A Top 25 Business & Marketing Podcast
Ryan talks with guest Steve Babcock, former Chief Creative Office at VaynerMedia

May 26, 2020

Ryan talks with guest Steve Babcock, former Chief Creative Office at VaynerMedia
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On this Episode, Ryan chats with Steve Babcock, the founder of Made in House and former Chief Creative Officer at VaynerMedia. Steve shares his creative journey from days at Crispin Porter and Bogusky to his time at Vayner. Steve is very transparent about the realities of working with Gary V and the challenges and importance of elevating creative in today's landscape.
From developing the Pizza Tracker for Dominos to empowering his teams to do their best work Steve is a great interview and provides a ton of insights and value.
Links from this Episode:
https://www.stevehappens.com/
Please share, review, and subscribe!
The Radical Marketing Podcast is always looking for intriguing guests. Email inquiries to info@radical.company
Follow us:
@radical_results on Instagram
@ryanalford on Instagram
www.radical.company


On this Episode, Ryan chats with Steve Babcock, the founder of Made in House and former Chief Creative Officer at VaynerMedia. Steve shares his creative journey from days at Crispin Porter and Bogusky to his time at Vayner. Steve is very transparent about the realities of working with Gary V and the challenges and importance of elevating creative in today's landscape.

From developing the Pizza Tracker for Dominos to empowering his teams to do their best work Steve is a great interview and provides a ton of insights and value.

Links from this Episode:

https://www.stevehappens.com/

Please share, review, and subscribe!

The Radical Marketing Podcast is always looking for intriguing guests. Email inquiries to info@radical.company

Follow us:

@radical_results on Instagram

@ryanalford on Instagram

www.radical.company

 

 

Transcript

Ryan Alford [00:00:08] Hey guys, welcome to the latest episode of the Radical Marketing Podcast. We come in and out of agency and marketing world, and I think this is about as straight line as it gets. But Steve Babcock, really excited to have you on today's episode. 

Steve Babcock [00:00:25] Thank you. Happy to be here. 

Ryan Alford [00:00:27] So Steve is the current and the founder. And you're not a title guy made in House. And the former chief creative officer of VaynerMedia spent time at CPB, some of who's an agency world, but all around creative dude. Is that fair to say or? 

Steve Babcock [00:00:49] I think that's probably the more accurate title. Just even just all around. 

Ryan Alford [00:00:55]  More dude than anything else. Cool man. Really excited to have you on. And we've been talking the last couple of months here and there, but excited to kind of tell our guys, our audience to hear some of your story and background, especially for both people. We have a lot of people. But they like hearing the width and depth of your experience and some of your perspectives on where the market was headed post-Covid. So I want to get some of your takes on that. I don't know if it's changed definitively. Marketing is marketing, branding, branding. I think we both have a love for content and branded content. We'll talk about that. But we'll want to get your perspective, because it's a crazy world out there, isn't it? 

Steve Babcock [00:01:57] Yeah, definitely 

Ryan Alford [00:01:59] Well cool, Let's just start right down the path. I'd love for people just to kind of give you your history and background in the agency role in marketing and maybe just some of your general philosophies, but maybe that history timeline and some of the campaigns you've worked on is tee up for everyone. 

Steve Babcock [00:02:21] Sure. I was born and raised in a one stoplight town in southern Idaho.

Ryan Alford [00:02:34] The second ad mecca of the world. 

