Adam & Eve/DDB at 10: the early days


When Ben Priest, David Golding, James Murphy and Jon Forsyth founded Adam & Eve 10 years ago they blogged about the life of a start-up. Campaign has resurfaced these early-day musings to mark the agency's milestone.

21 January 2008

The computers are all fired up, the office is spotless and we are all in spanking new outfits, crouched by the phones, in a state of total readiness.

Okay, so none of that is true. Half the computers don't work, Microsoft are a week late with the software and we were in yesterday working on the Telegraph pitch so the office is littered with half eaten sandwiches and cold cups of coffee but what the hell, this is the first official day of our new agency Adam & Eve and we're excited!

Over the last six months we've been on a strange and wonderful adventure. We left behind our well-paid jobs, cab accounts and corner tables at The Ivy and decided to start a new kind of agency. Since then, we've lived a strange, nomadic existence in London's coffee shops, quickly learning how to nurse a cappuccino for nine hours in order to take advantage of free wi-fi.

We've discussed our own deaths with an IFA while arranging insurance and by now, each one of us could probably appear on Mastermind with the tube map as our specialist subject. We've learnt that whatever you imagine starting a business will be like, the total reverse normally happens but it's been great fun and now here we are on day one.

To give you a mental picture there's seven of us at Adam & Eve. We're from a range of different backgrounds – advertising, design, content, media planning and digital. We're all sitting around one big table in a large room in the offices of Zenith Optimedia. For the next six months this will be our home (thanks Gerry, you are a super star).

It's our first day and there's a lot going on. We're pitching for the Telegraph and that is already full steam ahead. We have two weeks to go; the theory and idea are in place and now it's time to torture test it in all the different spaces and places it will need to work.

There are two other pitches happening but we'd have to kill you if we told you about them. Needless to say our room is alive with the sounds of ideas being created, discussed and honed.

So, what can you expect from the Adam & Eve blog?

We want to give you warts and all coverage of what it's like to be involved in a start-up. This will not be a long-winded, beautifully airbrushed sales pitch. As a new business we'll hopefully experience some great moments but they'll also some be some growing pains and we'll be bringing you those – smelly feet, acne and all.

Because we have people from all sorts of backgrounds you will be told this story from a variety of viewpoints, which hopefully will be fun.

You'll also be able to closely follow David Golding's heroic attempts to live on £10 a day. Home made butter bean salad anyone?

What does it feel like to be launched?

Without wanting to downplay it, to be honest it's a relief. We're busier than we expected on the new business front so just to have the launch done and done well is a huge weight off our shoulders.

It also means we can emerge, blinking into the sunlight as Adam & Eve. At last we can talk about who we are, what we're called and what we believe in. We can shout about the great talent we've got and really talk in earnest about what this agency model has to offer.

If, six months ago, you'd have told us at launch we'd be knee deep in three pitches with little time to grab a sarnie, let alone throw a fabulous launch party we'd have been delighted. Now we just have to keep our heads down, work our backsides off and let the group we've assembled do their thing. Looking forward to day two already.

On a more serious note we very nearly cancelled the whole thing when we discovered Barry Norman was launching his own brand of pickled onions the very same week we were planning to go live. Would we simply be drowned out by all the Norman onion based hype? In the end we decided to risk it.

Quote of the day: "Can we do a group hug now? No, probably not."

David's lunch: Marks and Spencer roast beef sandwich. "It's the lowest fat sarnie in the building."

And finally, a massive, heartfelt thank you

People in this business sometimes get a bad press. "One step up from estate agents" etc. However we've been stunned by just how generous people have been with their time, advice and resources. Everyone we've asked for help has given it with a smile and our mum's would never forgive us if we didn't do the decent thing and say thanks.

So, in no particular order, a massive heartfelt thank you to Jane at Picasso for help, tea and meeting rooms. Mr Hornby for tireless encouragement and support. Robert Saville and messrs. V.C.C. and P. for their valuable time and brilliant advice. Will and Jon at Naked for great chats.

Mark Denton and Lotti at Therapy for meeting rooms and advice. Jorian at Dye Holloway Murray, Steve Parrish and Andrew at BMB for sparing us the time. Alfredo and Leo Marcantonio for advice, brilliant design and being there. All at AMP for being great guys and great partners. Hoady for her scrummy cakes.

