Alkemy is not just a cool word, it’s a way of working

Alkemy is not just a cool word, it’s a way of working

Jan Mattassi and Marco Tironi, Executive Creative Directors, Alkemy.

Why “Alkemy”?
As we like repeating every time the question rises, Alkemy is not just a cool word, it’s a way of working. Alkemy is a full-service business consultancy that merges data, technology and creativity, focused on supporting companies to make sense of the growing complexity of markets. We do so by combining different competencies with what we call “our alchemy”, a mindset aimed at maintaining a positive workplace environment. This promotes collaboration
and personal responsibility, the key factors that make things happen.

How to get an ad to “become gold” in creative terms?
There are a lot of factors that work together. Some are the basics: the hard work to deepen the sharpness of concept and execution, the skepticism that must be kept to make sure you have an objective view on your work, the talents involved and, sometimes, a lucky timing.
But most of all, we’d like to point to two crucial factors. As a fast growing an independent agency, we had to figure out how to do things differently in order to maximize the impact of our creative team and make sure the growth stays sustainable in a crowded market where uncertainty is certain and planning work is not easy when you are not a big player.
The first element, that we always think is never celebrated enough, is the company culture. We make sure we have a positive environment. We promote collaboration, feedback and transparency. Inclusion comes as a consequence. So much, that some people who left for other agencies even came back. The second ingredient is again a consequence of a good culture where being open to listen creates a powerful collaborative mindset even with the client. We always try to set the relationship with our clients in terms of “how do we make something great together?” Some clients prefer to just give you the task and show up at presentation, while others enjoy being part of the journey. And here is where the possibility to reach a trophy starts taking shape. It’s teamplay, the barriers disappear, you talk with the client as with a colleague and everything becomes easier.

Alkemy was TopFice’s independent agency of the year, a ranking that measures global festivals. What award did you receive last year? Why?
2021 was quite the year for us. We ranked #2 best Italian agency, #2 best Italian production company –as the only independent agency behind big, international players- and reached the finals at the Lovie Awards for best European Agency.
Finally, TopFICE honoured us with Best Independent Agency, an amazing outcome. We reached 37 accolades with our projects, with Barilla’s Carebonara online branded content setting the bar the highest. We received 1 gold and 2 silvers at the New York Festivals, 2 bronze at the London International Awards, shortlisted at Eurobest and Cresta while the Italian Art Directors Club gave us 5 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Shortlist, 2 BestUse of Yotube (special awards by Google) and, last but definitely not least, the Grand Prix. This last one was an incredible achievement for a young company as Alkemy (that turns 10 this May) and a new starting point as well.
We also received some recognition for our corporate website, that was awarded 13 times for its design.

Before registering a case, can you sense whether an idea is a good candidate for awards at a festival?
Yes, but this doesn’t mean you crack the award. Based on experience, you know when you have a good project in your hands. If the work is not outstanding, you definitely will not reach award status. Yet, behind international awards there is also a fair share of informal influence that comes automatically if you have the specific weight of a network. Just ask yourself: if you were a juror and saw a project from a big name, wouldn’t you be more keen to take its quality for granted? This, sometimes, could make a huge difference between being acknowledged or ignored, regardless of the quality of your work.

Do you agree with advertising festivals’ judging parameters and conditions for participation? What would you change?
In general terms, yes. Most festivals celebrate creativity for the sake of creative quality. It’s fine to set the global standard. But today the advertising needs have changed, less so the industry. Advertising should impact business, and this should be an element to be valued in connection with the creative. As creatives, we should be able to think creatively, but not only for the sake of the craft, but also for the sake of the client’s business. Often, we see case histories with results that are exaggerated or at least carefully crafted, not having objectiveness in mind. It should be more honest to acknowledge that advertising could change the world, but sometimes it just won’t -but the results improved business a bit, and that’s great in a time where attention is pricey and people skip ads by default.

How would you define a good jury for a festival?
Juries are already well composed as far as I can see. A real improvement should be in the purpose of new awards: more concrete, business-oriented. But the real ground-breaking choice would be including… customers. Breaking the circle of the industry judging itself could provide really good insights. Years ago, some friends set up an advertising award in a small town in central Italy where the judges were the citizens. Totally unbiased. That was extreme, but it made a point. And quality was stille recognized.

Does the size of an agency determine the ideas?
The size determines the number of brains involved, but not their quality. Statistically it should be easier to get the good idea out, but in a world where what worked before doesn’t work anymore it’s the culture that makes the difference. Collaboration beats size, especially when you seek innovative ideas. For traditional ones, keep doing as usual and wait for the impact: forever for positive impact, less so for that against an iceberg.