Avoiding rigid models and operational constraints, social-first agency Swift uses its small size and resources as part of the Wunderman Thompson network to its advantage. We chatted with Jaime Komitor, SVP Client Services and Project Management at Swift, on their bespoke workflow model and how to maximize efficiency as a small agency.
Can you give us a brief overview of your structure, capabilities, and client portfolio?
Swift is a boutique creative agency founded in 2009 that pioneered the model of “social AOR.” We’re headquartered in Portland, OR and our post-Covid model is hybrid and flexible, with local folks coming into the office 2-3 days a week. About half of our team is non-local, fully remote.
We position ourselves as social-first: so think of us like a full service agency that puts everything through the lens of social. We deliver the research, consumer insights, data science, thought-leadership, strategy, creative, execution and measurement to support all of a brand’s needs. We’re also able to seamlessly tap into our Wunderman Thompson network partners for specialization beyond our in-house offerings. For example, Village Marketing, a full service, full funnel influencer agency that’s very important in the social space.
Our current client portfolio includes Google Pixel, Google Nest, PayPal, Venmo, IBM, The Weather Channel, lululemon and Upwork.
How do you stay ahead of the curve and compete with large agencies or networks?
We have a clear proposition as a social-first agency, and we work hard at staying focused and not trying to do it all. A lot of agencies treat social like an after-thought, but we believe the best brands in the world nowadays are built in social. This philosophy and focus seems to be landing well in an era when CMOs need to prove ROI more than ever – everything we do is measurable at all touch points.
One of the upsides of running a smaller team is that we’re less matrixed and have fewer layers, so our talent pool is concentrated at the mid to senior level and our most experienced folks are close to the work, and often right in it.
Lately we’ve been really encouraged by the response to our thought leadership content, The Vaux Eye View. It’s Swift’s take on culture, audience insights, emerging trends, platform updates and what’s next. As a small agency it can be hard to carve out this dedicated time from the team at first, but it becomes an imperative once you see the response from clients and prospects who covet the knowledge and POV.
Lastly, and maybe one of the more important nuances about our philosophy, is that we aim to treat client partnership like a principle, not just a department. A lot of our talent comes from the brand side or have that experience – it’s something we look for when hiring. We emphasize empathy and the importance of listening to create a culture of respect for the pressures our clients face every day.
Many clients seem to be moving towards project work rather than the old AOR model. How, if at all, has that changed how you approach a pitch and how you position your agency to a brand?
We recognise and feel this shift, but it isn’t all-together new for us – some of our most invested relationships began as projects. Our size affords us elasticity, so we’re easily able to incorporate project-based work into our model. Especially with brands or projects we’re really excited about! If it’s a good fit then the relationship tends to naturally evolve. We’re more interested in the right partners and opportunities, and not as concerned with the title of AOR itself.
When it comes to pitching, we’re just as interested in “getting to know” the potential client as they are in getting to know us. It’s a two way street. We’ve started to build “ramp up” periods into our scopes and identify key points in the early days of the engagement when partnership review and reassessment will occur. We’re also exploring a standardized blueprint for a shorter term, sprint-like model that delivers value for the client and creates a type of ‘courtship’ environment for both sides.
In what ways does your agency’s size affect the way you approach campaign work? Can you give us an example?
Every brief is different and is a reflection of a business or brand problem that needs to be solved. Being small means we can experiment more, take risks and try new things. We build teams to solve problems, as opposed to recommending tactics to answer a brief. Our model allows us to react to the demands of different categories and pressures of different org structures, so we can custom build teams and workflows for the needs of the specific ask and client relationship.
Stills from the 'Change is Beautiful' campaign for Dove