More thanks to Phil, Aimee and Simon at Trinity Media, Nick Horswell, Jim Kelly and MT Rainey for much needed wisdom. Thanks to the ever lovely Mike and Darren at Start, Adrian Bott and his team at Osbourne Clark, everyone at Adam B, Matthew King and Mr. IT himself Darryl Berry.

Finally a huge thanks to Suzie, Sarah, Vickie and Sue, our lovely other halves, without whom we'd be nowhere.

Right, we're off to do some work. Same time tomorrow?

22 January 2008

Ben H wrote: "Day two of our brand new shiny new agency. Lots and lots and lots of meetings with different people in different formal attire (charcoal grey seems to be what's cooking at the moment but I have never been a fan of it teamed with a brown brogue). Any hope of a semi healthy January have been scuppered with the tremendous onslaught of cakes arriving at A&E HQ. These coupled with the chaps’ discovery of hot cross buns already on sale means our waists are expanding much quicker than the agency.

"Having people interested in working with you is nice and, some would say at this point, essential but we do find it getting in the way of what's really important: business cards, the official agency handshake and what colour bean bags to get.

"On a positive note, everyone seems to be working well and getting on with each other (apparently some of the guys have worked together before). On a negative note the office is able to turn from a smart media meeting room to a coffee stained, fart ridden, slum-hole in the blink of an eye."

23 January 2008

James Murphy wrote: "Filing copy on the move – this all feels a bit Kate Adie… Just come out of early morning pitch meeting, or rather a follow up meeting?with clients after main presentation of work, hopeful sign is that?their questions were testing the long term strength of our approach?across their portfolio. Fingers crossed.

"Pitch brief is very focused, we want a TV campaign on air in a month, so as well as extreme timing there's the challenge of creating a properly strong idea that can play everywhere beyond that. It's weird when you try and build a new business different from the one you've come from because a lot of the new business leads you get are from sectors you've already worked in, so it will be what we do with them next that counts.

"Right let's get on the Thameslink back to London comforted that at least I'm not suffering bloggerhea like the two Bens were."

Ben H wrote: "We’ve got bins! Maybe that’s why the place was such a mess.

Quote of yesterday (which we have named "Evesdropped". See what we did there?)
"Oh no! I’ve just got thousand island on my Blackberry" 
Jon??Such exquisite juxtaposition.

24 January 2008

David Golding wrote: "Phew. We have a client. Thank you to Cadbury biscuits for putting your faith in Adam & Eve. We are, not surprisingly, delighted. It's a proper brand you can buy in the shops. And it's got a proper marketing spend and big ambitions.

"But far more important, it solves one of the biggest issues facing any agency – biscuit strategy. Some choose to go all fancy-Dan in their meeting rooms with home-baked cookies or foil-wrapped cream-filled delights. But this can risk looking a little profligate in front of the procurement clients, and this won’t do in today's credit-crunching world.

"Others prefer to bring out the Happy Shopper imitations of family favourites like the Bourbon and the Custard Cream. But here the risk is spoiling the magic for more upbeat marketing clients. Hours have been devoted to this debate around the industry. But not for us. At Adam & Eve it's Cadbury Digestives, Chocolate Fingers and (my favourite) Animals all the way.

"The perfect new model, media-neutral, non-traditional, 360-degree biscuit solutions, I think you'll agree.

"Would love to say we went out and partied hard after our first win. But we didn't because we're a bit busy trying the land our second and third wins. And because we're meant to be eschewing the lavish lifestyles we apparently left behind. Pity.

"So, better get back to it now, but before I do I think I'll have a cup of tea…and quite possibly a biscuit."

Evesdropped: "My advice in this case Jon is to wing it" – James

25 January 2008

Jon Forsyth wrote: "So the second instalment of Adam & Eve company faces was revealed yesterday and once again many thanks to the Campaign folk for giving us such supportive exposure in these first few weeks of our existence. Thankfully the new faces provide the young, good looking side to Adam & Eve.

"On an emotional note, as the eight of us were thrown together on a borrowed roof space in north London for the first time, I’ve got to say it felt really really exciting. Sure there's the anxiety and 101 things to do, but aside of the looming hard graft this is undoubtedly very good fun.

"Anyway, more importantly, our office (room) yesterday also experienced a sudden and unexpected display of Brokeback Mountain style shirts. Some speculate it is in respect to Heath Ledger others link it to Golding's equally surprising turnaround on conventional week-day attire. However, having challenged him on it, it was in fact simply due to a meeting free day.

"There's a lot of talk about our professional diversity, however, I'm equally looking forward to the rich diversity in day to day styles amongst us...Tasker bring it on."

28 January 2008

Nick wrote: "Wow, what a privilege my first script, realised. We (Ben ‘n’ I) just got back from shooting Adam & Eve’s first ever TV commercial. It felt great to see so many talented people working their bollocks off to bring our thoughts to life. In fact the whole experience of creating an ad has been a great learning experience for me, so many hours go into those precious few seconds.??

The days events:

"After waking up at 5am on the day of the shoot, my first shock was to discover that I wasn’t the only person in Camden that was awake. I’m usually dreaming about talking pigeons or some rubbish at that hour, but sure enough, the tube was crammed and the people were just as sweaty. I rocked up at Streatham station around 7am where I indulged in an egg sarnie coupled with a quick read of The Sun – I felt like a builder, only with his legs crossed and wearing a red leather jacket. I know.

"When Ben (finally) arrived. We headed over to the shoot where a chap with a big torch greeted us. Once there I ate breakfast number two, loosened my belt and we headed inside to meet an Iguana. All in a morning’s work.

"Thankfully, the first actor had already had his breakfast too.

"Ben and I soon got into the swing of things. Watch, clap, drink coffee, watch, clap, drink tea… occasionally pausing to admire my trainers while they’re still white. We had a great day, but wasn’t all sugar-coated for me. Nope, I managed to land a £20 fine on the way back from the shoot, bugger. Should’ve got a cab, like those old-skool agencies.

"Thanks to everyone at the shoot, especially our legendary director, Jim Gilchrist, for bringing his magic dust to every scene. See if you can spot our first ad next month - Just keep an eye out for the one with an Iguana. Shouldn’t think they’ll be many.

"Ta-ra for now, NT. Now, where was I?"

30 January 2008

Ben H wrote: "The Mac vs PC debate rages over at Adam & Eve. Having been fully "Mac’ed up" with identical laptops, from a distance it gives us an edge of unified harmony. However some of us struggle to cope with a computer that only has one mouse button as opposed to two (don’t we, David?)

"With the Telegraph pitch imminent the days are getting longer, weekends aren’t weekends and loved ones are becoming mere figments of our imaginations. There’s no signs of a slow down after Friday either, it’s nice things are busy but it would be nice to have some time to eat etc.

"To help out we’ve secured the account management services of Mat Goff from 4Creative. His feet haven’t touched the ground since he started and he hasn’t been home for days. Excellent."

Evesdropped: "I hate the way water’s see through" – Nick

1 February 2008

Ben H wrote: "Things are getting pretty busy round here. We're receiving lots of phone calls and traffic on the site ( some are about new business and the others are enquiries about scented lubes and butt plugs. C'est la vie.

"Lots of appointments, general running around, chemistry meetings etc are always promising, especially when you've only got one client I suppose. To make sure we can honour all these appointments James has had to introduce ‘Murphy's strategic lunching’ TM. This means no two Adam & Eve employees are allowed to buy lunch from the same establishment on the same day. So should one of us fall foul of a reheated pasty or a polonium-laced piece of sushi we will, in theory, be only one man down.

"Looking ahead yesterday as everyone met up and synced calendars (or as we call it ‘oiling the beast’) it looks like a busy few months ahead. We can sleep later can’t we?"

Evesdropped: What do you mean "Priest's gone to get his hair cut"? – James

6 February 2008

James Murphy wrote: "A new week begins at Adam & Eve and sees the much-anticipated arrival of Hattie. With her she brings a sunny disposition, some much needed femininity to counteract all the alpha males and a scary understanding of what makes Murphy, Priest and Golding tick (Forsyth is still a mystery).

"Yesterday we visited the huge construction site that will be our new offices… no, unfortunately not. It was actually part of an exciting briefing from a new business client. On one hand it was a chance to meet the minds behind the project, chat to the construction workers, assess the scale of the building and start thinking about big plans whilst on ground level.

"On the other hand it was a chance for four grown men to dress up as Bob the Builder and aimlessly wander round, getting in the way of skilled tradesmen, seeing who would get to climb up the scaffolding and hold the large man’s spanner."

