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The perks and pitfalls of being a nice creative agency

Why nice?

Over the years we’ve meandered from descriptor to descriptor, trying to find an all-encompassing word that captures our purpose. We’ve tried environmental, we’ve tried sustainable and we’ve tried ethical; none of which felt quite right. They did a good job at describing some of the issues we work on, but didn’t encapsulate our agency’s culture. So we decided to look inwards and we rediscovered the word ‘nice’. Yes, it’s half of our name, but it’s much more than that. It reflects how we interact with each other in the studio and how we work with our clients; we speak to them like humans and see them as partners, not bill-payers. In fact, Nice and Serious was founded because of a shared belief that serious issues need nice creative work. So that’s why we’ve settled on being a nice creative agency.

Being nice has its perks

Having a nice culture does have its perks. It helps us attract amazing people, and encourages them to stay with us for longer. It helps us to build longer and more meaningful relationships with our clients, who not only value our creative output but enjoy the experience of working with us. But being nice isn’t always easy …

Being nice has its pitfalls

To reinforce our culture we developed a tool that enables everyone in the team to vote on whether we work on a brief or not – based on the impact the project will have. Not only does it empower the team, but it keeps us heading in the right direction. But using this tool comes with its own challenges. In the 6 months we’ve been using it, we’ve already had to turn down several briefs for big brands. Not only does this hit our bottom line, but it creates some awkward conversations with our clients.

The second pitfall is budgets. Focusing on serious issues means that most of our clients are charities, NGOs  and corporate responsibility teams so we don’t usually get the big marketing budgets that many agencies enjoy. It can sometimes feel like we’re held back creatively. It also means we’re not able to compete with industry standard salaries.

Do nice agencies finish last?

Seriously? We’ve been going strong for 7 years and the business is better than ever. Yes our democratic approach to taking on new briefs will lead to some short term losses, but we’re in this for the long game. We want to create a new type of creative agency: one that truly values and empowers their staff; one that works as partners with their clients to help them articulate their purpose; one that uses its creative resources as a force for good.  Forward-looking brands now see the value in communicating their purpose, and as a nice creative agency, we’re in a good position to help them do just that.

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