You've probably heard stories about creatives quitting their jobs to travel the world and look for adventure and creative opportunities in unexpected places. So, Alexandra Rønde Thielke and Rasmus Veggerby's story might sound familiar, at least on the surface. The duo did quit their jobs at a major agency because they wanted to travel the world. But what they've done since is something a little different.
Thielke, a strategic account executive, and Veggerby, an art director, wanted to run a nimble agency without an office, without a specific location and without defined daily hours. So instead of simply searching for freelance work in Dubai or Thailand or Cuba, they started Twentyfive & Thirty, which they call "the world's smallest global creative agency." The duo now spend a few months in one city, do a bit of work, meet some new people and then move on to the next destination.
Adweek caught up with the two-person agency via email while they were at the Cannes Lions festival speaking at the Cannes Lions Creative Academy before heading off on their next adventure to Denmark. (Adweek also caught up with Thielke on the Croisette to take a look at the Portfolio Badge she created, courtesy of Adobe.)
Adweek: What's your background in advertising? What were you doing before you decided to leave the agency world?
Twentyfive & Thirty: We have both worked in advertising agencies for five years. We met as colleagues at the Danish Grey office, Uncle Grey, where we both worked for two to three years.
At Grey, we worked together on several clients. … Working together we realized that we both had a dream of exploring the world more. We didn't have a desire to go backpacking or anything like that, but we wanted to see more of the world and meet new people and different cultures.
We were also both curious to challenge the way of working as an agency, both in terms of processes but also in terms of structuring work hours. We practically spent our lives in those offices, not being able to enjoy the first sun in the spring, the hot days in the summer, the snowy days in the winter. Our wish was not to work less but to be able to decide if we put in the hours in the morning, afternoon, evening, night.
But we also have great passion for doing creative work and both have high ambitions. We love working with clients, and we love doing creative work. We want to be part of the top league creatively. Winning three Lions in Cannes last year, we knew that we could do this on our own.
So we talked about how we could combine all of this in a way where it would also be interesting for clients to work with us. And that is where Twentyfive & Thirty was born—a platform where all of this is possible. An agency with no offices, no defined work hours, where we work with clients digitally and where we can adapt to the projects we work on.
Having an agency with no office lets us travel the world. Being our own bosses makes us the boss of when we want to work and thereby have the flexibility to drink a coffee in the morning sun or go surfing at noon. Not having defined work hours makes it possible for us to be very flexible with clients. We have had great experiences with clients calling us Friday afternoon and needing something Monday, which is no issue for us, as we don't have weekends as such.
What can you offer clients that larger shops can't?
We offer a level of flexibility that larger agencies can't naturally offer. Of course, most push and bend their employees to meet the client's demands, but for us, it's part of our model to be completely flexible—and thereby it doesn't put any stress on us. We are also geographically flexible. We can go to the client and work from their offices for two weeks if we all feel that it's better for the process. We have done this for very intense projects, and it's an amazing experience for everyone in the team and produces great work.
As a small agency we also don't have employees whose salary has to be covered in project prices. We don't have an expensive rent so we are able to offer competitive prices for high-level creative and strategic work.
What are some of the challenges of working with clients digitally? And what about benefits?
For the past eight months, we have not had one physical meeting. All meetings are held on Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. Working digitally sets demands for collaboration that we have experiences as very beneficial. We are extremely aware that the client feels that we are present even though we are not physically present. This means that we create workflows that are completely see-through so that the client always has a full overview of all aspects in the project and what the status on current tasks are.
We use tools like Slack, Google Docs, Basecamp, which all work great, and we experience that our client collaborations are even stronger now than previously. It is very efficient to work this way as no one has transport to and from meetings, you don't have chitchat in the same way. Our meetings are very to the point, which frees up a lot of time to spend on actual work.
Of course, we all know that a physical meeting can do wonders, mainly in terms of connecting socially, and this is something that we don't have in our daily work. We travel to meet our clients once in a while and make sure to be social when we meet, but it's not part of the daily collaboration.
We actually have more day-to-day contact with our clients now compared to our time in big agencies.
Where have you traveled so far?
Since November, we have lived in Bali, Indonesia for five months, Vietnam for one month and the South of France for two months. Right now we are in Cannes as part of the Cannes Lions Creative Academy program, where we have been speaking to creatives about our concept and way of working.
Where do you stay when you travel to new places?
It has varies a lot. In Bali, we stayed at a local homestay for five months that was incredibly nice. In Vietnam, we stayed at hotels, which was really cheap, and in France we have been lucky to borrow a beautiful house for two months. Moving on to Denmark, we will stay in a very nice sailboat that we have been lucky to borrow. And moving on to Canada, we will stay with a new friend we met in Bali. We are trying to be very open to travel to places where people we meet live. This gives the best experience as it makes us able to quickly experience places as locals and not tourists.
What projects have you worked on recently?
We are the lead agency for a large Danish butter brand. We have done projects for people we have met on our travels. We have pitched a lot with other agencies that hire us in as their creative teams. We have a lot of exciting projects in our pipeline.
Would you recommend this lifestyle to other creatives?
Oh, yeah! If you like traveling and have the self discipline to work on your own, we would recommend it. It's an amazing way to combine passions instead of having to choose one over another. Also, we experience that our creativity rises exponentially being out in the world. In Bali, for example, Rasmus would go surfing over lunch and always return with a new idea.