While finding the Hunt, Gather office, I accidentally stumbled into their VR room, where a new project was being tested. I was kindly pointed in the correct direction and found myself in a sunny office space currently occupied by three people: creative director Kathy Horn, development director Jason Burks, and design director Lynna Bartosh, who diligently worked on an ad for an organic baby and toddler food company during the interview.
Originator Studios isn’t just home to studio rentals, production services, and VR. We house several companies in our office spaces that all work on our lot. One of those is Hunt, Gather, an “unagency collective” housed just to the right of the Originator studio.
I had been tipped off to ask about “the McDonald’s story”, so once greetings were out of the way I brought it up. It ended up being the perfect case study for what makes Hunt, Gather unique.
On March 16th, 2017, McDonald’s tweeted the following statement: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands”. Whether the statement was from a hacker or a social media intern looking for bridges to burn, the tweet was kicking up a stir.
Around this time, another news story was making the rounds: Meals on Wheels was suffering from budget cuts. The folks at Hunt, Gather saw an opportunity and got to work.
In one day, a website was published and t-shirts were designed and printed, all bearing the slogan “Supersize the Resistance”. Hunt, Gather handed them out to people attending SXSW in exchange for tweets. A merch shop was opened selling t-shirts, tote bags, and hats. The best part? All of the money was donated to Meals on Wheels.
There’s a lot about this story that is incredible, but I still can’t believe Hunt, Gather got this up and running in only one day. They saw an opportunity and seized it. As Burks, Horn, and Bartosh wrap up their retelling of the story, I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.
Burks points to two framed letters hanging on the wall by his desk. One is a thank you letter from Meals on Wheels. The other is a cease and desist from McDonald’s.
Burks: We’re always looking for trouble.
Indeed, Hunt, Gather does things wildly different than any other agency. The three creative partners all met after growing tired of the way traditional agencies were run.
Horn: When we say “traditional agency”, we mean the traditional way agencies are built and ran. We saw the things that were kind of wrong or broken in the traditional agency model. We all went freelance at different points in our careers and discovered that we all have a similar work ethic and passion and commitment to doing right by our clients. And that’s why Hunt, Gather was born and why it is a collective model.
Burks: I think that’s the basis of how we try to approach our client base and what we do everyday. We try and take the lessons from things we didn’t like in the agency life and just try to put a different angle and approach to it.
Horn: Everything soup to nuts is done not only with “What is the best creative product we can come up with?” but also “How does it move the clients?”. We are constantly analyzing, optimizing, and learning from everything we do.
What was your biggest learning moment?
Burks: I think for me it’s the importance of staying nimble. A lot of large agencies can be slow to react, and a lot of clients need people who can move faster and react faster.
Horn: (about supersize the resistance) You couldn’t do that and build it six weeks later, people have forgotten about it and moved on. Another thing is test test test, what you think you know is not always what the result is going to be.
Burks: Learning to not let perfection get in the way of relevancy. I think it’s important to strike a balance between a very good experience and releasing it on time to be relevant.
How do you stay inspired?
Burks: We obviously keep a close pulse on what’s out there and what’s trending. I think we try and get away a little bit here locally and do creative things, creative experiences, going to art galleries and museums and things like that. Trying to get out of the office and put ourselves in situations where creativity can surface.
Is it tricky to stay on top of what’s relevant in an era where trends are born and die in the same day?
Burks: It’s more difficult to pinpoint the things that aren’t just fads and will stick around for a while. We’ve slowly shifted our business model to focus on that stuff.
Bartosh: It’s just really interesting how everything comes full circle. It’s just interesting how… it’s the same basic principles that people keep trying to throw different people at instead of just teaching one person to be a really good creative thinker.
How did you develop your style?
Burks: Lessons in failure mostly. It’s one of the differences in being a group. A lot of agencies are filled with people right out of school, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t able to have been in the industry for a really long time. They may have one person with a lot of wisdom and it just depends how good of a communicator they are, otherwise that information is locked in their head. We gravitate toward people who have been in the industry for a really long time, and have found success in their independent craft, and we bring them into our fold.
Bartosh: Do you think we have a style, or do you think what makes us us is that we adapt?
Burks: We adapt more than we have a specific style. We wouldn’t be an agency that is known for that one thing. We are most known for adapting quickly.
Horn: And it comes from years of experience in the industry, you become very adaptive. What’s right for a QSR is not right for a Fortune 500 company. We’ve been around long enough to not just work with one particular style of client, one particular niche. And I think that’s reflective in the work we do today.
Burks: We move through lots of different brands, even throughout the day sometimes.
Horn: Super varied and we like it that way.
What has working on the Originator lot brought to your business?
Burks: The space is important to us for a variety of reasons, obviously the studio space is important. We take a lot of clients through that studio space. We have a finishing room, we have a soundbooth upstairs for voice over. We chose the studio space to be a part of the work we do everyday. Part of our model is that we aren’t just freelancers spread across the globe, we all work out of the office and have a physical location that we headquarter out of. I think that that really lends to the collaboration that we do, brainstorming, working on new clients, things like that. Being in the same room together, whiteboarding together, doing all of those kind of things in a collaborative environment.