A COLLABORATION THAT MOUNTED
THE WORLD'S MOST REMOTE
"How do you build a shop on the side of a cliff without it turning into a kite? How do you make the concept resonate with the climbing community - an often skeptical group? Can we get permitting for drones in a park that’s historically against them? Where will the shopkeeper pee?"
This is more than just a series of strange questions. These are real logistical concerns that WNW Members Rich Minkoff and Clarissa Driban were brought in to solve on their latest project: the world's most remote pop-up shop, built against a cliffside selling gear containing performance-enhancing materials from company 37.5. Rich and Clarissa are the minds behind problem-solving creative studio Shine & Polish. Below, we interview both Shine & Polish and the two founders of the creative agency that brought them on for this extreme assignment: fellow Boulder-based WNW company WorkInProgress.
We love hearing from both sides with any big idea like this, and learning not only how they worked together but also what initially lead them to put their faith in each other. As Andrew Lincoln, who founded WorkInProgress alongside Matt Talbot, tells us, "Shine & Polish reached out to us shortly after we opened our agency in Boulder. They didn’t try to give us the hard sell on them or say too much about their work. They spoke from their hearts on why they started their own thing and what their approach was... We always respected how they approached us."
After seeing some of the other risk-taking work in their portfolios, they reached out and pitched the 37.5 brief. For Shine & Polish, saying "yes" was a no-brainer. "The idea was so out there and bold. As we were going through the brief we could see some of the logistical challenges and immediately started piecing together solutions. It made us giddy and we just knew we wanted to be part of making it come to life. The shop also generated funds for the preservation and access of public lands which, as lovers of the outdoors, further sold us."
To see how everything came together, scroll down to hear first from WorkInProgress and then Shine & Polish. Both sides offer great insights into the challenges and breakthroughs of this project that has taken the idea of a pop-up shop to new heights.
Tell us about your creative backgrounds. Who are Andrew Lincoln and Matt Talbot and how did they get here?
Andrew: Matt and I have been partners, like cops, for about 9 years. We met in LA at one of those portfolio review nights, the ones where you meet numerous creative directors from agencies around LA and they give you feedback on your book. After some interesting convos with the CDs, we both were fortunate enough to land gigs. At the time, Matt was out of school and freelancing and I was at my first agency job at FCB/Chicago by way of the Irvine office (RIP). Serendipitously, we both ended up at the TBWA/Chiat/Day LA office. We soon became friends, then roommates (we’ve lived together a few times now), and then creative partners. We busted our asses on Nissan, Pepsi, and Gatorade while there, taking any brief we could. Fast forward through some late nights (ever heard of Chiat Day and night?) and partying. Eventually, we found ourselves moving to Boulder for a job at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in 2009 as a mid-level team. We started on the Domino’s account. It was months before the Pizza Turnaround would launch, and Domino’s was not the sexiest account in the building. CP+B had Burger King, VW, and Hulu, and everyone wanted to work on those. We were too naïve to be cynical and hell, we were at the agency Alex Bogusky was at! We worked on every brief like it was the best opportunity in the agency. And the ideas that came from us and others on the team were proof of that. As they say, the rest is history. Over those seven years, we worked our way up from mid-level creatives to VP/CDs together leading Domino’s and some other brands along the way. Our time at CP+B gave us the experience and confidence to start our own agency with other members of the Domino’s leadership team. The process we codified and type of work we did together on Domino’s became the blueprint for WorkInProgress. We opened our doors fifteen months ago, and every day has been amazing since.
How did the initial concept of a Cliffside Shop come into play?
Andrew: 37.5 Technology is an ingredient brand, like Gortex, and they are mainly a B2B business. For 37.5 the goal was to create cultural awareness for the technology. If customers are demanding this technology from athletic brands they love, then these athletic brands would see the benefit and business ROI of including 37.5 in their apparel. So to create this cultural awareness and excitement we looked at what the technology actually does, and how it works. It’s one of those things you have to try on and use to really see and feel the benefit. But how do you convince people to do that? We thought about when people would be in need of this technology the most, and it was usually while you were doing something, especially when your life might depend on it. 37.5 is in a lot of categories that are not for the faint of heart. We knew that climbing was a category they were looking to grow for their business so we focused our thinking there. When we first pitched the idea of providing gear where climbers needed it the most, we initially were thinking of a walk-in shop at base camp on Mt. Everest as the location. Logistically and financially there was no way we were going there. It was worth a try though. So we came up with the next best thing during the pre-production phase with S&P and 37.5: we put a shop on the side of a cliff on one of the most iconic climbing spots in the country, Bastille Wall in Eldorado Canyon.
Are mountain climbers a pretty niche audience to appeal to? What kind of advertising tends to play best with them?
