Former Head Of Design At Coca-Cola Aims To Reinvent the Creative Agency

James Sommerville has launched KnownUnknown, a decentralized creative community designed to help creatives come together, share, help and connect with some of the world's most iconic brands and projects

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Brands are constantly in need of one thing. Creativity. Whether you walk into a mom and pop, visit a large chain store, watch a high-profile Superbowl commercial or try to be on the list for the latest hot NFT project on Discord. Behind every creative brand refresh, new logo, new package design, is an artist. In the commercial design world, artists can be broadly categorized as graphic designers or creatives for short. The challenge for many creatives is how to grow their career and getting noticed can take decades. Many of the world's best creatives live behind-the-scenes within traditional agencies; often not connecting directly with clients and brand teams that will hopefully place their work in front of the world.

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James Sommerville

James Sommerville, a seasoned professional in the creative space, has built a creative community to address that very issue. After a long career across five decades that ranged from launching his own creative agency as a teenager to working with global integrated agencies such as Dentsu and corporations like The Coca-Cola Company, Sommerville has recently launched "KnownUnknown" - a decentralized creative community designed to help creatives come together, share, help and connect with some of the world's most iconic brands and projects. He believes the future of a creative agency is now a Web3 creative community that will leverage the blockchain, utility tokens, technology and the collective power of a global community to shake up the established brick-and-mortar models that have dominated the industry for decades.

Since his teenage years, Sommerville has operated in every level of the creative world. With a £2,000 grant from His Royal Highness, Prince Charles in the mid-1980s, he launched a creative agency with an art school friend, named after their first studio in Sommerville's grandma's attic bedroom, Yorkshire, UK. This was life changing for Sommerville and Needham who always saw their early print-based technology as a means to push artistic boundaries, risking all their royal charity money on the newly released 1986 Apple Macintosh Plus. "We forged paths that were by no means the safest, or easily traveled. Exploration into the uncharted was always seen as our best chance of survival and arriving at the most creatively rewarding destinations was our goal," exiting to Dentsu in 2007, then the world's largest creative agency brand with a whopping 60,000 employees.

In his time with Dentsu, Sommerville experienced first-hand the intricacies of global agency operations. "We went from 60 people at ATTIK, to 60,000 at Dentsu. Aside from the creative output I saw it as an opportunity to learn how a holding company operated and how a creative leadership role within such a large agency should lead." After a short five years, he wrapped up his time at Dentsu and joined The Coca-Cola Company as the VP of Global Design and relocated to Atlanta, GA. With over 200 brands in the portfolio, across 200+ markets he quickly learned a more strategic side of design leadership, brand design execution at scale, system thinking, while working with the best marketers in the world. "I was submerged daily in meetings with super smart people who had studied at the best schools in the world. It was definitely a culture shock to me, but I let my design work to do the talking. Taking brands like Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Dasani, Minute Maid, Vitamin Water and reimagining how each one could show up in the consumer's hearts and mind in an authentic and differentiating way. "I learned the art of brand familiarity, but with surprise."

In 2018, Sommerville departed his VP role and launched what is now KnownUnknown- a distributed network of talent designed to connect creatives around the world. "Talent is key to every brand's success and in 2022 that talent is no longer based in the premier cities. While Web2 social media platforms have dominated our lives, the landscape is changing." So that's what he is creating- a worldwide community of creatives that speak the same language, share opportunities, and knowledge. The results have been amazing. Through his community, he has been able to link obscure, but talented creatives with some of the world's largest companies. "We have helped community members to work with brands like Ford, Google, HP and others." One of the major differences that drives the success of this community is sourcing the appropriate talent on demand, and transparency. "Agency traditional mindset is to guard talent, we do the opposite." By sharing, Sommerville believes that the entire industry can move forward together and collaborate on amazing work rather than always trying to compete.

When asked what is next, Sommerville shared his dream. "To create a completely decentralized talent network that operates in Web 3.0, in essence to reinvent the creative agency model." While he believes he has a way to go, the KnownUnknown project already has quite the list of achievements. There is no doubt of the level of their talent that has already served countless brand name companies, but their unique approach to implementing technology and community is to be commended as well. Challenges, advice, opportunities and lessons learned are a regular occurrence in KnownUnknown platform and Discord channels. The community has its own utility token, $KUDOS, that it offers as a reward for positive community actions, contributing and helping others. This token is given as a reward for community building actions and earns its holders access to events, 1-on-1 coaching, and other experiences. In June see's their genesis branded NFT launch on KnownUnkown's own NFT marketplace, the biggest success in Somerville's mind is the positive stories I hear from our community. "There are no egos. An eighteen year old can share advice and insights with an 86 year old and vice versa… That's the way it should be."

James Sommerville is a seasoned professional in the creative space and the founder of the online creative community KnownUnknown. Through his community, he has helped companies such as Ford, Google, HP and General Mills to go through successful brand refreshes while connecting them to some of the highest creative talent in the world. Determined to build a creative entity that is poised to serve in a modern world of marketing, Sommerville believes that the next few years of Web 3.0 will be just like 1997 when the world adjusted to the blossoming of the internet and "once again we have the freedom to push artistic boundaries".