Steve Babcock [00:02:36] So I grew up there and my whole life and during my childhood was very interesting, oddly enough, like a film. I was the youngest of five kids and we would make home movies on the VHS in the eighties. And I was really into editing and things like that at a young age. This is back when you were editing with two VCRs. I was always into music, art and design but I had no idea really in that area. Like advertising was a job in my mind. I was like, I'm going to be a director, I'm going to go make movies, Steven Spielberg? And so I went to school at the University of Utah. And down the road is like the closest university. I was also, to be fair, a pretty avid snowboarder. So that influenced what I was like. I'm going to go there and just snowboard and I'll go to the film department. And while I was in school, a friend, I needed a job, like a part-time job. And a friend knew somebody who worked at the time as the largest agency in that area. It's called DSW Partners. And they were famous for making the “Intel Inside” of it at the time it was like a big agency. And remember, I got an interview and I walked in there and I was just blown away because the walls were all painted groovy colors and people were dressed in flip flops. I've never I don't know. I was like, this is a job. And anyway, I got the job and it was to work in what was called the business center, like the mailroom. And I did all the odd jobs. I was like the “everything guy”. And it was great because it allowed me to be very flexible. I could go to my classes, I could come back. But what was cool is it really introduced me to advertising. And when you're the mail person and you're sorting and delivering everyone's mail, you get to know I'm back in the day. In this kind of pre-email, you get to know everything about everybody based on their subscriptions and the things that I did. I realized the creative department was really cool because this agency kind of everybody sat in the department. This is amazing. I love these people and I befriended them. There is that agency that ended up having a scholarship contest. For all students in Utah and you could submit a portfolio, and because I was just a part-time employee, I was eligible. So I befriended an art director there who let me use this computer at night. So I just taught myself Photoshop and put together a portfolio of just horrible fake ads. And I ended up winning the contest. And then they gave me a job as a junior copywriter, which I was surprised by because I thought I was trying to be an art director or a designer, but I just went with it. And that was how I got into it. They let me finish school etc., but all of a sudden I guess I'm in this industry and I like it. And I just kind of kept going. And so I was in the Utah market, finished school, got married. I was also in a band. And so that was pulling me both ways. But eventually, as does happen, the band dreams kind of died. And that's when we said, well, let's take this little more seriously. We moved out to Colorado, where I was in Colorado for 10 years, and I worked at Crispin Porter Bogucki. And when I left Christian Porter Bogusky, I was one of the two executive creative directors there. And then I took off a really fun opportunity that an agency out of San Francisco had reached out to. They needed a creative leader, but they also were interested in building a second office in Boulder, Colorado. So I was like, this is cool. I get to kind of do a startup thing, but with training wheels. So that was really fun. Very different going from this Mecca of Chrispin where there are hundreds and hundreds of people to all of a sudden I'm going to Target to get toilet paper for the office, but it was really fun to learn how to grow an office from pretty much nobody to around 30 to 40 people. And then I got a call from this guy in New York who I had never heard of, named Gary. And I didn't know the agency or anything about it. And again, this was maybe five and a half years ago now or maybe six years, I can't remember. But in 2015, the summer of 2015. And my initial reaction was no thanks. Like New York's not for me. I don't know who you are making your media doesn't. So I just wasn't on my radar. Didn't sound like something that I was interested in doing. And we spoke for about six or seven months and Gary's the best salesman I've ever met. And the proof of that is all of a sudden my family and I were packing up and moving to New York. And so I took that job, that opportunity, which was really a fun challenge to be the first chief creative officer of Baylor Media. And when I walked into those doors, I was very taken aback because it didn't look or feel like anything I'd ever experienced. It was chaos. I always would call it like a pleasant Lord of the Flies because it was not as chaotic as possible. And I got excited. Eventually, I turned a corner of my mind because at first, I was like, “No Thanks”. But then I got excited about, “I want to fix this operationally”. There's a lot of good stuff here. There's a lot of good philosophy. And so I did that for about four years. And then where I am now is one year in the books of my own business made in-house, which is an in-house consultancy working with brands directly to help them build their in-house agencies. 

Ryan Alford [00:08:44] So a lot to dig into there. I mean, so it CPB, you were there for about six years, is that right? What were some of the more memorable campaigns or work that you worked on? There are some pretty big ones and they have some pretty household names under their roster. 

Steve Babcock [00:09:05] I mean, that was really Crispen, especially at the time. You were pumping out so much volume that we were just, it had had a little bit of a reputation for being this, like, crazy sweatshop and it wasn't in that like no one was forcing you. You were justdid it to ourselves. Like your officers had futons in it, like you were sleeping there overnight. You were just because there was so much opportunity, whether it was Burger King or Volkswagen. At an early time, there was given the pitch for Domino's. So I won that account and did a lot of the early work on Domino's. The thing that I'm most famous for is the pizza tracker. Yeah, that was something that I would reference a lot. I don't know if it's my favorite. I mean, you just made so much stuff there. I can't even remember everything -- the pizza tracker for example, I will reference a lot because I like that it was a solution to a problem that wasn't an ad. Yeah, Domino's really came to us. This was kind of going online. Ordering wasn't the thing. And that was the assignment was like, how do we get to come up with a campaign to get more people to order online? There's a variety of reasons why ordering online is good for Domino's. The ticket prices are higher. There's a lower margin of error. They don't have to pay for somebody to answer the phone. There's a lot of good reasons for it. And typically what people would do is and I remember that's what my boss at the time said was like come up with some just don't do like dollar off ordering online. Like, don't try to come up with something that isn't giving it for giving it away for free, which is something that most people would do because they thought, well, if I can get you to just try it once, then maybe you'll get interested in the idea of doing it online. So I am simultaneously to work on Domino's or at least the leadership team. You have to go to pizza school. I don't know if they still do it, but it was like a week long training to be like a manager. And I learned that the whole system was attached to -- like every Domino's literally has a physical button between each station because they're all kind of it's all about speed and efficiency. And you as a local Domino's store, as a manager, you get a bonus based on that efficiency. So I'm like, wait a minute. At any given moment, I know when an order has been taken, a hit a button. I know when a pizza is being prepped, I hit a button. I know when it's in the oven. It takes six minutes. I hit a button. I know when you have all this information. Why don't we make a thing? And we also knew from an insider's perspective that like when people ordered pizza or food and hung up the phone, they were kind of left with like,...

