Get in touch

Founders

Frances Webster Chief Operating Officer @FrancesWebster

Frances co-founded Walrus in 2005 with her husband, Deacon. Prior to Walrus, she was New Business Director of Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Frances spent four years at Butler Shine & Stern in Sausalito, where she rose to Head of New Business and implemented an outreach program that resulted in a 40% increase in billings in its first year. Previously, Frances served in senior account positions at nationally renowned agencies including Munn Rabot and Saatchi & Saatchi, where she managed several General Mills brands. She’s a graduate of the University of the South (Sewanee).

Deacon Webster Chief Creative Officer @thori

Deacon co-founded Walrus in 2005 with his wife, Frances. Prior to Walrus, he was the Chief Creative Officer of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, the same agency at which he began his career as a junior copywriter in 1995 and moved up the ranks to oversee creative at the San Francisco office, and then New York. He is extremely pale. His work is known for combining intelligence with humor and always respecting its audience, and has appeared in the One Show, D&AD, Cannes, The Art Directors Club, Communication Arts, the Clios and the Effies. He was an ADC Young Gun and graduated from the Newhouse School at Syracuse.

Capabilities

Our Specialty

Being bad in a smart way: calculated misbehavior.

What we’re great at

Launches Stunts Content

(getting people’s attention and getting them to come back for more)

Capabilities

Campaign Ideation & Execution

  • - Traditional
  • - Design
  • - Digital
  • - Experiential
  • - Social

  • - Stunts

Media

  • - Strategy
  • - Buying
  • - Planning

  • - Programmatic

Brand Strategy

  • - Research
  • - Planning

Excerpted from an interview with Walrus co-founder & chief creative officer Deacon Webster, conducted by The Agency Post. Read the whole thing here.

Tell us about yourself

I live in Brooklyn with my wife, Frances, who is also a co-founder of the agency. Our house also contains two young children, 18 fish, a cat and a guinea pig.

I began in the industry in 1995 as an unpaid intern at Mad Dogs & Englishmen in New York. I finally got hired as a writer about a year later, moved out of my parents’ house and worked my way up from there. I opened the Mad Dogs San Francisco office in 2000, and in 2003 I moved back to New York as ECD of that office, which just goes to show that you still can work your way up from the mailroom if you’re willing to put in the time. We started Walrus in 2005 and, despite a recession, have managed to create a strong business. We have ongoing relationships with a diverse group of national clients and have been growing by leaps and bounds.

Tell us more about Walrus and the type of work that you do. Where did the name ‘Walrus’ come from?

Walrus is a creatively driven ad agency. Our work really runs the gamut in terms of how and where it’s executed, but regardless of the form we always approach problems with the same two goals. 1) We want the work to be smart, strategically sound and drive results, and 2) we want to make sure that we look out for the people who are on the other end of it. If we’re not being useful and/or entertaining, then we’re probably just being annoying. When we do a good job at both solving the problem smartly AND not being an intrusive ad-like object, the proof is in the numbers. Walrus and walruses (or is it walri?) as a species are a nice analogy for what we are – they’re amusing, but they also don’t mess around.

A visitor to your agency’s website is guided through the site by a talking Walrus. Where did the inspiration for this come from? What do you think an agency website should accomplish?

For the most part, visitors to agency sites are either potential clients or they’re agency people looking for a new place to work. In both cases, you could imagine that they’d be sifting through a multitude of boring agency sites, so we knew that anything entertaining would be greeted as a blessing and a relief. From there we just put it into the creative department and lo and behold, this is what came out.

As for the purpose of the site, every agency has a different philosophy on what role a site should play in the new business process. A lot of agencies are trying to provide just enough detail to get somebody to pick up the phone and call their new business people who will sort out the good leads from the bad. Philosophically, we look at everything we touch as an opportunity to do something memorable, so “mailing it in” on our own site in the name of playing it safe was really not an option. Have we driven off some conservative clients that we might have gotten a meeting with otherwise? Probably. But if you want to stand out, you’ve got to be OK with being somewhat polarizing. I think it’s probably gotten us more meetings than it’s prevented, but maybe if we had a more traditional site we’d be rolling in the Splenda dollars right now.

Walrus recently won Small Agency of the Year in the Northeast region. What differentiates the way you work with your clients and the types of projects you produce?

We honestly and truly approach not just every project but every element of every project as a creative opportunity. When you do that, it changes the tenor of your client relationships because they start wanting to use you for everything they possibly can rather than sitting around questioning why they’re paying you so much money every month. We often have to put together case study videos for pitches and such, and we always have a hard time getting them down to a manageable time because there’s so much we want to put in there. To me, that’s a sign we’re doing the right thing for our clients.

Walrus works with a variety of top brand names. With a 20-person agency creating these types of relationships, what cues do you think large, international agencies can learn from you and your team?

To build on my answer above, I think a lot of clients are tired of paying sizeable fees and getting the B team on everything but the TV spots. We don’t allocate teams or time by media spend or sexiness. We have literally gone through three weeks of internal creative development on a set of Google AdWords campaigns until we were happy with them, which I know sounds insane, but we wanted them to be great. Big shops, as they’re currently structured, can’t allocate resources in this manner, so we’ll always beat them on the little things, and the little things add up.

What is your company culture like? How do you work to retain talent and encourage professional growth in your staff?

We try to keep it fun. We get out of the office on a regular basis – sometimes we do cultural things, sometimes we go to bars, sometimes we go to the shooting range (really). Last week we took a sailboat around New York Harbor for the afternoon, which was basically going to a bar, but at sea.

On the personal growth front, we do our best to let people pursue things they’re interested in, even if they’re not directly related to what they do. We pay for classes, let people migrate departments, try to stimulate them intellectually — you know, all that good stuff. Right now we also have three moms on staff who all work flex schedules. It’s amazing for us because we get great, senior-level people working here who otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and it works out for them because they don’t miss out on any fun mom stuff like changing diapers and forcing their children to eat beets.