Left to right: Sanya, JoRoan and Adrian
Jam3, which in 2021 became part of Media.Monks, prides itself on being a team of makers, capable of building any immersive web, AR, VR or piece of technology that you throw its way. But according to Jam’s CCO and founder Adrian Belina, a certain kind of creative magic happens when you put more traditional thinkers closely alongside the makers who bring their ideas to life. Plus, it’s worth noting that the word ‘traditional’ incurs no negative connotations here - it’s used merely to highlight the yin and yang between thinking and making.
With that in mind - and as part of an endeavour to build a new model of brand creation - Jam3 and Media.Monks are hiring the likes of JoRoan Lazaro and Sanya Grujicic, who both joined the team in 2022.
JoRoan is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience rooted in product design for emerging technologies as well as brand communications at agencies including Elephant, BBH New York, Havas, The Martin Agency, R/GA, Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Sanya is a Toronto native with 15 years of industry experience at the likes of FCB Canada, john st., Tribal Worldwide, and Sid Lee.
With all of this in mind, LBB’s Addison Capper sat down with Adrian, JoRoan and Sanya for a deep dive on the business that Jam3 and Media.Monks is on the path to build, and what that says about the advertising industry at large.
LBB> What was it about the opportunity at Jam3 / Media.Monks that tempted you to join?
JoRoan> Work in this business long enough and there’s a realisation that, yes, you can pitch the most incredible ideas and win the business. But then you still need to make it while keeping that original vision alive. Ideas are arguably the easy part. Execution – making and shipping that great idea – is hard to do. Especially when it comes to immersive web, AR, VR and new technologies. Jam3 and the broader Media.Monks team can turn the ideas into reality because the in-house technology team is stellar, and truly collaborates with creative and production.
The first half of my career was at emerging technology companies, designing products that millions of people used for the first time at America Online from 1996-2001, or experiences that a small, but very early passionate group of visionaries thrived in at Second Life. I then switched to agencies like CP+B, Martin and BBH where ideas were king. It’s very hard to do both ends well (ideas and execution). Jam3 and Media.Monks hit that sweet-spot.
Sanya> Jam3 was founded around the same time I was coming up as a copywriter at creative agencies. I so admired the way they paved the way for storytelling in digital in ways no one was doing. Those early years in my career, and those shops that I admired, really set the foundation for the kind of creative I wanted to be. I love insight-driven work, and I love creative use of digital. So when I heard from Adrian, I don’t even think I’d call it a ‘temptation’ on my end, it was more like a ‘let’s go!’
LBB> Adrian, what is the thought process and business plan behind hiring creatives like Sanya and JoRoan?
Adrian> As part of Media.Monks, we always look to promote our talent first as we did with our first two ECD positions. It’s super important that as we grow, we create opportunities for our staff to grow together with us. Our growth in 2021 was massive, not just in headcount and revenue but in the scale of services and engagements we are doing in brand experience design. My creative partner Pablo and I went on a deep hunt seeking to bring in a very senior level of ECD experience to match the clients and new work coming in.
We loved that in Sanya we would be getting her award-winning leadership in brand strategy and conceptual creative from her days at FCB, Tribal, John St, and Sid Lee. And with JoRoan, his multi-faceted experience in both advertising and digital design firms like AKQA, R/GA. Elephant, BBH, Crispin, and The Martin Agency would be doubling down on bridging the gap between brand communication, digital and product design.
LBB> Prior to this interview, I was told that ‘Media.Monks is looking to build a new model’. How do you see and define that model?
Adrian> We grew up working natively in digital and have seen all the company permutations on both agency and production sides. Given the state of where we are today, we feel the advertising industry is ripe for disruption, and a new playbook is required for a world that’s been transformed by digital. When we joined Media.Monks we loved that they had pivoted away from old holding company structures and models. We’re bringing the traditional creative thinking closer to the makers who are creating. Our model offers our people opportunities to specialise, collaborate and create ownable space to innovate.
