From the Desk (and Mind) of Marc Landsberg

A New Agency Model: How We Do What We Do Matters as Much as What We Do

We started SOCIALDEVIANT 3 years ago with a simple premise: to be the world’s kindest company. Flat. Fast. Left/Right brained. Kind. Composed.

The more we dug in, the more we realized that kindness was in fact an operating model. More than a belief set, it was a set of guiding principles to govern our day in and day out behavior.

Originally, we simply thought that being a kind company is the right thing to do. And being ambitious about our kindness is an organizationally right thing to do.

Almost all businesses, and certainly creative agencies, tend to focus on their outputs. On the things that they make.

In the agency world, these are the creative units that define our industry. A 30 second ad, a long form video, a mobile app, an MMO, a concert series, a dronie, and yes, even the signage on a blimp.

But at SOCIALDEVIANT, the more we defined kindness as an operating model –and the more we leaned into, codified, and acted on these behaviors every single day – the more we realized HOW we do what we do is as, if not more, important than WHAT we do.

Operating as a kind company has in fact become a source of competitive advantage.


Let’s take a look at a few of our guiding behaviors and how they create tangible benefits, both for our team and for our clients:


1. Speed. We move really fast. I mean, really fast. We have a super flat structure that creates more room for ideas and expression and we’ve removed the layers, hierarchy, and bureaucracy that tends to slow down the flow of work, most notably around reviews and approvals.

  • Benefit To Clients: No client in the history of the world ever said slow down.
  • Benefit to SOCIALDEVIANT: The bias is for getting work out the door. There is no make work, few internal projects, and no cul-de-sacs.


2. Zero Ego. We listen carefully and only cater to better ideas, not to the egos of those who create ideas. We believe the best way to have a great idea, is to have a lot of ideas. And that includes our clients’ ideas – we love them and listen carefully, every time.

  • Benefit To Clients: Who doesn’t like to have their ideas heard? By eliminating the traditional barriers to ideation, we embrace clients’ ideas and almost always end up with better creative solutions.
  • Benefit To SOCIALDEVIANT: Who doesn’t like to have their ideas heard? More importantly, heard by someone who really wants to hear them. We revel in the notion of complete absence of fear of reprisal – all ideas are welcomed, and they’re welcomed from anyone in the organization.


3. Total Transparency. We share everything, internally and externally. Process, outcomes, resources, everything. This way, we create amazing alignment and are better able to prioritize workstreams toward the most crucial timelines.

  • Benefit To Clients: No client likes surprises…and we do our level best to keep everyone informed, on all topics, at all times.
  • Benefit To SOCIALDEVIANT: Staying on the same page provides better context – everyone understands the importance and relevance of what they’re working on. No black boxes, no make work, no secret projects.


4. WIP. One of the ways we collaborate and move quickly is by sharing everything WIP. We work as one extended team with our clients and share everything in process.

  • Benefit To Clients: No one likes to be sold, but everyone enjoys contributing. Sharing all ideas WIP creates a stress free sharing environment in which open dialogue can occur outside of any selling pressure.
  • Benefit To SOCIALDEVIANT: We love getting feedback, early and often. It ensures that our ideas are aligned with our clients’ expectations, drives infinitely better outcomes, dramatically reduces rework, and overall eliminates friction from the workstream. And just as no-one likes to be sold, no-one likes to sell….


5. Total Accountability. One of the most important parts of being kind, is being completely accountable. The dog isn’t allowed to eat the homework when you operate with kindness. You say what you mean, mean what you say, and you deliver on the things that you made commitments to deliver.

  • Benefit To Clients: Timelines are met consistently and no fingers are pointed when mistakes occur (in that we’re only human, mistakes do occur). Clients simply want to know they can count on their agency partners…and we do everything in our power to give them confidence that they can indeed count on us, every single time.
  • Benefit To SOCIALDEVIANT: One of the hallmarks of a kind workplace is shared accountability. The best team members own their own commitments, and never drop the ball leaving their colleagues in the lurch. We take great pride in stepping in for one another and holding each other to account, every single day.

No doubt, striving to be the world’s kindest company has taught us something along the way.

That how we do what we do, is as important as what we do.


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