Fig. 1 A Guide to The Scenery

The Next Agency

Why we started The Scenery — a new type of agency, created for the needs of today’s digital products.

Written by Ryan Clark October 01, 2015

At the beginning of 2015 a really strange thing happened. The Agency died. Nestled in all the far-flung hyperbole was this simple observation from Tobias van Schneider:

“There has been always a lack of vision in most digital agencies because all they offered was their craft and expertise of execution. It’s like painting a car, but not building it.”

He’s right. Today’s digital agencies are just shiny new versions of the 2000’s ad agency, which were just a new version of the 1990’s ad agency. They got into “New Media” and started making Flash micro-sites. They transitioned from magazine ad buys to Social Media Marketing. They stopped designing brochures and started making websites on Wordpress and Drupal. I know because I did it for the first 6 years of my career, and it was incredibly exciting.

Trading Clients for Customers

While I was working at my first agency the industry slowly began to shift and my friends started getting jobs at places like Big Cartel, Apple, and Squarespace. So I shifted with it. In 2010, I joined the team at Virb and got into everyone’s current obsession: product. Over the next 4 years, the team I creative directed and managed built a really nice car, in Schneider’s words.

The team at Virb didn’t solve client problems—we solved product problems. Trust me, they’re not remotely the same. Interestingly, never once did I think about having any of the agencies I respected so much help with our little product. How could they? They didn’t know how to deal with a legacy codebase’s technical debt. They didn’t know how to brand something as constantly evolving as a digital product. They couldn’t get into our theme platform and re-engineer the core of our front-end code. They couldn’t help us pivot to a new product offering. They couldn’t deliver work in the aggressive product timeline we’d developed. They didn’t fit. They still don’t.

At the beginning of 2015 something else happened: I started freelancing for multiple startups. After 4 years of product work, I had developed a set of design skills that only come from years of working in the not-always-fun day-to-day of a product. The things that you learn from making mistakes and knowing how you’d tackle a problem again next time around. And I realized there were lots of people out there who still needed that sort of help.

On my own I could help with design and UI but it didn’t feel like enough. Product teams are more than just designers, and frankly, the really hard problems are the ones usually solved hand-in-hand with a talented developer. At Virb, I solved those problems with my best friends Ryan and Andy. The three of us were largely responsible for building all of Virb’s front facing marketing. We also developed the responsive theme platform that powers sites to this day. We had a strange set of shared experiences that worked in tandem and was unique to only a small agile product team.

We got together late one Spring night, shared a bottle of whiskey, and talked about what we always talk about: the Internet. We talked about the traditional agencies we worked at for so many years and how dissatisfied we were. We talked about how badly we wanted to help products we loved.

That is when The Scenery was born.

An Agency for Products

The digital agency is dead. It doesn’t fit. In its place stands a new agency, the next agency: a product agency. At a product agency, we know that by the time you get your two-year brand exercise finished you’ll have a completely new product with 14 new touchpoints and four more competitors. We know that you need a team that’s small and integrated—one that will join in your daily standups and post to your Slack channel. We know how to talk to dev-ops and manage the business goals of your marketing team. We know that the best product UX makes customer support a breeze and minimizes your need for a 217 employee call center.

We’re a new type of agency because we know how products tick—not by reading about it on Medium but from actually doing the work. And that’s the agency that products need.

We’re The Scenery and we’re the next agency. How can we help you?