Ataboy is the design-led content studio behind campaigns for Adidas, Coke, White Castle, Progressive, IKEA, GE and more. Born and raised in Mumbai, Founder and Creative Director Vikkal Parikh trained as an architect before travelling to the US to get his MFA in computer art.
He founded Ataboy over a decade ago and has since spearheaded breathtaking mixed media narratives with inventive uses of Cinema 4D and motion graphics for a litany of top-tier brands. He’s appeared on podcasts like Jaime Cabrera’s Confessions of a Creative Director and the Mograph Podcast and is passionate about building diverse creative teams.
We spoke to Vikkal this week to learn all about Ataboy and what makes it just a unique agency.
How was your company born and where are you based?
I embarked on the path of founding Ataboy based in NYC in 2011, which started as a self-funded, lean startup. Having worked in advertising since the early 2000’s, I itched for more creative control and the ability to respond to briefs with a fresh approach, and that meant taking more creative risks that were super interesting but risky business decisions.
The post-production industry back then was booming, but to be honest, it was uninspiring because every company was doing the same thing. This convinced me that the only way to do it is to take the leap of faith and start my own business.
Coming from Mumbai and having never run a business in this country before, I didn't know who to approach to learn from, but once I built a portfolio of trusted clients, the momentum started to form. I initially opened up past conversations with previous clients and friends to get business.
Karen Hennegan, my EP at the time (who also was the first team member at Ataboy) and I pitched specific narratives that we were passionate about. We matched them with non-profits and really targeted them. We got to create some cool yet meaningful content for a good cause!
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
One of our biggest challenges has been the ebb and flow of our business. It’s not very consistent. Although the industry has matured and we have grown our expertise along the way, we still approach everyday with a fresh approach.
Also, not settling on a “signature style” or “technique” means we are always trying out new ways of doing things. This provides hurdles in production but also keeps us growing and thinking. Being foolishly optimistic and stubborn has seemed to help us get through these times, too!
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
Winning our first creative pitch I was creatively aligned with. It was a multiple company pitch and we were elated to have beat out some heavy weights. It was for Google.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
To really start using our strengths and talents to speed up our creative workflow using some AI tools and real time rendering we have been experimenting with. The workflow is pretty revolutionary and will define what and how we work in the near future.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
There’s no real one size fits all process. What we really love to do is deep dive and ask the real questions - why / how? We are in the business of selling / promoting a product or a service. However, as creators and directors we often seek to question the narrative and try to really bring in the unexpected.
Audiences in this age of disposable content are so used to the “predictable” - like say a YouTube short with a title that really tells you what you are about to see. It's all expected and predictable. Ads have to work harder. That's when we flip the switch on the narrative. It often clicks with our audiences.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
As a studio we hope to inspire and motivate each other. Talk about projects we are all working on - discuss challenges / find solutions together. It’s this collaborative spirit that really keeps our creatives and producers inspired.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Old news Ha! It’s business as usual.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Advertising is such a culmination of culture and life in general - I tend to really look outside for inspiration…Which now tends to come in the form of 6-10s videos :)
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Double down on your expertise. And go meet people.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers)
Oh that's a trade secret…
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
I really hope however we create content we don't lose the human touch or craft. Bring the unexpected. That's what got us here.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
ChatGPT and Midjourney….Really digging these for a quick proof of concept.
Here’s a great starter from Space Studios that I had used to get a hang of things: