How it began
We are not an ad agency. We do not want to create your company’s next print, radio, outdoor, or TV campaign. We do not want to wine and dine you and compete against traditional agencies to get your business.
We want to work with companies we believe in. Which is to say, companies that have passionate people doing great work that they believe in. To us it’s not about securing big accounts or winning creative awards. We’ve done that. Our work today has to have meaning. We help organizations tell their stories through authentic branding, scalable websites, and smart digital strategy.
Out of the Ether is a brand and marketing consultancy comprised of a writer-designer team with many decades of experience building brands, crafting narratives, and developing strategies that get audiences to take action. When you work with us, you work directly with us. And we are process-driven professionals who know how to finish.
We are not an ad agency, and don’t want to be confused with one. We know what actually works now, and want to put that experience to work for brands we like.
I met Jeff Sutthoff, the designer, as the result of an ad I ran in 2001.
At the time, I had just left an ad agency after an 18-month stint where I was a copywriting machine with an instinct for discovering what matters to people. I had just launched my own “virtual” ad agency and was looking to connect with designers and art directors who had talent, and an edge. In fact, my ad mentioned wanting to work with a “designer with attitude.” Jeff was the only person to respond to the ad.
Thank God he did. He’d been a designer forever, and had his own boutique shop since the late 90s. His work was outstanding and I could tell he had a certain something that separated serviceable designers from great ones. Oh, and he was a true professional.
We began working together sometime in 2002 on small local projects with some intermediate-sized gigs mixed in. Then, in 2005, we landed a major client and were tasked with the impossible—rebranding a specific department within a mothership brand that wanted to be different than the mothership. The department was human resources and our project included, well, the works. Here’s the case study that covers everything.
In 2008, I received a call from a Charlotte entrepreneur who had a good idea and needed some branding and marketing help. Jeff and I created the brand for what became Boxman Studios, and I helmed the marketing for the company for the next five years during a time of ridiculous growth (#120 on Inc. 500 fastest growing companies), during a recession, all without spending a dime on traditional advertising. Here’s that case study.
When I left Boxman in 2015, my first call was to Jeff. We were looking forward to working together again, as we each agreed that we made a formidable team. Since then we’ve worked on projects for small and mid-sized companies branding them, helping tell their stories, and giving them the tools and training necessary to grow without traditional advertising. It was great–except that we were still working as independent companies.
In 2016, during a drive back to Charlotte from a client meeting in Raleigh, we had a long conversation about the direction of our careers. And it was during this conversation that Out of the Ether was born.
Out of the Ether
As part of that conversation on the drive from Raleigh, we started to deconstruct the value of what we did. The conversation started to get a bit lofty.
“It’s like this,” I said to Jeff who was driving, “we all live in a machine. We have routines, accountabilities, we do our jobs, go home, and get up and do them again day after day. When you’re this busy with life’s daily grind, it’s hard to see beyond it. But we must. We must because of our jobs. We don’t go to an office where we focus on the same things every day. We are tasked with creating solutions that span a range of commercial sectors. When we’re doing our jobs, we back up into a place from where we can assess scenarios without the influence of routines. A place where we pull from our different experiences, and return back with the kinds of solutions that have real meaning.”
Jeff looked over at me with wonder. I continued, “It’s like we hang out in the ether then return to the real world where we interact with people like normal. Except, we bring ideas with us that you can’t find here.”
“Man, that’s exactly what we do,” Jeff replied.
And so now we get to tell people how we pluck our ideas from places that others can’t get to.
Because it’s true.
What we do is unique. Not everyone has the ability to see problems from our perspective. We respect that we are blessed with a strange ability to move people with words and pictures, but are keenly aware that this talent means nothing without putting it to work.
We can’t stress enough how we’re not an ad agency. We are two pros who understand the value of branding in ways that most ad agencies don’t. When you work with us, you’re working with us–not a junior team that you get handed off to after the agency wins your business. I’d say we’re super talented, but that would be weird. You’ll just have to schedule a meeting to decide for yourself.
If you have the guts to think differently about communications problems, we’d love to talk.