Ryan Alford [00:11:58] I was just thinking of being an agency guy. And coming up on the accounting strategy side, I was in my planner head going, you have a consumer that with online ordering, especially the netherworld that that goes into and an inside is consumers are they have no idea what is the stats, that control. They have no control. And you've you've you bring that to life. I'm backing my way into this brief as you're talking. 

Steve Babcock [00:12:26] And so we originally said, well, let's just this perfect. You already have the information. Let's create a consumer facing dashboard at the moment. It was like this little pill looking thing. And to just have these sections and it just pulsed and told you where it was. And again, it could tell you the name of the person doing the prep in the name, told you the name of the delivery driver because all that information was in their system. So also you knew like, oh, Ron is coming. He's going to be here soon. And just sort of knowing the name of the person is like helping. And then originally it was exclusive for online orders. Now I think if you call or whatever, you can use the pizza tracker no matter what. But that's what it was. So we came up with a tool that didn't cheapen the brand or create a discount. And it did more than we didn't do like ads like TV ad or anything. It was just like that. And it worked really, really well. So I like to reference that just because it reminds me to focus on the problem. I think a lot of times in our industry we jumped so quickly to like, what's the creative execution? What's the creative? What's creative? And I'm like, spend 80 percent of your time on the problem, the business challenge, the audience, the insight. Do that and then like twenty percent of your time because, it'll be there, it'll be like, oh, here's the obvious solution. So that was fun. 

Ryan Alford [00:14:00] Can we hire you to be a politician or a president or something like that? I think focus on the problem is probably the title of this podcast, but it's so true, so many other things, too, because we've become so about everything else. 

Steve Babcock [00:14:17] That it was one of my Andrew Keller, who is the executive creative director right under Bogucki there. He said a thing to me once that I have, which is interesting. I remember I went into his office, I was mad about something or there was some issue. I think we had a campaign that was sold and then there was feedback and I went in there and I was expecting him to be like, I'll call him up and tell him. And I remember he didn't. And he said the one thing that is probably the best advice I've ever had in my career. And he said, 'Do you like the minute you learn to love solving problems is the minute you're going to learn that you love this job?' Yeah, and as a creative person, that just hit me really hard. That is the job is like and so and I think when I showed up at VaynerMedia years later, I was all of a sudden confronted surprisingly with a pretty big problem. Like I just was like I didn't. This is insane. Like the department set up where we don't even have strategy was just so foreign to me at that point. Like, No, no. I want to solve this problem. And I think it's one of the reasons I started made House. Trust me, every in-house agency is just a big problem. No one has figured it out. It's all over the place. And I like to pop in and go, this is fun. This is fun to fix these things. 

Ryan Alford [00:15:43] Yeah, well, the whole in-house thing is baryons. Think they can cherry pick. I can get I can hire a writer or a graphic designer, a creative person account person. And now we solved it. I know there's a method to the madness, but I do transitioning to the intermediate media thing. It's always been fascinating working in a New York agency, working at other agencies now owning an agency. Gary has the A.I. agency vibe. He's the A.I. New York agency. And I'm like, you are eight hundred people. And they all work in New York. You very much are in New York agency. I don't care what you call it or what you say. There's just a way that things become when you start hiring people that have worked at a million other agencies. I don't know how I know he has culture and I'm not knocking that at all. I'm just talking more philosophically about the anti agency theme. But it sounds like you may have brought some of that energy because, again, you've got to be operational. It's one thing to move fast, but it's a whole another thing to operationally solve problems and get things done. 