Sanya> I’m really proud about what traditional advertising teaches you about the business and brands, and has since the ‘60s. A lot of what you learn endures despite agency models shifting all around you. In terms of our model, it’s founded on the same principles that clients value from traditional agencies: a partner in problem solving and brand building, data-driven insights and creative that performs. We’re just not limited to what we can make and we pride ourselves on our ability to make it ourselves. That’s always been part of our heritage.
JoRoan> My background is anything but traditional for agency creatives! Which tends to make me a good fit for ‘new’ models. Also because I’ve been practising that role for a while. I tend to be asked to bridge the gap between the traditional agency art/copy teams and the ‘newer’ teams of ‘digital/product designers + XD + prototypers + software engineers’. I’ve been lucky enough to follow my interests and passions for a long time, regardless of geography or type of company. That’s allowed for learning key ideas from many different fields. Which helps in developing new ideas and widening thinking. I’m definitely a big proponent of creativity happening at the intersection of seemingly unrelated ideas.
LBB> JoRoan and Sanya, you have touched upon this but I wanted to ask more pointedly. Jam3 and Media.Monks pride themselves on being makers - how did that influence your decision to join the company? And what kind of opportunities does that open up for you as creatives?
JoRoan> A company and culture of true ‘makers’ is crucial for me. Ideas need to be protected, nurtured and evolved so they’ll live to be experienced by people in the world. It’s ideal when you can be along for that entire journey in the same company, end-to-end. Particularly, when you’re making things that have not been made before, it’s far better to work alongside trusted teammates that are living, breathing and experimenting with new technologies. The curiosity, passion and skill is at a different level. And the trust, as well. Tech companies have an old term called ‘dog-fooding’ where you encourage employees to actually USE the product(s) they are making. It’s important because it helps you understand, from a human perspective, what is great, what sucks, what’s useful, what’s fluff. The same principle applies to making new things.
Sanya> Since starting, I’m blown away by the brands we work with and what we create throughout Media.Monks globally. As a student of brands my whole career, sometimes I get almost starstruck with the brands that virtually walk through the door and want to work with us on something that’s never been done. From subculture-led apparel drops to product launches from your favourite brands to a brand’s first foray into the metaverse. It’s fucking cool.
LBB> How has all of this been working in practice so far since you joined?
Sanya> What I’ve always valued about copywriting is how it teaches you to run at complexity with simplicity. Or how it teaches you to express something that’s simple, imaginatively. The best ideas that clients want to make are the ones that grab them in the room and stick in their heads after you leave. And that comes down to how you express your idea, whatever its execution. I put that lens on everything I work on here and I feel appreciated for it.
JoRoan> It’s so cool to be ‘around’ people who love this stuff. Literally, one of my Friday morning emails was one of our teams sharing the explorations and work they’ve been doing in one of the up-and-coming metaverse platforms (still in Alpha!) where its early users can buy plots of land and build games and experiences there alongside Adidas, Gucci and other brands. This isn’t about spotting trends, or synthesising ‘thought pieces’. It’s people who care enough to spend their time experimenting, trying and making, so that when the opportunities arrive, we’re ready to sprint ahead and take them on.
LBB> Adrian, how do you see the relationship between your maker heritage and newly hired creative talent? And how can that influence the work?
Adrian> It all comes down to new collaboration models that allow everyone here to grow, retain and advance their own knowledge bases. Having all parties involved up front from strategy to creative to tech, translates to an unparalleled expertise offering in innovation. How can an agency reliably propose solutions to a client’s problem without truly understanding how it works or is built? Brands are tired of seeing gimmicky digital ideas that have better results at award shows than with their actual consumers and users.
Two statements. The future of brand is how it is experienced. Everything today is digital. We combine the best of both experience design firms and creative agencies to drive brand affinity and perception in innovative ways while simultaneously focusing on the root of a problem.