A series of interviews with the founders of independent + successful ad agencies and creative studios.

Francesco + David + Daniele + Neri

MONOGRID

September 6, 2017

Interviewed by: Michael Freedman

In one sentence, can you explain what MONOGRID does?

We dream, create, and tell stories through digital media.

What made you guys decide to launch your own studio?

We wanted a space (physical, intellectual, and spiritual) where we could create an ideal environment to do what we love most.

What were some of the early challenges you faced after you set up shop?

Most of us had spent time at other agencies before, so we kind of knew what to expect starting out. We didn’t anticipate that we would grow as fast as we did, and it took us a while to get used to the rollercoaster ride of taking on many projects at once while also finding enough time to work on our internal projects.

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out a way to utilize the down time between projects to experiment and research. We tried to put a focus on R&D in the beginning, but it was tough to adjust our mindsets from working on commissioned projects to internal ones.

Another problem was convincing our neighbors that all of the fixie bikes in front of our studio weren’t actually for sale and that we were in advertising—not bike repair!   

How large is your team now? Do you allow your employees to work remotely?

We are roughly 15-20 people depending on the project, and yes we love remote work—though we try to strike a balance between working remotely and on-site.

What does a typical project look like at MONOGRID?

I think there are three things typically found in each of our projects: interaction, experimentation, and story.

We love installation and physical interactivity, so we always try to insert some aspect of real interaction into our projects. Most projects are born from the prototype and R&D that we send around, so there is some experimenting involved as well. Lastly, telling a compelling story is very important.

VR features heavily in your work in some interesting (and sometimes scary!) ways. What appeals to you about working with new technology?

Technology in advertising and media production is at times both a challenge and a problem solver. We’re getting used to integrating technology into our projects, and we see it as a big ally in what we’re trying to accomplish. 

We love to explore the possibilities—both technical and conceptual—that technology provides.  

As VR starts to become more popular, it’s going to open up a whole new layer of technology and storytelling that wasn’t there before. For that reason alone, it’s quickly become our favorite thing!

Historically, we’ve seen companies use certain technologies to gain attention precisely because they’re new and buzzworthy. Do you think VR is different and what do you see in its future as a platform for brands? 

Of course. VR (and in a few months AR) is a new medium. It’s not just a fashionable thing to use once and be done with; it is technology that offers a new and innovative way for brands to interact with their customers.

Advertising has evolved from still images (photos and graphics), to film, and now to VR/AR. VR doesn’t take anything away from the other methods of communication—it literally adds a new layer to the “game.”

You’re based in Florence, Tuscany—a region in Italy renowned for its culture and artistic legacy. What’s it like working there, and do you find yourself competing for talent with other creative outlets in the area?

To be honest, the creative scene hasn’t really taken off yet, so we’re kind of all by ourselves here. Sometimes it feels like we came from the future through a time portal.

What we love though is the philosophy of craftsmanship and high-quality of “Made in Italy” (especially here in Florence), so we try to translate that philosophy into great digital work.

Florence is historically a place for artisans, and we see ourselves as modern, digital, artisans.

Some independent agencies seem to be in a consistent state of growth and hiring—two areas that appear to symbolize success. How do you measure progress and success as an agency? 

We are user centric, so for us, success and progress are measured in the number of people who smile when they see our work. Being larger doesn’t always mean being better or stronger.

How do you manage to schedule your team’s time across such a wide variety of creative projects?

It’s actually one of the hardest tasks we face. When we first launched (just over a year ago), we were a collection of people who had all worked in big production companies, so we were used to managing our own time. Now that we’ve grown a little bit, our focus is on providing everyone the conditions they need to do their best work. 

Each person has different needs—some excel by working on multiple things at once, while others work best when they focus on a single project. Working on a wide variety of projects is hard, but also very rewarding, as it gives us the chance to learn new things and find innovative solutions.

Sometimes it can feel like there are too many things to do, but even when we are stressed and busy, we try to enjoy our jobs as much as we can.

You’re part of Cattleya Group, Italy’s top independent film and television producer. Are there any movies or TV shows that you think we should check out? 

We are Gomorrah fans! One of the reasons we joined Cattleya Group is because of their attentive and innovative approach to storytelling. They were producing risky TV series before Netflix (and others) came along and made it fashionable, and we thought that was pretty brave of them. They’re taking the same type of risks now by investing in digital media.

Do you have any words of advice for someone who is considering starting their own studio?

Start with an idea and fight for it! The rest—a studio, equipment (coffee machine and ping-pong table if you’re lucky), an accountant, and especially clients will all arrive accordingly.

 

Thanks to Letizia and the team for making this happen. Check out their beautiful animation and VR work at: www.mono-grid.com.

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