8 February 2008

Hattie D wrote: "Well, here we are at lunchtime on Friday and by rights we should be having fish, but instead DG, Jon and I are tucking into a veggie curry box from the restaurant across the road. Very tasty and well within budget. All the other Adams are out and about!

"So how's week one been? Quite good fun actually. It's rather nice to be a part of things from the start and get involved in the agency properly, from sorting the business cards to finding a new place to rent in a few months, to?trying to unravel the intricate mystery that is a Mac! Working in a small room with only boys is not nearly as bad/tense or gaseous as one may think.

"As ‘typing pool’ I thought I’d leave the work bit aside for a bit and instead dwell on all the little things about working with this lot that are noteworthy. In no particular order this week for me will be remembered for:

"Jon’s fact of the day that tea being as bad for you as coffee is a myth. This was proven by his doctor friends whom he grilled on the topic during an obviously very risque stag do.

"David’s cold. I had forgotten how bad these can be. The ‘room’ is filled with potions, lotions and tissues (with balm, nothing else acceptable) and in the background, if you listen carefully, beyond the lull of the air con is an almost constant sniffling.

"Ben H musing over what it would be like if you kept all the hair you had ever had cut off.

"Nick sneaking off to any other possible working environment to simply try and find some peace and quiet.

"Ben P singing the same line over and over again of, what he later told us, was his own made up song.

"Matt. Good old Matt. Quietly getting on and actually making all the important stuff happen.

"James being compared to a dog. Apparently, a dog will eat itself to death if supplied with an endless supply of food. James would do this if given enough buttered hot cross buns.

"Whilst we are on the subject of dogs - James was later heard to say: "What is dogging exactly?"

12 February 2008

Murphy's Strategic Lunching could not take into account the common cold and a strain more lethal than an apocalyptic plague of locusts has hit Adam and Eve like a bad apple strudel.

Murphy's in bed, so is Hattie (yes, the same one) and David's off to join them once he's coughed over some potential clients. The rest of us bravely soldier on looking over our shoulder in fear of being hit by the bug that shows no mercy.

14 February 2008

Ben H wrote: "Valentines Day today and there’s a lot of love in the room (I think that’s what the smell is). An important day to make amends for those A+E’ers who haven’t seen their loved ones since the start of 2008.

"Hattie has gone all out and purchased some special edition Champagne Marmite for her bloke. Lucky guy. No one has invested in the his and hers t-shirts with proximity related heart monitors though. These puppies are surely for those couples who really know what love is.

"Lots of work on but unfortunately we can’t talk about any of it. Chatting to friends about work is a bit like a Mission Impossible briefing until we realise they don’t actually care what clients we have and are just being nice. Back to work, the cork’s coming out of the Liebfraumilch at 7pm and there’s a lot to do before then."

19 February 2008

Ben Priest wrote: "We are gearing up for a big pitch tomorrow but that is not the number one topic of conversation here at Adam & Eve. Oh no, the discussion raging is what those two matinee idols Murphy and Golding should wear to the Brits tomorrow. James has been heard to utter ‘will I get to walk down a red carpet?'

"The pitch is coming to the boil nicely but we still have a long night ahead of us."

Idea of the day: Flashing Nelson.

Thought of the day: How long can a man live on soup and chocolate?

Garment of the day: Ben H's Starsky and Hutch cardy.

22 February 2008

Jon F wrote: "Poomph. Two pitches in 10 days. Our lack of posts are in direct correlation to how busy we’ve been. Now we have the (relative) calm after the storm. The post-coital cigarette. Finally we have time to do the day-to-day stuff that keeps the agency running: Facebook, YouTube and eating cake. We’ve even managed to drink alcoholic beverages with each other and learnt each other’s names and job titles etc. On the whole it turns out most of us are thoroughly good eggs.

"Speaking of birthdays, Happy Birthday to Mr Benjamin Priest who has reached the big four zero today. The first Adam & Eve birthday calls for a suitably large celebration so we are ‘maybe going to the pub at lunchtime but we can’t stay long because we have an Air Asia meeting at 2pm’. Fasten your seatbelts.

"If you thought we were bad at blogging you ain’t see nothing yet. Don’t expect to hear from us for at least a fortnight but we will post pictures of the carnage when we can."

