And not everyone can do ideas well. Fallon can.

You have a diverse range of clients, from food to sports. Is there a particular area that is your favorite to work with?
J.J.: Food is one of those universal things that everyone understands. Even with everyone’s personal dietary preferences, everyone understands the delight of great food.
N.B.: The diverse range is my favorite part. We want Fallon to be a place that has NO house style. When it comes to both the brands AND the people who work at Fallon, we believe you’re at your best when you’re unapologetically owning that thing that makes you you. Each brand that comes into our orbit has a different set of DNA and deserves a different look/feel/tone of voice. That requires us to make sure the people in the building also don’t all look/feel/sound the same. Every writer, art director, and designer has a completely different style and skill set.

Check out Fallon’s website here.

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To read the entire interview, you can preorder Journal #377 here.

Author: Graphis