A brilliant ad campaign is something to behold. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a true art but let’s be honest: most ads are really, really terrible. I’d say I mute the sound on my computer for 90% of ads when I’m watching something on Hulu and go check my Facebook or see what the latest post on Jezebel says.
The solution? An ad agency that exists fully in the 21st Century. Gone are the days when you could record a radio ad with a “catchy” jingle at your local radio station. A good ad campaign today requires targeted marketing, proprietary analytics, and a clear understanding of what your specific market is looking for.
Rocket XL is a group of “passionate evangelists” who are the cutting edge of advertising. With offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto and big name clients such as Grey Goose, Q-Tips, Dove, and Clif Bar (just to name a few), these guys are making a splash in the online marketing world.
Founder Anson Sowby chatted with us over here at KillerStartups about getting punched in the face by a three year old, being paid $25,000 for practically nothing, and why the juice is worth the squeeze.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Rocket was founded around launching brands and bringing marketing into the next frontier. Ok, yes we were nerds. However, just the word ‘Rocket’ was trademarked so we added the letters X and L to differentiate it and then came up with the line – thought accelerated. So it was a combination of being scrappy and being fan boys.
What makes you get out of bed each morning?
The desire to do better than I did yesterday.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
That depends on how you define “at work.” I check email on my phone before I get out of bed, much to the chagrin of my wife who likes to try and slap the phone out of my hand and hurl it across the room. Thank God for sturdy iPhone cases!
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
My partner started the company out of the back of his house and we now have over 75 people across the US and Canada working for the company.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
We used to share space in a loft in the arts district in downtown LA and one day J.J. Abrams was shooting Cloverfield on the roof of our building. The noise got so loud that we went up top to complain and one of the producers offered us $25,000 to leave our office for 2 days so that they could continue filming. Needless to say, that was and will always be the easiest way we’ve ever made a buck.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Being the father of a 3 year old boy, Luke, and frustration is my middle name and I don’t handle it well. Last week someone bought him boxing gloves (why? I’ll never know) and Luke promptly hit me in the face. I couldn’t help but think of the many times that clients have hit me in the face, metaphorically speaking of course! Over time, I learned to do the same thing with my clients as I did with my son. Take a deep breath, try to find the black comedy in the situation to laugh, and then move on.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
It’s funny because the more stressed out we are at the office, the more people play music to cut through the tension with a knife. And on the other side of the coin, the more relaxed we are, the less we play music because the halls are usually filled with chatter. So I guess you could say that we have a mix of both depending on the situation
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I have no clue. Is that a suitable answer? No, but seriously, 5 years ago we were building embeddable widgets for blogs because Facebook pages didn’t exist. The technology might change, but there’s one thing that we’ll always be doing and that’s finding new ways to harness the power of influencers.
Who or what inspires you?
My wife and son. Ok, I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Seeing my 3 year old son, Luke, discover the world bit by bit is unbelievable and if that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. Seeing my wife launch her fashion start-up while juggling the circus that is being a mom while married to me is a Herculean feat to say the least.
How’d you fund this venture? Where’d you get the money, man?
Pure self-funding, that’s a blessing and a curse. An obvious blessing because we retained 100% control. But a curse because we were 100% dependent on our clients to fund our operations. It meant that at times we took on some pretty questionable clients because we needed the money to keep the operation afloat. Hindsight being 20/20, we would have done a combination of VC with self-funding.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Be scrappy, very scrappy and then some scrappy sprinkled on top. No matter how much or how little funding you have, never forget the need to always find a creative solution no matter what. Because someone, somewhere will always be trying to find an easier, cheaper, more creative and quicker way of doing the same thing that you do.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)
I’d divvy it up amongst 10 start-ups based here [in] Los Angeles and I’d serve as an advisor to each. I’ve always been passionate about my city of angels and the start-up scene here is so young that it needs capital to give it a good ol’ jump start.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
To me, success is doing what you love and making enough money to be comfortable. Do I love what I do every minute of every day? No, I don’t. Do I love what I do most of the time? Yes. So the ultimate success to me will be loving what I do ALL of the time, no matter how unrealistic and lofty that may seem. So one could argue that I’ll be continuously chasing success.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
ESPN – my number one way to zone out for a few minutes during the day.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Can I be that guy from LA and say the Fitness Pal Diet Tracker? For the first time in my life, I’ve started to count calories (maybe because I’m on the downward spiral to 40) and this app creates a competition out of eating healthy by comparing what I eat with the dietary habits of my friends. It’s caused me to eat better, lose weight and joined my fellow fitness freak Angelenos.
Dogs or cats?
Neither. Never had a cat and I gave away my dog, an English Bulldog, 4 years ago. Yes, I’m cruel, but here’s why… I finally realized why the moniker ‘a bulldog personality’ is not a compliment. Our English bulldog didn’t like to walk or be trained, but she did like to eat everything and vomit all over the house. Don’t hate me because the family that we gave her to, ended up giving her away to another family within a year. I’m sure our dog is now slinging rocks in Compton.
iOS or Android?
iOS. Nothing against Android, but my life is too complicated to try and switch phones.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
Our agency mantra – Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze? The Juice is all the great stuff that’s produced within our agency. But before anything leaves our doors, we always take a step back and consider what were asking our consumers to do. From Liking a Facebook ad to interacting with a digital billboard, our job is to understand how people will act and react to it – especially as things constantly evolve in this digital landscape we live in. We try build things that consumers want to engage in. That’s when we know the juice is worth the squeeze.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
LinkedIn (Hey, I have to plug LinkedIn. They’re a client of ours.)
Courtesy of startup founder Anson Sowby | Rocket XL