Noble People’s Lindsay Lustberg Talks Small Agency Awards, Small Agency Business And Staying “Noble”
By thelaegotist / / LA and NY based creative media agency, Noble People, was named Ad Age’s 2017 Gold Northeast Small Agency of the Year at the annual award show honoring the best agencies in the business with fewer than 150 employees. The shop, who handles media for the likes of PayPal, Slack, Honest Tea, Braintree and Boulder Brands, was called out for its breakout “Pony Up” campaign work for Venmo, its steady year-over–year growth, and its ability to outshine as an independent among mega media players. No stranger to the Awards, last year Noble People took Silver B-to-B Campaign of the Year for its Braintree work targeting coders in coffee shops, and in 2015 they took home Gold Small Agency of the Year in the 11-75 employee category. We sat down with Partner & Chief Operating Officer of Noble People, Lindsay Lustberg, to talk about the impact of the Awards on its business, what it means to be a small agency, and how to stay“noble” in an industry catching lots of heat for being quite the opposite. Q&A LA Egotist with Lindsay Lustberg, Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Noble People. 1. Q. You have been honored by the Small Agency Awards in the past. Talk about the impact and influence it has had on your business. A. Beyond gaining the interest of some new clients, the biggest impact has been solidifying our position in the market. Not just a position of being pretty good, but for being a media agency in the mix of some of the best growing creative shops out there. We call ourselves a creatively minded media shop, so this recognition is validating, helps motivate our people, and attracts great talent too. 2. Q. There has been a lot of controversy in the media industry over the past 2 years. How have you combatted that? A. This is an easy one. My partner Greg was recently at a conference leading a discussion about ‘transparency’ and his very simple advice and headline on his deck was “don’t lie”. We named ourselves Noble People for a reason, in response to an industry that gives us all a bad name. It starts with how we build our fees — more like a creative agency or a law firm really. Unlike the majority of the media industry, we don’t charge clients based on a commission-based model because we don’t want to be incentivized to convince them to spend more money, or more in one channel versus another. We charge for our peoples’ time, build staff plans with our clients based on their needs, and revisit this throughout the year. Our teams aren’t incentivized to push media dollars through some proprietary tool or business unit that has numbers to hit. And we don’t make a single rebate dollar on any buy, ever. 3. Q. What are some of the benefits of being a small independent media shop? Some of the biggest challenges? Q. A. The liberties of making business decisions with my two best friends and partners, Greg March and Todd Alchin, without oversight or demands sitting above us, is the biggest benefit. It comes down to a lot of gut decisions effecting both enormous things and smaller ones. It’s rewarding and frightening at times, but it’s working and I for one couldn’t live any other way now. The challenge is always maintaining our product, while keeping up with growth. Because we’re a unique angle in the market, so much of maintaining great work comes down to teaching our craft vs hiring the perfect people to do it. There aren’t that many people who do what we do. That’s hard. We do tend to attract media people who aren’t satisfied with the industry which helps. But it’s on us to consistently define the bar we aspire to hit and to consistently inject creativity into the office. We have a “shit we’re proud of” series, where employees present Noble award-winning work to the agency. We point to non-Noble work that blows us away. And my partners and I review, discuss, and push all client work with each team (sitting around the table with Directors-to-assistants) before it goes out the door. 4. Q. What does it mean to be a “creative” media agency? Why is it important? A. My partners and I come from some of the top award-winning creative shops. I think we all learned early on that unless we’re doing spectacular work, no one will care about it (including ourselves). We don’t have media ‘audiences’ sitting back and waiting to see what advertising we put out there in the world. No one cares. Let’s just accept that as a truth. What resulted in Noble People is a shop that starts with an idea or an insight, not with an MRI run or an off the shelf playbook. We don’t ignore reach and frequency, we just don’t start there. We don’t aspire to ‘get in early’ with creative agencies, we’re simply invited to the table from the beginning because these guys are our friends and we’ve earned those seats. The output is spectacular work together with real results. 5. Q. Finally, what about Noble People’s people/culture makes it a standout? A. We attract people (and clients) who want something different. A lot of media people just sort of ended up in media. Most wanted to work in ‘advertising,’ and to be part of a creative field. We’re the place for these people. We also attract builders. Entrepreneurial spirits. Creative minds. Sometimes this means hiring smart people without a Noble title, because we don’t know where they’ll be most valuable until we actually get them in here working. And our best and brightest are after the same autonomy and growth ambitions we were early on in our careers. They recognize that there are many paths toward great work and that our Noble product will evolve… if they’re in the driver’s seat with big ideas for the business, we give them full license to go and build.