Sitting outside a pub with a pint of lager and a packet of crisps is rarely the scene of a life-changing idea. But, for Anthony Ganjou, it was the catalyst of a brainwave which changed his life, and could change the course of the communications industry forever.
Relaxing in the sun with his girlfriend on the fringe of a busy London boozer three years ago, Anthony saw an ad for a natural product whoosh past on the side of a bus, and the contradiction jarred in his mind. A product which claimed to be organic and good for the planet, publicised on a vehicle which powers the grimy, polluted congestion of urban life.
So Anthony began thinking of an alternative to this rank hypocrisy. What he eventually came up with was CURB, a truly groundbreaking venture which takes communication back to its roots – harnessing natural resources to create campaigns which catch the eye and capture the imagination.
Over the past two and a half years, CURB has ploughed a unique furrow in its industry by taking under-used or overlooked land, and transforming it into a giant, living ad campaign. The company has grown logos out of seeded paper, made sculptures for clients in sand, and even created its own branded crop circles.
In Anthony’s words, his company specialises in “advising our clients on how they can deliver the creative using resources they already have, maximising natural and sustainable media. The agency will come up with the message, and we will quite literally bring it to life.”
Getting ahead of the CURB
After his pub garden epiphany, Anthony began researching the possibilities of green marketing. Having previously run a promotional consultancy called LOVED, a role which required him to do everything from designing head covers for UEFA to stepping in as commercial director of Notting Hill Carnival, Anthony was well-versed in creative advertising. But he soon began to conceive a venture which was even more innovative.
“When we did our research on green marketing, we found that 99% of the innovation, resource and creativity in the market was focused on the end message; there was almost nothing about how you could actually communicate a message using a green or sustainable channel.
“Such research, coupled with the growing number of companies launching ‘green’ brands, led me to conclude that there must be a gap in the market for a company that could provide a global one-stop shop for innovative and effective sustainable media.”
With this as his vision, in early 2008 Anthony began using the internet to build a team of artists, creative visionaries, production experts and sub-contractors. Running the new venture from his parents’ basement, Anthony was able to avoid expensive office overheads and instead channel money into branding and external assets, such as business cards and media packs, as well as SEO and Google ad campaigns.
Unlike many new entrepreneurs, Anthony was able to get by without huge loans; his business was funded by loans from friends and family, and personal investment. However many people still needed convincing about the viability of the new venture, as he explains:
“I clearly remember sitting down over a cuppa with my parents to talk about my big idea that would change the world. When I made it clear to my family that the moment of genius involved selling bacteria, moss and compost my mum almost swallowed her spoon...property development it certainly was not!”
Many of the agencies Anthony visited in the early days also needed convincing. “I made an active decision not go after the typically green clients - this did make the pitch harder but we never wanted CURB or natural media to be pigeon holed as just a ‘green thing’ or fad. “
To make the venture work, Anthony made up to 150 cold calls a day in the initial stages, relying heavily on word-of-mouth to build a profile. Then, in February 2009, the big freeze brought his vision to boiling point.
“At that time, London experienced its worst snow in almost 100 years - everything ground to a halt. But I saw it as the chance to try out snowtagging – we had received a sample logo from Al Gosling, founder of the Extreme Group, and, with his blessing, we went out into the snow and started imprinting it on cars outside our office. Within an hour I was on Oxford Street, placing hundreds of snow tags across the West End.
“The next day the media went bananas. The images went literally everywhere, featuring in nationals, trade mags and even US titles like Ad Age and New York Time. Conservative estimates put the value to Extreme of the snowtagging campaign at £750,000, and it even received the Cannes Lion Gold award (like the Oscars of the ad industry) in 2010.”
Since taking a giant leap in the snow two years ago, CURB has grown rapidly. Interest has flooded in from media planners and ad agencies, and a number of projects have grabbed the headlines. CURB has installed natural media in the White House, helped Sony launch Michael Jackson, and even done work for the Queen.
Now based in Oxford Circus, CURB has six full-time staff in London and a global team of around 150. Annual turnover exceeds £500,000, and the company commands a truly international profile – having received coverage everywhere from Japan to Argentina.
The company’s service remains proudly undefined – Anthony is reluctant to develop a generic rate card because “how do you price up something which has never been done before?” – but, for CURB, such vagueness provides a distinct advantage. By keeping his company’s structure and strategy vague, Anthony has left the door open to countless opportunities.
Who knows, CURB could even be creating a campaign on the surface of the moon by the time this century is out.