Steve Babcock [00:16:53] Well, I do think it's definitely a big agency based in New York but I think that's also an interesting thing because that's something I never really was kind of his narrative. My narrative is very less like it's like everything. Everybody has potential to be great. Like, I don't I don't need to like but that's I'm not a CEO, that I don't own the company. And I think that was a lot of what he did was like I was like, I'm going to kind of knock everything else down to kind of pull myself up because, like, that's you can't really just say, oh, big New York agency. It's like there's so many different colors in that statement. There's, I mean, Crispin was a big not New Yorker. They were big agencies having to incentivize big agency Drogo, which is a big agency. These are all great. And can I mean, they can, it's like so I don't really know. It's not that I think the thing where Gary and I and kind of what sparked me eventually to say, OK, I'm on the same page with this guy and so I'll move back to New York was not the agency or anything, but just the mindset. I don't think there's anything wrong with my business model or like the model or I think it's the mindset. And that was very much like I believe very much in making versus talking about stuff forever and focus grouping and getting a million people. And a lot of agencies located anywhere in the world historically have made their money by selling a service that requires a lot of FTD, full time employees, just a lot of time to make something that costs a lot of money because they get the markup on that. That is the model. And that made so much sense back then. Come into today's world where marketers need the exact opposite. They're like, I need a whole bunch of really awesome content. I need it yesterday and I need it for half the cost. But I still need it to be really, really good. That is maybe the difference. If I were to say, well they are the goal was like, we want to be that. And that does stand in a little bit of contrast to a “big New York agency” with an old model. But the reality is, and one of the things that even everybody struggles with, even Aveeno we struggle with is how do we really do that? How do we get into a system that can produce the volume of quality for the cost that is required in a world where brands have a Snapchat lens to a Super Bowl commercial and everything in between? And that was difficult to do. And again, I'm certainly not a CFO, but I have a lot of empathy for the CFO that were like, no, we have to make money. I can't get into it. Which again, is why I was like, see if I can make this work in-house. But yeah, I mean but also I think he's a salesman. He's a motivational speaker, his tool is his mouth. He talks like he likes, he likes controversy, he likes getting everyone stirred up. 

Ryan Alford [00:20:26] How was the culture there? I mean, it was everything he made it seem and I know no cells,  is the end product never live up to some of the statements that are made or the salesmanship that happens. But how was the culture there? 

Steve Babcock [00:20:49] Because it was good. I mean, I remember when I got there, I was actually originally kind of shocked. And I think maybe because this was the first time in my career where I was like I was the old person just because everybody felt so young. I do remember being like, I mean, I'm not used to this. Many like feeling like it was like a Christian. It was just like you just shut up and you do it. And if someone says this isn't right, do it again. You just went back and it was maybe I was so in this like the military came to a spot where I came in and said, hey, I don't think this is right. Let's try this and this and this. And the reaction was like, no, you've hurt my feelings. I'm like, I don't know how to deal with this, like, go. So I think the culture was fine. My biggest challenge for me was it wasn't a culture rooted in creativity. It's a media company founded by a business guy. So it was a lot about efficiency and just making stuff about. And I'm I was charged with coming in and that was a little bit of the struggle was like, no, no, no, no. This stuff matters as humans are emotional people. So the actual creative that we make needs to be able to connect with that emotion. But it's just not there. So the culture is really sort of hustle. Gary, the entrepreneur starting businesses that.... And it was a challenge. I like a culture that's a little bit more celebratory of the product that we make. So, for example, when you would have like our town hall meetings or our all agency meetings, like there was the first agency where I had ever worked, where we didn't show creative work that we had done recently. And that was hard. I don't know. I think it was. And I would always ask, what can we do that? Can we do that? And I think he I just my sense is he wanted he's like, no, I'll have the microphone. This is the guarantee. This isn't the work. Yeah. And to me, I was always even working at places like. Krispin, words like Alex Bogucki at the time was like the Michael Jordan of advertising, still just all about the word. He never even said he didn't like to speak. He didn't like to do any of that stuff. And so I was very used to that. So I started kind of having my own town halls that were just creative showcases. I think it's important for us we're big enough. It's important for us to see the work, to celebrate the work, to see the work that we don't know that we even made because another team made it. I just believe that's a really healthy culture. It's about the product that we make. But I would say the culture, if I was friendly, was friendly and pretty big and better. But I personally prefer a culture that's more around like. The product we make, and I think that is what actually really unites and brings people together, sometimes the culture at Vaina is difficult just because it was kind of the byproduct of whatever Gary was saying that week. And so he'd be off on it. And now we're doing this and everyone is scrambling to be like now we're that agencies. Now we're doing this and we're looking at where that agency. So sometimes it was a little challenging, but for the most part, it was like I can't say it was like at least during my time there, there was nothing like that, like there was no like that's the golden ticket of culture. 

