Kevin Gammon — Partner & Creative Director, Teak
Kevin talks to TheNextGag about why he enjoys building brands, how to select clients, his love for movies and why he is a fan of his Apple Watch.
Kevin Gammon is a Partner & Creative Director at Teak in the USA.
Founded in 2004 as a post-production shop with roots in surf culture, Teak has adapted with the industry to now combine the visual design of a branding firm, the storytelling of a production company, and the innovation of a digital agency.
THENEXTGAG: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE INDIEGOGO PROJECT THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED WITH ?
KEVIN GAMMON: We are launching a new kind of health tracker product. Hardware and software. We did all the identity work for it, the brand positioning and all that. And right now we are building a community, just through a pretty small social campaign but people are really interested in it. It’s a pretty amazing little product.
TNG: HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THESE PEOPLE ?
KG: We do a lot of work with startups. I think this one we connected through a PR company, VSC, who also does a lot of work with startups and has been a great partner. Our two companies worked together on Luma, which is a next generation Wi-Fi router and Eat Club, who delivers amazing lunches to companies. They referred us to this company, Cor. So, that’s how we got introduced.
TNG: WHAT MADE YOU CHOSE INDIEGOGO RATHER THAN KICKSTARTER ?
KG: Indiegogo indexes better for tech. Kickstarter is a bit more broadly focused. So, it felt like a better audience for us.
TNG: THE COR PRODUCT ISN’T EVEN LAUNCHED AND HAS NOT BEING FUNDED YET, BUT YOU ALREADY CREATED A BRAND IDENTITY FOR IT AND LAUNCH VIDEOS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT THAT FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGNS WENT FROM BEING PEOPLE IN THEIR ROOM EXPLAINING THEIR PRODUCT WITH BAD AUDIO TO VIDEOS THAT NOW LOOK LIKE TV COMMERCIALS ?
KG: I think it’s because so much pressure gets put on that video for the launch. Startups have seen success from past campaigns and how much the video can play into that. A lot more pressure, a lot more investment goes into making it.
It’s funny because in this one, we’ve sort of taking a different approach in that we are trying to be a lot more authentic. We’ve been making short videos over the last four weeks. So, instead of putting all this pressure on this one amazing high-production brand video — especially because this product is a health product, it is not FDA approved at this stage but it is a pretty serious thing — what we’ve been doing is just interviewing all the founders. We’ve interviewed a couple of advisers, a person at Stanford, who is the director of the division of cardiovascular medicine, the industrial designer, the UX designer. So we’ve been doing these shorter videos that we’ve been putting out and sending to people who’ve signed up and become a part of the community. And we did a nice shoot in a former firehouse here in Noe Valley for the product itself. That part will be pretty sleek. But really it is more the story told through all these people that have been associated with it.
TNG: YOU SEEM TO BE A DESIGN STUDIO, BUT I SEE THAT YOU ALSO PRODUCE COMMERCIALS.
KG: We don’t do a ton of stuff that runs on TV. We do some. But, we do a lot of videos that run on the internet. The history of Teak: my business partner founded Teak in 2004. He was a producer at Goodby Silverstein & Partners and saw an opportunity to build a post-production facility that would serve agencies in San Francisco, like Goodby. He saw an opportunity to do some of that work here. I merged my little agency, SA-5, with Teak two and a half years ago. Before that, I worked at Foote Cone & Belding, and McCann in San Francisco. I left McCann in 2009 and started SA-5. My background, I am more branding focused. Teak was going that way anyway. Just the nature of the world, agencies were taking on more production and production companies were going more towards being like an agency. So, they were heading that way. But since I came in we really focused on branding, more like a design firm, and content. We maintain that production company heritage, but we have the ability to make the things that actually matter in building a brand now, which is content and lots of it.
JanSport is a really good example. We really helped define who they are and create their marketing– which is content derived from an event that we create every year. We are creating this event right now in Rio de Janeiro. We’ve hired artists to paint an empty wall, which we’ve done for the last three years. We document the whole experience and throw a big party afterwards. That’s really where the content comes from for the marketing throughout the rest of the year.
TNG: WHO DO YOU FEEL IS YOUR COMPETITION ? WHO DO YOU USUALLY GET PITCHED AGAINST ?
KG: It’s a range of places. It’s almost never going to be big agencies, like Venables or Goodby or BBDO. We would compete more against design firms, like this place called Character, which is awesome, and Hatch or digital/social-focused agencies. It could be EVB, Mekanism or perhaps Huge or R/GA, though those last two are quite a bit bigger. I would say those kinds of places. Production we typically do as an outgrowth of the work we are doing for brands. But once in a while, if there is a very cool project, we will take a production-only project. We take quite a few actually for Google. Just video only. Because they are really great projects. So in those specific cases, we are competing against production companies.
TNG: WHICH GOOGLE PROJECTS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT EXACTLY ?
KG: We’ve done a mix of animation projects, like for Google Brand Lift, as well as bigger documentary-style projects like for Google I/O Extended.
TNG: BUT I ASSUME YOU WERE ALSO INVOLVED IN THE DESIGN OF THE VIDEO, NOT JUST THE PRODUCTION PART.
KG: Yes. We have a full staff of animators and motion graphics. So, we do all that. We do concept and we go all the way through. That’s where we are different from most traditional agencies, where they would usually do the concept part and then hire someone else. We do the whole. We prefer that.
