There are innumerable advertising, digital, creative, technology or even experience agencies in the world. And India perhaps has a whole lot of them. In fact there’s a joke that I once heard that if you were to throw a stone in Mumbai, it would possibly hit a digital marketer. The banter and list is endless.
One fine day while driving to work, I was listening to an advertising podcast centered around the Indian advertising industry. In one of the episodes, the host spoke about how the word ‘agency’ is so diluted in today’s context that it no longer holds importance in anyone’s mind. That podcast spiralled into a discussion internally within our team and we soon started replacing the word ‘agency’ while referring to our company. But we weren’t pretty sure of how we'd like to identify ourselves, if not an agency.
The journey started back in 2017 when we started building prototypes for consumer applications. Design was always our strong suit because some of us came with an inherent sense of design. Prototype soon expanded into full blown product & platform development. With design as the central focus or perhaps a binder between technology & marketing, we set foot into the field of marketing with social media. Our first few customers were local restaurants where we would help them enhance their Instagram & Facebook presence. Our differentiator was creative execution. We soon adapted to social media trends that gave more and more engagement, but all of it would last just for a while in the mind of our customers.
While the team was very hands on, social media had something dissatisfying about it whenever we would go for customer meetings. Fortunately we grew well within every service line and soon saw ourselves become a full service technology & digital agency. Our clientele included some pretty interesting direct to consumer brands. Bringing in new customers basis the work we were doing wasn't very challenging. But every month would be a fresh start. A hamster wheel in some sense.
We thought perhaps talent was what was missing. And so we started to enrich our hiring process and started to attract more experienced people from the industry. And just one fine day amidst a series of soft pivots which we were making, Adil (my co-founder) and I stumbled upon startling revelations.
We had gained enough experience and acumen in areas which we always wanted to pursue - design & technology, but were always dissatisfied with social media execution. And that night, at one of our friend’s farmhouse, we decided that we had to change course. We had to pursue what we really believed in. And that's when we decided to roll back from being a full service digital agency, to one that focuses on our core. Another major pivot in our way of working was breaking away from a 'retainer mindset'. It brings in complacency when you know there’s a paycheque coming in every month, no matter how you perform. While revenue & creativity are miles apart, we wanted to break the mindset. One time projects are always more creative and allow time for research and brainstorming.
We had already worked with very talented people across the world on various projects in brand strategy, technology development & UI/UX and we knew that was the business model that we were going after. A more specialised agency with talent from around the world where we help bridge the gap between local knowledge & international experience.
Our inspiration was Airbnb’s rebranding exercise and we knew that those are the projects we had to go after. From there on, a series of changes that took place, made us come closer to a more specialised, more boutique offering as an organisation. We realised that Lights Out always existed as a mindset, we only rolled it out recently.
It was not an easy decision to create yet another creative agency. We asked ourselves, ‘Do we really need more of these?’, but ultimately Lights Out is a vehicle to communicate a philosophy of experience. We felt that immersive & intuitive customer experiences created through brand & technology infused together in a product or service, was missing. We wanted to design and brand the products we’d use ourselves. Something that spoke to people, as a product, as a design & brand campaign.
We were very sure of how we wanted to become a specialist. Someone who was an enabler of a human experience. And by no means does a niche (or specialist) company remain small. Pagani Automobili S.p.A. (commonly referred to as Pagani) is a niche automaker but has grossed $10 million in revenue so far.
Out of experience, we know that when customers recognise specialists’ expertise, they feel that they’ve put themselves in not just good hands but the right hands.
So fast forwarding to the present day, we experienced what we didn’t want to be. We’re no longer a full service technology & digital agency. We don't work on retainer models anymore. We no longer crave for a large team. We bring in experienced (because you need a few years before your ‘aha’ moment kicks in life) individuals who share the passion for human impact, along with us. We pivoted a few months back, to start focusing on our niche. We are the most curious minds from around the world. Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 or a user experience designer based out of Ukraine, we have programs where we could work with great talent on one side and brands who aspire to create human impact, on the other. And that’s the cusp of design, brand & technology. Our pool of target audience is smaller, but the work we do is satisfying. Every night is more fulfilling than the others.
We call ourselves Lights Out, a creative studio. Studio, not an agency. We ensure that when the lights go out, the race begins.