By Matt Smith

When I started this ” Oh, That’s Good” series, my primary goal was to feature individual examples of good work that I’ve seen around town. But for this column I’m afraid I’m going to have to expand on that brief considerably.

That’s because I discovered an abundance of good work emanating from a single place, so much so that it’s impossible for me to single out any particular campaign or project for praise.  At this place, all the work—and even their offices—are really outstanding.  And what’s’ more, they do a hell of a lot more than just advertising.  They’re huge on experiential, and they even have a shelf of digital products that they’ve invented themselves.

The place is called ISL, a WPP-owned agency located in Washington, D.C., with an office up in New York City.  While reviewing their work I made an unusual discovery.  I found that instead of lusting after a piece of work I wish I had done, I realized that I had found a place I wanted to work.  This put me in a quandary, not least of all because I already own my own agency.

Nonetheless, ISL is a remarkably interesting and alluring place, and not just because it’s hard to define.  They bill themselves as an agency that “invents digital & physical experiences for the world’s biggest brands” with a dedicated team of “designers, developers, marketers and makers” who “build everything from apps, to connected devices, to wildly creative campaigns that reach audiences globally.”

And they do seem to live up to that description.  But for me, the bottom is that, after talking to their CEO, D.J. Saul (a very cool guy), and viewing their work, it became readily apparent that they do very, very, very cool work.  Yes, the kind of work deserving of three “very’s”. It’s difficult to single out particular project or campaign, but I’ll try.

One of my favorites was the “Magic Bus” Field Trip to Mars in which ISL partnered with Framestore and McCann NY to create an incredible immersive experience for Lockheed Martin.  They converted a traditional school bus into a vehicle that delivered a simulated experience for kids of what it would be like to drive along the surface of Mars.  The ISL website describes the effort as part of a national educational initiative designed “to inspire the next generation of innovators, explorers, inventors and pioneers to pursue STEM careers.”  How cool was this project?  Let’s just say it won 19 awards in 11 categories at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  Check it out here.

Or how about the immersive virtual reality experience they created with JWT San Francisco for client 19 Crimes wine in which they transported viewers back to 1867 convict ship carrying its passengers from England to America.  Very cool.

There’re many more projects and campaigns for an impressive client list that includes Facebook, VW, NBC Universal, National Geographic and Lyft, to name only a few.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so check out these case studies and you’ll see what I mean:

So like I said, I think I want to work for these guys, so I hope they let me know if any appropriate openings come up.  Hopefully none of my staff reads these articles, and maybe they won’t notice that I’ve gone.


“Oh, That’s Good” is an on-going series written by Matt Smith, CEO of SmithGifford in Falls Church, VA.  You can read the other posts in Matt’s series here.

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