TNG: I LIKED THE CAMPAIGN THAT YOU DID FOR SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL. I WISH THIS CAMPAIGN WOULD HAVE BEEN ADVERTISED MORE GLOBALLY.
KG: They don’t have a big budget so you probably don’t see it where you are.
TNG: BUT IF THEY WANT PEOPLE TO TRAVEL TO SAN FRANCISCO, THEY HAVE TO MAKE THE CAMPAIGN TRAVEL A LITTLE BIT.
KG: Yeah. They are a great client. We are pretty lucky. I said it on the case-study on the site. We are lucky to be able to promote the place where we live. I have been working with them for five years. So, they were a client of mine, in my agency before I merged with Teak.
TNG: I WAS A BIT DISAPPOINTED READING ON YOUR BLOG THAT FOR YOUR PROJECT IN RIO YOU WERE BRINGING “VIRTUAL REALITY CAMERAS, 360 CAMERAS, GOPROS, LIVE STREAMING AND DRONES”. THIS SOUND MORE LIKE A GIMMICK THAN BEING LED BY AN IDEA.
KG: You make a great point. That’s part of the challenge when new technologies come out. It’s not the technology, it’s the idea that is behind it. A great use of new technology is when you are able to look at what that thing does and say “I have this idea and this technology is going to make it better.” You are absolutely right.
For us, I think it was a great opportunity to try these things. The premise of the content development for JanSport is creating a real event and not something fake. It’s hiring real artists in Rio to paint this empty wall and make something beautiful and document that whole thing. The beauty of 360° or anything else that we try is asking ourselves– “What’s another perspective on this real event that we are creating ?” So for me, the idea is there. And it is really how can we push the experience that people are going to have, how can we make the whole thing more immersive, more engaging and more interesting for the people that are going to watch it down the road.
So, you are right, but I think the beauty of this is that it is an idea that lends itself to just try different ways to represent the experience. And a lot of it is just us experimenting a little bit. At the end of the day, you may not actually see content that has it, if it doesn’t live up to what it should be.
TNG: DO YOU ALSO PLAN TO TAKE PICTURES OF THE WALL WHILE THEY ARE PAINTING IT, SO WE CAN SEE AN ANIMATED GIF OF THE WALL COMING TO LIFE ?
KG: Yeah, for sure. All that. So much what it is, is about documenting the experience. And a lot of the storytelling happens back here. So, it is how do we take this whole thing and then chop it up into little stories that are really interesting for people.
TNG: DID YOU SEEN A CAMPAIGN THIS YEAR THAT INSPIRED YOU TO EXPERIMENT MORE ?
KG: Because we sort of span branding to production and content, I get inspired by both sides of it. Right now what really inspires and motivates me are projects like Cor. I am really excited about creating something from nothing, from a brand perspective and work side-by-side with the people who created the product to help them create a brand that helps them succeed.
There are a lot of great startups and brands. I am more inspired by the people that we talk to. Not so much other brand work. Although there are some great design firms that definitely inspire me from an aesthetic level.
On a production side, for me it’s always been movies that inspire me. Like “The Revenant”, just from a visual standpoint was amazing. When we get opportunities to do just video work, we look to execute something that feels more cinematic, more film-like.
TNG: TEAK WAS FOUNDED IN 2004, WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS RIGHT NOW ?
KG: Our ambition for Teak right now is to build long term brand value for the companies we partner with.
I came from advertising. I worked in ad agencies for 18 years before I started my first company. The thing that I never understood was the campaign mindset. The idea that you create short-term campaigns as opposed to long-term brands. What really changed me was when I was in San Francisco and we had Levi’s at FCB. And we had a design group, which was made up of all-stars of the design world right now, like Brian Collins , who was the lead of it — he has a place called Collins in New York — Rishi Shourie — who has Character in San Francisco — Joel Templin — who has Hatch. I was really inspired by those guys. They had total different viewpoints on a brand and on what it meant to build a brand versus an advertising sort of mentality which can be more short-term.
As we were figuring out the vision for Teak, I really went back to the gut feeling I had about what I’ve seen my whole career. Which is I really believe that what we are here to do is build brands for the long term. That’s our mission. That’s what we want to do. And then we really want to focus on working with companies that we are passionate about. Because it is a win-win. If you are passionate about something, you are going to do a good job on it, you are going to dedicate yourself to it. When you are going to do a better job, you are going to get better clients and more clients.
So, we really focus on that. A lot of us love technology, and I love doing that. We love being and doing activities outdoors. So, companies like JanSport. WE love travel, so companies like San Francisco Travel.
It is really about building brands for the long term, building the value of those brands and working with brands that really reflect on our passions.
TNG: I SAW THAT YOU OWN AN APPLE WATCH. DO YOU THING THAT AD AGENCIES, DESIGN STUDIOS OR PRODUCTION COMPANIES ARE GOING TO SWITCH FROM MOBILE TO SMARTWATCHES ?
KG: I think we will get there at some point. To be honest, I feel like the world is definitely around phones. This is more what matters to people right now. What I like about it is that it’s a quicker extension to my phone. But I think for right now, the phone is really what matters. But I think that a lot of the agency world is still not caught up to to what’s happening there. So, yes someday the watch. But I feel like there is still a long way to go there. Somebody is going to figure this out, sooner than later. Bt the reality is that the vast majority of marketers will be very slow to catch up.
Partner & Creative Director
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