Ryan Alford [00:24:12] We talked about this a little bit pre episode. It's got to be a little tough because, look, everybody wants some credit, right? We're human beings and you strike me as not ness a little bit. I know about you. I think you take pride in the work, but it doesn't have to have Steve's name on it every time necessarily. I'm sensing that about you. And look, he's super successful. I look up to him in certain ways. I don't I am not a hater, but it is always fascinating to me to wonder how you can have longevity there and self motivation when it doesn't seem like anyone else gets the idea credit. And I guess you just have to be OK with that there, because I'm sure I hear things out of his mouth and I'm like. This guy's got more ideas than anybody I know and I know that's natural, but whose mouth did this really come out of? Because I've heard some things that he said that I've heard you say, and I'm not, again, trying to create this divide. It's more interesting how you keep people motivated when the ideas seem to all credit one individual. 

Steve Babcock [00:25:39] Yeah, I think philosophically, why you maybe have heard a lot of the things we've said similarly is because we do have we agree there. I think I'll typically say them a little bit differently, etc. But when it comes to creative and things like that, I mean, my philosophy as a leader has always been to empower pretty much everybody else and to give that credit to everybody else, because that is like catnip to a cat. They like they want that and they want to grow and do more of that. And so I do think it's a bit of a challenge. For if and again, I really don't know what it's like to have eight million followers on Instagram and to be stopped everywhere I go and and we would like everywhere we go, it's like we're getting selfies or people shaking hands, like, and I and to me that actually I mean, I think I'm quite kind and social, but I don't like that. I'd be like I would start to get noticed a little. Just like you. She's just by association. And I'm going to dinner. See you later. Like, I don't get. He loves that. And that's why he's so good at it and genuinely loves that. There's no action. It is him and he loves it. I'm more of an introvert I guess. But I think when you are when your whole life's livelihood is being in the spotlight, I mean, that is his that he's the one with the microphone. He's the one talking. He's out of it. I think he just naturally sort of by default. You're not used to saying, like, I'm going to give the spotlight to somebody else. I never felt like there was. And it was just weird. It was like I find myself defending him a lot when people want to talk about him or whatever, because it's like I found him to be one of the better kinds of human beings that I've ever known, like he has such a kind heart and really does. But I do think he gets in this moment where that grapples with the celebrity ism and just sort of what you're used to. So I don't think that if there's ever been a timeline like I did, I think you should have given the credit to somebody else. I think this for this, I've never found it like intentional or malicious. It was just like you just kind of are in that zone where it's that's your that's your brand and that's your vehicle. You feel like you're the best sounding board to tell the world, hey, this is what we're doing and I'm doing it and I'm doing it and I'm doing it because you feel like you have to put it all on your shoulders for it to be successful. So it's an interesting scenario where you would see it and sometimes there'd be people that would kind of come up to you, man, like we came up with that. Like, would it have been that hard for him to say thanks to the team or whatever? And it's like he doesn't mean it. I promise you, I've worked with people who do mean it. In the end, I promise it's different for me personally. I think we work well together because I was OK with that. I'm fine with it being like, fine, take that. And maybe I would be better, maybe I'd be further along in my career if I was more bullish about those things. I just don't have it in me. And so I think we work well together where I would be like I don't need I don't need that. Part, but I would feel it sometimes when people who are on my team did need it.

Ryan Alford [00:29:10] That was kind of more the question a little bit. I see all your team that's doing all of these things. 

Steve Babcock [00:29:16] Yeah being there, at least in the beginning part was a bit of a challenge because you were this middleman, like, OK, all the creatives there were like, cool, we have a creative leader and we and he knows what we want to get out of it. And then kind of being the middleman of trying to go, hey, well, this is where gearstick to agency or this is what he said and done it. So it is definitely a challenge versus like I said, agencies where creativity is the culture doesn't matter your position. Everyone's like we know the North Star, like whether I could be the custodial person there. It did not matter what job you had, you knew why, what the north star of that agency was as a vendor, that was probably that if there was a number one challenge was like you had no idea what the North Star was just dependent on the week. I had my North Star and sometimes Gary had his and sometimes somebody else had theirs. And that was a bit of a challenge. It was just kind of trying to do that. 

Ryan Alford [00:30:18] Well, I attribute this line to you or him. Creativity is the ultimate variable of success. 

Steve Babcock [00:30:26] Yeah, that's his line. I would find at times where I'm like I would say it back to him when I felt like he was when he was sort of pooh poohing or just kind of going crazy. And like you say yourself, it's the variable success. Now, that's his line for sure. 

