A former professional Muay Thai fighter, a punk rock label vet, a stand-up comic and a father of two sets of twins might sound more like a wacky set-up to a joke than a description of agency founders—but Colossus isn’t a punchline; it’s simply a little bit different than your average agency.
Last year, a group of ad industry veterans quietly formed the advertising and creative company Colossus in Boston. In doing so, they brought along their unique backgrounds outside the industry with one goal in particular: to disrupt the ad scene in a city that seems to have struggled to stand out in recent years.
“Some say the Boston ad market isn’t what it used to be. But we would make the case it’s exactly what it used to be, with a few exceptions. The market seems to have stagnated,” Colossus founder, executive creative director Travis Robertson told Adweek. “There are many reasons why, but we believe there is a void that hasn’t quite been filled since Modernista! closed in 2011 and Barbarian Group moved to NYC in 2012.”
Colossus is led by Robertson and fellow creative director Greg Almeida, managing director Jonathan Balck and head of production Nicole Hollis-Vitale. Almeida and Robertson are both veterans of Arnold and MMB. A former amateur Portuguese stand-up comic, Almeida contributions to Colossus include a deep love for the data-driven world of fantasy sports. Robertson has experience as both an art director and designer and is a former professional Muay Thai fighter who also worked with Stephen Spielberg as a child actor.
Balck brings a background in both accounts and strategy, having served as chief strategy officer for MMB and account director for CPB. He might have picked up a thing or two about juggling multiple roles by virtue of being a father with two sets of twins. Hollis-Vitale brings a wide range of production experience across mediums at agencies including Arnold, Digitas and The Martin Agency, and previously spent years handling publicity for hardcore punk record label Deathwish.
“While we’ve all lived a collective lifetime in agency leadership roles, our early backgrounds definitely set us apart. The winding, varied roads that brought us each to the doorstep of advertising has provided us with widely different life perspectives—which manifests itself in different approaches when it comes to problem solving,” Hollis-Vitale said. “Being cut from the same cloth sounds poetic, but when everyone views the world through the same lens, it can be hindering.”
Currently a team of six, Colossus leans into its small stature and is built around the approach of its team of generalists tackling all the work with limited help from freelancers as needed.
While presently a fully-remote agency, Colossus plans to open a physical office location next month in South Boston’s historic Foundry Building to allow employees the opportunity to utilize the space to work or collaborate in-person on a voluntary basis.
Colussus is already working with clients including the Boston Bruins, Madison Square Garden, Oath Pizza and Zipcar, as well as a few brands it can’t yet disclose.
Of course, opening an agency in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t easy, but Colossus’ founders explained that the upheaval of 2020 also led to brands reconsidering their approach.
“Yes, it’s been a challenge. But as the world re-evaluated its way of living, we also saw brands re-evaluating their ways of working and their marketing partners,” Robertson said. “We saw a unique opportunity to position Colossus as a big agency alternative for clients who want a more human, more collaborative working relationship and access to top-tier talent, without the holding company shenanigans.”