A’s for Q’s: My Agency’s Secret Weapon

A question from a recent VCU graduate: What would you consider to be your agency’s secret weapon?

Intentional Ignorance.

When David and Jeff started Young & Laramore 30 years ago, they had no idea what they were doing. They loved that. They knew what they wanted to do, but not necessarily how to do it.

David was a philosophy major and Jeff was an illustrator. Neither came from a large agency background. But they had big ambitions. They didn’t start Y&L in Indianapolis because it was convenient. They started it here because they wanted to make Indianapolis–hell, the midwest–a creative destination.

They learned by doing, not by researching how others did it. David used to abhor having award annuals in the agency. He would see someone flip through one and say “Why would you want to do something that’s already been done?”

They rejected conventional wisdom in almost every way. They wanted nothing to do with how “most” agencies run, which means they challenged (and changed) everything: how they chose clients, internal processes (what are those?), recruiting (David would swing by and tell us he just hired a kid as a writer he met over the weekend because he liked a poem he wrote), awards (you already know the drill on that one), insights gathering (they rejected focus groups and thought every one should be a planner). The list goes on and on.

A few years ago, we celebrated our 30 years anniversary where we invited everyone who has ever worked here back for a 30th reunion. These are people who have gone onto the likes of Ogilvy, TBWA, W+K and CP+B, but one thing everyone can agree on is that there is no place quite like Y&L.

I think that’s because in an era of expertise, chest beating, and glad-handing, Y&L is still a place where it’s not about being an expert, but rather, staying a student.