Ryan Alford [00:30:47] Is the platform for him? I mean, because I almost think Gary is the ultimate variable of success with VaynerMedia. And so, like I mean, it says it like if he went away where does the agency go? And so, I mean, I don't know if that's true or not true, but we'll see how it goes. But I look up to him for he's been super successful and kind of I love how he kind of shoots the middle bird at anyone and everyone that's like dalts him. And, but I do wonder, like, when you do that, it's you think, how could you foster entrepreneurship when the only entrepreneur really allowed to be the entrepreneurs, the leader. So I wonder when that will be an issue, because you really need sheep more than anything else in a way. So I don't know where that rubber hits the road. But, hey, success is obviously there. 

Steve Babcock [00:31:54] Like I said, I don't know what it's like to wear his shoes, although he gave me a pair of his shoes. So I guess that's the one time when that analogy makes a lot of sense. What one of his many K-Swiss shoes. But that's an ultimate challenge, I think, to any leader. And again, he's special. There's a reason he's successful and there's a reason he's who he is. He has a lot of character traits, especially work ethic. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. But I even saw the too. When Alex left Xman, it was like, whoa, like he hadn't really prepared the bench. And and and I think that that exit was a little unexpected. Alex, but that was definitely a challenge for a lot of the observations I made. There was a lot of the C suite area to me. We had a chief strategy officer, just what most agencies have was like. Now, I always felt like it is important, not even for me as an individual, just as an agency. I always felt that it was important for Baner media to be able to build a reputation among the industry and among potential clients. That was yeah, Gary's the CEO of that. But there is a lot to this place. There's a lot of other stuff you may or may not know of because you would look across the board and I'd be like, there are some and there is some of the best talent I'd ever worked for, especially in the media side. I mean, there are some people in the media side strategist's, of course, created, but it was like I really feel like we need to. In fact, right before I left, we finally did hire an individual to just kind of come in and be sort of PR and like to grow these stories and get. So it just wasn't there because in a way, Gary's always polarizing. So half of the half potential clients like him, on the other hand, hate him or whatever or don't like him. And I was like, either way, it's important to pull that curtain back a little bit because there's nine hundred people here who make this place work. And I think it's important because it's one thing where, especially in the creative side, I always like and I always admire creative leaders who work to get their executive creative directors or a group creative directors to get them some air time to get them on podcasts or writing articles or whatever. I just think that's really important. It's hard. I understand as a creative leader, you're right. There is this natural sense. Everyone has a little insecurity like, well, I don't want this person right below me to sing better than me because then they'll take my job, whatever. I just think at the end of the day, like even if they do take your job, like if you carone them to be able to take your job, you've done your job. But I just find that's always the better approach is to always be building your arm because that's how you can scale. And that's and I still haven't seen even in the years since I've been out of and I still haven't seen that that's been done very well. And so, yeah, I think if he did leave, it would be like, what the heck? I don't know if anyone maybe 

Ryan Alford [00:35:07] I mean, this is 

Steve Babcock [00:35:10] His name is the things that I've been leaving. So I hope he's not but, 

Ryan Alford [00:35:15]  I hope he's not either. But transition just for a minute, to you've built we're building made in house. I know just like everyone that it's like rock the boat, I'm sure, with just opportunities and projects being Paul's and everything like that. But I am curious philosophically. Your creative North Star now, if you so call it, I know we've talked a little bit about the media companies decide to maybe dove into that a bit. But, what's your overall philosophy for where you see things going? Both, I guess, post post covid. And, if there's going to be an impact, but kind of get some thoughts there. 

Steve Babcock [00:36:06] I mean, I think my hope is. On the other side of this, I do think you're seeing the industry or for the most part, you're seeing a lot of brands learn a valuable lesson, which is just to really, really focus on the inside and the needs of the consumer. I think right out of the gates, all the brands did that usual thing of just like in these unprecedented,  just kind of saying making an ad and not really realizing, wait a minute, is a head fake. And then there was a second wave that I think was better. Brands took a step back and they thought, OK, this is unlike anything we've ever experienced. People are quarantined in their homes. Their kids are out of school. They're trying to learn from old people. Parents are gone and they've had to go now. And it was also one of the first times, at least in my lifetime, where I've ever seen, like there was like a poll that 70 percent of people do not want to hear from brands right now. It's just like it's just the last thing you want to hear when you're someone that's like, I don't even know if I'm going to have money to buy mac and cheese. I don't want a Mac. And, it was like everyone was grappling with this. And then brands started to get smart and go, OK, well, here's the and I think also brands will start to focus more on having meaning that transcends just the thing they sell. This is why we exist as a brand. We can have a reason. We can have a place in culture that is beyond just the product that we sell in the service we sell. So brands started to say, well, that's why we have that. And now, given this current reality, how can we go in and answer and meet the needs of our consumer based on their situation? And so, you were seeing some fun things that or a lot of brands were also saying we need to help. So let's use our media dollars to remind people that they need to stay home or they need to wear a mask and they need to do whatever. So my hope is that once we get back to where we're out in society and doing these things, that brands will not forget, even when things are completely normal or whatever, that like let's still spend that time. I still spend 80 percent of the time on the problem and on the audience. Let's spend a week or so. And it's not necessarily I guess my message would be more to creative's just because that's the realm I've been in the creative market, creative people, ad agencies or in-house or whatever to go always, no matter what the situation is, is spend all the time you can understanding the problem and understanding your audience. Don't jump so quickly just like I just want to make an ad to talk about people versus I spend the time, invest the time, and then and then you're going to talk with them, 

