Milk+Honey United co-founders Andy DiLallo (right) and Steve Jackson (left) chat with Campaign Brief about the advantages of being independent, surprises and challenges so far and why the company prioritises values over rules.
CB: What do you enjoy most about being independent?
Freedom. Of course, there’s the freedom to work the way you wish to and with the people and brands you want to. Then there’s the freedom that comes with being able to move quickly, honestly it’s been like jumping off a big ship and into a speed boat. The most liberating thing though has to be freedom from fear. We’ve all been conditioned to be honest, but not too honest. This leaves too many people in our world worrying about doing or saying the wrong thing. Take the fear out of the room and everyone and everything changes. Freedom leads to more open and honest relationships, which in turn leads to way better outcomes.
CB: What have some of the surprises and challenges been so far?
Nothing comes close to other people believing in you enough to join you, and clients believing in you enough to give you a shot, especially those who did so right at the start. They’ll always hold a special place in our hearts. We were also really touched by the generosity some people showed when we first started out, with offers like space or support. We’ll never forget their kindness. Naturally, there are many challenges too, but one that springs to mind has to be winning a piece of business or creating a campaign that you can’t PR for some reason. That has to be one of the toughest things for an indie as every business win or new campaign helps you to build valuable momentum.
CB: What do clients like about your way of working?
By stripping away the things that get in the way, we’ve created a way of working that cuts through the bullshit faster. Many clients have grown tired of the smoke and mirrors, the unnecessary layers, ineffectual baggage handling and protracted processes. By contrast, we’re set up so our senior heads are on a project every step of the way. We deliver quickly, without wasting valuable time and money. We have more personalised and connected relationships that result in a deeper understanding and we offer a more flexible and efficient way of working so we can shape around their individual needs and budgets. All this, they tell us, makes us trusted partners.
CB: What kind of clients are drawn to you?
We set out to shake things up and we’re fortunate enough to attract bold and ambitious clients who want to do the same in their categories. Sometimes we’re the sole agency of record, but for bigger brands with an existing agency roster we can be the piranha in the tank, purposely added to keep the other fish fresh and on their toes – if they had toes. By having us in the mix they not only have an experienced team, they have a young hungry one.
CB: Are you pessimistic or optimistic about our industry?
We’re definitely optimistic. These are exciting times, because there are no rules anymore. Ways of working, where you work, the technology you work with…all bets are off. Yes, there’s uncertainty but also delicious possibilities. It forces you to evaluate everything and be open to anything. At M+H we live by a set of values instead of a set of rules, which makes for a much more understanding and intuitive way of working.
CB: There’s been a fair bit of discussion about long term CMOs versus short term CMOs again recently? What are your thoughts?
You’re always going to come across both types. The way we see it, whatever the approach, your work still needs to cut through. The worst thing either of them can do is spend their money on something no one will see or care about, so, no matter what their focus, we always encourage them to step out of their comfort zone so they can get the results they want.
CB: How do you approach each day and each job?
“The conditions are always perfect.” This is how Ironman Trevor Hendy responded when asked about the challenge of competing because, even though you can’t control the conditions, you can control your performance. We don’t have time for negativity and problem finding so, like Hendy, we prefer to prove what’s possible no matter the conditions.
CB: Your work is quite diverse but always well crafted. Can you talk about that a bit more?
We don’t like the idea of a house style, rather we aim to create work that meets a house standard that we’ve set for ourselves. That’s partly because we believe every brand deserves something that truly sets them apart, and partly because we push ourselves to do something fresh every time. When it comes to crafting, most people think of it as the polish that’s added at the tail end but, to us, crafting is something we bring to every step of the process. The crafting of a strategy, brief or positioning, the crafting of an idea or a single line of copy, the crafting of a user experience…. Every element needs to be crafted otherwise, when you get to the other end, you really will be left polishing a turd.
CB: What is one thing you can’t succeed without?
Each other. We believe the people with the best people win, so we hire wisely and then trust them. At bigger agencies you usually inherit a number of people and try to shape it over time, so it’s been amazing to hand pick our team right from the beginning. All of our senior people are proven at a local and international level, but everyone here is an exceptional talent and all super energised about building something new and interesting together.
(Created in association with KPMG Creative)