27 February 2008

David G wrote: "We've been blogging about the general life in and around Adam & Eve recently, so I thought I’d get into the more serious side of things momentarily.

"Fee proposals. I've never really got involved with this part of the new business process much in the past. After all the excitement and creativity of the actual pitch is over, rather than slump back exhausted, the challenges continue. Submitting a fee proposal is a real game of prisoner's dilemma. As a start-up you should be cheaper because you've got lower overheads etc.

"However, you are typically fielding a more senior team, so that cancels that out. In fact it's one of the big selling points of the start-up – same price, more senior time. However, there's always a chance that the bigger agencies can take a flier and offset some income against other revenue sources, offering the client a knock-out deal. It's a delicate balancing act.

"Anyway, we're not giving anything fees or in this blog...because we hope to get a fair price for what we offer. Watch this space to see what the clients decide.

"All of the above is, of course, far less significant than our introduction of 'hymn of the day'. This morning's choice was Tell out my Soul. A rousing favourite of all of all know how it goes, sing along at:

29 February 2008

An extra day of the year calls for an extra special post. Nevermind.

It’s been a tense old week at Adam & Eve whilst we await some news on a pitch. There’s plenty to do but every time James’ phone rings we all look to him like expectant young starlings as he informs us it was just his wife telling him he’s left his lunchbox in the fridge.

The hymns have been helping though and there’s even been talk of an A+E music venture – working title: The Adam & Eve Sound Machine. This is one of the many ideas that, we imagine, circulate round every agency especially when they are new. You know "Lets make T-shirts, lets open a shop, lets do everything for free." Normally ideas like this are pretty tough to convert though as everyone gets distracted doing the work bit.

So our "Other stuff we should do" list sits happily on the wall and deep down we all secretly hope we win no new business so we can start work on the Adam & Eve patisserie.

"If we’re going to do The Sound Machine we need 100% commitment" – Hattie.

7 March 2008

Golly, what a week we’ve had. It started on a high by winning Westfield and with the arrival of Betty our new teapot.

All we’re waiting for now is news on a few more pieces of work. Regardless of whether we win or lose we all deserve to celebrate and celebrate we shall. But where? For a new kind of agency that breaks the mould we’ve chosen a part of town that completely fits this ethos: Charlotte Street.

So, as we search for a more permanent space (probably an industrial estate near the M40 or somewhere cool like Peaches Geldof’s shoe) we are left with the plethora of watering holes Noho has to offer. The Marquis of Granby is our most frequented but it just seems a bit too…obvious.

We quite like The Wheatsheaf and have enjoyed booze at the Nordic bar and Jerusalem. We tried to get in the Newman Arms last week but literally couldn’t get through the door. Next on the hit list are The Fitzrovia, Jack Horner, Bricklayers Arms and Duke of York.

Please submit any suggestions and we will let you know if we find any hidden treasures. Have a good weekend and, as a cockney hard nut might say "be lucky".

17 March 2008

Jon wrote: "With our three fantastic wins – Westfield, Lloyds TSB and the Telegraph last week it seems only sensible to finish our blog on a high. (Unless of course you were witness to some of the late Friday evening celebration karaoke).

"Also it's time to get our heads down and produce the kind of work that we all believe will set us apart and deliver against our offering. We couldn't have asked for a better start and thanks once again to those who have been so supportive.

"But there's a lot more to do – whilst we're enjoying the generosity of free office space from Gerry, its becoming increasingly apparent we're not going to see out the next three months without some 'overflow' space.

"We're looking at some new offices next week and there's an exciting thought about sharing space with two or three other like-minded start-ups: a creative version of the village people. I’ll be the Indian please.

"Anyway most importantly we'll finally have some time to sit around a table and plan out the next year, recruit the best people and shape a company that is great to work for.

"So, as we call it a day (for now) on our blog which has been a lot of fun, it is only fair to give everyone the last word...

Ben – "Goodbye and remember, there must be no scripts, that would spoil the illusion."

Nick – "So long, like me."

Ben H – "Eight weeks. Five accounts. 38,000 M&S hot cross buns (they're not just hot cross buns to be fair)."

Hattie – "I miss girls."

Jon – "Digital is dead. Long live TV."

James – "What about digital TV?"

Matt – "I was the one taking the picture."

Mat – "The last post always brings a tear to my eye and this is no exception."

David – "£10 a day is easy, it's £8 for me now on."

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