#AdForumSummit LA: Focus on Content & Collaboration

We, pitch consultants, met with four agencies — Virtue, Collab, SummerJax and BBH — on Day 2 of the AdForum Worldwide Summit Los Angeles.

Johanna McDowell
Founder and Managing Director Independent Agency Selection

We pitch consultants met with four agencies — Virtue, Collab, SummerJax and BBH — on Day 2 of the AdForum Worldwide Summit Los Angeles, Tuesday, 9 April 2019.



The first agency meeting of the day was with Virtue, the agency born out of media content company, Vice, whose headquarters are in Brooklyn and whom we have met with twice previously. Virtue has full-service capabilities with fast turnaround capacity. It can do everything in-house, including full production facilities. It is still privately owned and has added quite a lot of firepower to its creative and strategic offering in the past couple of years. Its belief is that “advertising is far from dead; it is just starting to look different.”

And remember that, through Vice, it also has formidable knowledge of the youth market and its everchanging needs.

Because of the way it works, it has built up assets such as data, creative network, award-winning output, channels and partnerships. It defines what it does for its clients as follows:

  • Revitalise reputations
  • Reach new audiences
  • Build commercial value
  • Change beliefs

It demonstrated the above through eight case studies:

  • Google Chrome — “Don’t be a browser”
  • Bushmills Irish Whiskey
  • Target — reaching a new audience
  • Park MGM — Casino
  • Amazon Alexa
  • Meet Q — genderless voice
  • Dove Men+Care — Paternity leave
  • Museum of Weed

Although Vice is its biggest help, it’s also its biggest hindrance, it told us. So, there is a shadow-and-halo effect. Vice has helped it over the years with background and strategy but, when it comes to creative, Virtue is on its own as it develops products and campaigns. It also now actively competes against 72andSunny, Anomaly and BBH in pitches.

A great session with an excellent lunch and wine — a real treat for AdForum.



Collab is a content-creation company, independently owned and started by three brothers (two of whom we met at the session). Collab provides services to creators for YouTube, mainly. The typical profile of creators are individuals who build a following through their own videos, which they make and edit and post on platforms such as YouTube. Age-wise, these are usually teens to young adults in their 20s.

We learned that the no. 1 ambition of most kids these days is to create content for YouTube.

Collab has about 300 main creators on its books. It looks for creators who are consistent and Collab makes its money from taking a share of any earnings from rights that the creators may obtain through their relationships with brands. Collab manages all of this for the creators and brings opportunities to both brands and creators that will fit with the integrity of both.

Collab is the largest independent content studio and the brothers set it up as they wanted to have a company that would provide all the services that they, as young creators, couldn’t access when they started out making their own comedy shows. What they believe is that strategy and digital video are a powerful combination and that the videos created by the creators offer an authentic view of the creators’ lives. As the videos are created (and many of the creators have their own facilities but may also access those at Collab), they are rated by at least three people within Collab — the human review. This is particularly important when looking after brand safety.

When asked if the creators are making enough money to have this as a full-time occupation or is it just a hobby, the answers were interesting:

  • 50% of the creators is making enough money per year ie US$35 000 per year not to have to take an ordinary job
  • Some of the creators are making millions of dollars per year; these would be the more popular, with the greatest followings and the highest levels of integrity, to which brands want to be aligned
  • Some are not making enough to “quit their day jobs”

The brand partnerships that Collab helps its creators to have are designed to enable the creation of branded content and management of influencer-marketing campaign strategy and execution for some of the world’s most-innovative brands.

I made a note two and a half years ago, when we last visited LA, that all of this was predicted as a general trend and it has now happened. Plus, those involved have worked out how to monetise it.



Next up was SummerJax, a women-owned and -run production company that works directly with in-house marketing departments. Both partners are from a brand space and they have a deep understanding of how marketing departments work and where the gaps are. As a result, they’re able to close those gaps and create much greater efficiencies.

SummerJax embeds itself within the marketing departments it works with, enabling it to work seamlessly with the marketers. It typically will work out what “assets” the marketers will need in a 12-month period, time lines, costs etc. Based on this approach, it’s saving its clients a great deal of money through the efficiencies and non-siloed methodology they are able to adopt.

With marketers needing so much more content at low cost these days, but without losing out on quality, SummerJax seem to have created a winning formula, especially as the quality of its work is at a very high level.

The meeting took place at a bar/restaurant in Santa Monica, with great snacks and wine-tasting into the bargain.



One of the day’s highlights was a visit to the BBH offices in LA, built around entertainment clients, hence its location in West Hollywood. Its presentation was a global one, with leading members of the group present along with its local management team.

Formed in 1982, the agency made its name through some of the world’s greatest ad campaigns, and this great heritage and timeless principals continue to be the DNA embedded in the culture of the agency. BBH has moved into all areas of advertising and digital, and can do everything for its clients, including deep digital work. The accolades continue to grow through awards (2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix; BBH Singapore taking Ad Age’s 2018 International Agency of the Year; and BBH London making the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list 10 years in a row).

Although now part of Publicis Groupe, it is very independent and has maintained its unique culture. BBH has a network of its own, which has been deliberately kept small and fully integrated. It’s now more content-driven than in the past. Charactised by long-term client relationships, the agency continues to want to work with those clients which really value creativity.

A very special dinner, cooked by a world-renowned chef, finished off a full day of fascinating content and trends.

The article originally appeared on MarkLives.com