 

Ryan Alford [00:39:07] I did a webinar last week for Greenville home builders. They invited me to do it for their association or whatever. And I thought customer centric marketing is going to win the day and I think it's down to the product centric or service centric versus customer centered and solving solutions for the problems that. Solving problems that consumers have with your marketing instead of speed feeds, feeds, all those things. 

Steve Babcock [00:39:45] That's right. 

Ryan Alford [00:39:47] So I think you're going to see the ones that can do that, even elevate higher, because to your point, with the surveys and it look, it's so funny, all the stuff is going on. I've told people these snowballs are for rolling downhill. A lot of these themes only Markéta Sumers don't want to be sold. Zim doesn't want to hear from brands these days. These are like little bonfires that have gas being poured on them with everything going on, in a lot of ways companies needing, being a little inflated, needed to be leaner, that all that was trending. And now we're just like 

Steve Babcock [00:40:25] And being able to know the quarantine, I think has been interesting just because it's forced a very scrappy style of production into something that you just need to do no matter what. You need to be able to go back to what we were talking about way earlier with just to be able to make the volume and still make it good at the cost. And so it's been really interesting. There is like how do you go back to again, once we get on the other side of this, how do you maintain those principles of like or we know how do we know how to shoot this for we know how to be more cost effective? I think agency structure, like you just said, is like you don't need 18 levels of chief global creative, galactic creative office. You don't need it. And for the first time in my career, you're seeing those kinds of individuals, unfortunately, but you're seeing them let go, we admit what and it's like the end of the day when you can no longer charge a client just to have a huge, exorbitant salaries. You do have to focus. I don't think there's room anymore. If you're creative, especially, there's no more room for just thinkers and people. You have to be able to do something that makes that idea real. And the way it's just you can't have the people to screw in a light bulb, you've got to be able to go, hey, I can come up now and I can at least make a prototype of it or I can at least do this regularly. And I think that is awesome. We have the tools. It's so easy to make and to create. And there's just if there's anything really, it's like that's going to be the thing covid-19 or whatever won't erase advertising, but it's going to make those who fail to say, hey, I need to be able to offer more than just an idea. I need to be able to do something to make that idea a reality. 

Ryan Alford [00:42:33] Yeah, the kumbaya moments of 12 people around the creative director and let's share our ideas. That one's no good. This one's good. I don't know. I think those days are,

Steve Babcock [00:42:46] You have those 12 people that they're all making every one of those ideas. It's like. I want to get that one. Made us do that one that it like. That's the world we have to be in. And then also the creative directors like and I've got to I'm going to be making I'll see you guys tomorrow and we'll look at what we got. Like, it's got to be that. 

Ryan Alford [00:43:04] when we built Radical in that very mold. We're very bureaucratic in our creative director, is he's working on his too. And grading the other four or grading is the wrong word. I just think seasoning, there you go. But it's fascinating. What's the future hold for Steve Babcock? 

