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Mad Ave's Latest Fetish: Intellectual Property

"Gentleman Callers" candles. "Fat Pig" chocolates. "Dogmatic" gourmet hot dogs. It's no surprise this slew of new tongue-in-cheek brands come straight from the front lines of manufactured hipness: ad agencies. In today's Advertising Age, Rupal Parekh writes about a trend I highlighted in Fast Company's Annual Fast 50 awards; Madison Avenue's latest fetish—intellectual property. Nowadays, as the industry grapples with how it's actually going to make money now that media is no longer the cash cow, these brand mavens now want complete equity ownership of these products ("We would rather invent the next VitaminWater than do the ads for VitaminWater," Anomaly partner Carl Johnson told me when I interviewed him earlier this year).

In addition to Anomaly (our Fast 50 pick which just launched its new shaving line Eos at Target), Parekh rounds up other IP-hungry brethren like Mother, Brooklyn Brothers, and Taxi (incidentally, note how many of these mad men hail from across the Atlantic pond). While many of the new product lines are quirky and irreverent, the truth is, most of the crop including Anomaly are small scale and appeal to a limited hipster demographic parallel to the one they derive from. That said, it's not just these boutique shops chasing the intellectual property train. Agency heads I've spoken to from much larger shops—from JWT to Crispin Porter + Bogusky—all proclaim the next frontier is IP.

Which agencies have succeeded in creating a real, viable, disruptor product, like the green cleaners at Method? Or is all this IP hype smoke and mirrors, which ad agencies are acrobat at?

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