Steve Babcock [00:43:31] Jeez, that's the golden question. Last year has been really probably one of the more interesting years of my career. A, I waited kind of a long time to try the entrepreneurial thing and maybe was emotionally the worst time just with kids and all that, but like but it taught me a lot. It was like, wait, I can do this. I don't know if I'm really an entrepreneur. You are like but it was very I was always scared of doing it. And I got out there and was like, I can do this. And I really, really enjoy working on the brand side. And like I said, every time I step in, it's like, awesome, there's a great problem. We can easily fix this. And I've really enjoyed watching that transformation and just being there's a lot I don't know, I think I've worked in advertising for twenty years and not until made in-house was like the first time I've ever had someone thank me, for helping them out. There's just I don't know why I think maybe the industry of advertising is such a thankless job. And to go in there and have conversations after you spend like a month with a team and to have, like, the lead creative that comes to you after, just be like I want to thank you so much for how much you've helped me. It's just that I feel really good about it. I will say the travel that is required for consultants is a bit heavy, but probably as no surprise. I remember March 12th. Exactly. And all of my stuff just went through. We're going to put this on pause. We're going to drive it. And so it's made and asked very much on pause. I mean, I'm doing like a few things here and there, but not at the level that I would want. I don't think half the world is doing the things. Yeah. So right now it's a little bit of a wait and see. Like is this going to what kind of. How long is this going to take? But also, thinking a little bit about I wonder if, I've been noodling a little bit about how to take a mated house and turn it into something that's a little bit more of an agency based on a lot of the philosophies that I've learned by spending time in House. And I've got a couple of concepts like that that would work really well. And and I'll admit, there are times where I'm like, man, I miss having a big team of people. I do. Sometimes I miss, like, if it's an agency, but or maybe it's a brand if they want to start it. And if there's something I do miss that sort of like because even as a consultant, even if you spend some time there, you're still an outsider. Yeah, and I do. I kind of miss that little, like, family mentality. So what's next is as good a guess as anybody can have and just kind of like everybody taking it sort of week by week. Like I said, I'm a father of three, three kids and two of them are teenagers. So that's a big part of my life and just kind of figuring it out. But I don't know. I think after a year of making it in House, I've learned that the pivot can be fun and can be good. So I'm OK going like, I don't know. I'll say maybe I'll become an East professional sports player. I've been getting pretty good at 4:00 at night with my kids, so maybe I'll be the oldest professional EA Sports guy. 

Ryan Alford [00:46:57] Hey there. There's your media company right there. Twitch is blowing up watching people play video games. And I see that 

Steve Babcock [00:47:05] Old white bald guy on Twitch. 

Ryan Alford [00:47:07] He's one of my dear friends is actually he is. I wouldn't call him this. He's definitely older. I think you and I are somewhere in a tribe more than you realize. I'm forty three. Just three. There we go. So we're not good friends back home. He is the voice of NBA 2k and he does his shoes. Look him up, Scholes, Coltrane. But he's huge in sports and as a personality and he is a hell of a video game player, but he's personality. That stuff with Madden. He's been on NFL Network and done a lot of things. But he's he's he's he's the old ball dude on EA Sports right now. But I think there's room for more. 

Steve Babcock [00:47:53] I love it, man, sports is I mean, I am a small investor, I'm no no baby, but I'm a very small investor and in a couple of EA Sports things that I just it's a and again, I have a son who's who's very into I don't love that world. I think it's a lot of fun. I think brands can it's a place where brands need to get more involved beyond just like NASCAR logos on its equipment. It's like creativity is just waiting to explode in these sports because right now it's still just sponsorships and blah, blah, blah, versus like getting in to come up with something, because I think a lot of brands and a lot of the world just doesn't understand how gigantic EA Sports really is. I mean, it's a lot of fun. So, we'll see if I can become a talk show host. So maybe I'll be on The Tonight Show 

Ryan Alford [00:48:51] Or the more of these you do. Maybe we're just building on your real if nothing else. 

Steve Babcock [00:48:54] That's all I'm really doing is offering Steve working. 

Ryan Alford [00:49:00] Everybody keep up with you. What's the best way? 

Steve Babcock [00:49:04] Well, fortunately, I am one of two Steve Babcock's in the world that I've ever been able to find. The other one is a karate instructor, I think in Indiana, if you Google Steve Babcock and the karate guy, I've tried to hit him up because he owns Steve Babcock Dotcom. But it turns out he's got a pretty healthy karate instructor business going on. But, yeah, just I mean, we're pretty active on Instagram, or just email SteveBabcock@gmail.com. So I'm pretty much on the Internet. 

Ryan Alford [00:49:43] Cool I really appreciate you coming on and look forward to kind of continuing our dialog and, And, it's fascinating. I know we just scratched the surface on a lot of the brands and campaigns you worked on, but I think there's some really good nuggets here for just, your philosophy with creative, your philosophy with teams. And I know that our audience will really appreciate your insight and I appreciate you spending the time. 

Steve Babcock [00:50:09] Absolutely, I appreciate you having me. It's been a lot of fun and yeah, and it's been a good conversation. Thanks for having me on.  

Steve Babcock [00:50:19] All right, guys, that's all for today's episode of the Radical Marketing podcast. Won't appreciate Steve Babcock for coming on. We'll see you next time. 

Steve Babcock

Founder of Made in House / Former Chief Creative Officer at VaynerMedia.