Matt: It was about what can make the biggest impact. While outdoor apparel and climbing is a specific niche, the reality is that setting up a pop-up shop on the side of the Bastille Wall in Eldorado Canyon will raise awareness of 37.5 way beyond just the outdoor climbing community. It’s really a message about what the company does – performance-enhancing material. I think that can resonate no matter what industry you’re in and, for consumers, no matter what your interests are. Your takeaway is the same about 37.5 Technology. We simply picked the category which we thought would drive the biggest impact, beyond just one segment of brand partners or consumers.
What lead you to reach out to Shine & Polish to help make the concept a reality?
Andrew: We reached out to Shine & Polish for a couple reasons. One, their reel. There was no doubting their expertise in outdoor/climbing video production. Second, their passion for what they do. Shine & Polish reached out to us shortly after we opened our agency in Boulder. They didn’t try to give us the hard sell on them or say too much about their work. They spoke from their hearts on why they started their own thing and what their approach was. We felt like kindred spirits when we first heard from them. We always respected how they approached us. And we’re so fortunate to have worked with such an amazing team. Excited to see what we work on next.
What was it like having Shine & Polish as a partner?
Andrew: It was invaluable. When executing something like the Cliffside Shop, there aren’t a lot of precedents to draw from. You’re figuring out a lot of things as you go along. But that’s a lot easier when anything that can already be sorted out is. That was the case here. Shooting in this kind of environment, permitting, weather preparation, downtime, drone usage, and shot planning were all dialed in so it was much easier to tackle the unknown together, one step at a time.
Can you share some of the creative and logistical challenges + breakthroughs that came with this undertaking?
Matt: From the outside looking in, this is definitely one of those ideas that gets presented but never made. I mean, there was actual danger and personal risk involved throughout the stunt. Not something most company and agency execs like to deal with. Insurance risk aside, we had to find the right partners to pull this off creatively and to make sure everyone could drive home at night.
Our partners had to cover two key disciplines, expertly, and with specificity—climbing-related production logistics, and category-specific craft and cinematography. We chose to partner with Louder Than Eleven and Shine & Polish, who immediately began problem-solving through various challenges. First, they had to fabricate the shop itself, which needed to safely hold a person and all of our apparel and gear for two days. The solution was a climbing portaledge, which is basically a portable shelf that climbers use to sleep on while climbing, which we wrapped to make look like a storefront. Next, they had to figure out how to safely anchor the store, 300 feet above the ground, on one of the most expert climbing routes in the country. It had to sustain rain, wind, and the scrutiny of legal oversight.
Then, not only did we have teams of expert and amateur climbers making ascents for two days to the shop, but we hung our DP and Photographer from the wall as well, and had drones taking passes throughout production. They were all such pros, and it was stunning to see how everyone choreographed the event to perfection. We even had Lynn Hill, the most legendary female climber of all time, smiling and enjoying the adventure. And wrapped the shoot as the last climber crested the summit during a torrential downpour.
Is the 37.5 pop-up shop taking its show on the road to other remote locations?
Andrew: 37.5 makes apparel that maximizes performance in the most extreme conditions. But it’s only good if you have it when you need it. That means we have our work cut out for us. So keep your eyes open for the next place we might “pop-up”.
What’s next for WorkInProgress?
Matt: The beauty of our action-based advertising philosophy is that actions can take on so many different shapes and sizes. One day it’s a pop-up shop on the side of a cliff, and then something completely different the next. We’re lucky to have found partners who believe the same way we do, and who have the guts to pull these types of things off. We have some great production kicking off, so make sure to follow us on Instagram: @WIPBDR.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Andrew: We’re always looking to grow our freelance roster, and potentially bring some people onboard. Please reach out if you’re tired of brand books and taglines.
Shine & Polish
Tell us a bit about your creative backgrounds. Who are Rich & Clarissa and how did they get here?
We both had been in the ad world for over a decade, gaining agency and in-house experience. Clarissa was more on the strategy and messaging side - she’s our ideas person and lead storyteller. Rich was more focused on the design and production work - he’s the connector and has an eye for detail.
When we had some spare time after our 9-to-5s, we would collaborate on side projects; work that merged our skills and we were truly interested in. The partnership was not only a natural fit - it was fun. And we loved the ownership and creative freedom the projects offered.
As the side gigs became more frequent and demanding, we thought - maybe there’s something here. Why are we killing ourselves working for others and dying a slow death under florescent lights? So Shine & Polish was born.
How have your respective backgrounds given you the tools to come in as fixers for big campaigns?
Some of it’s innate. At the core, we’re perfectionists, doers, problem-solvers. We both genuinely enjoy piecing the puzzle together to make a whole and nerding out on the logistical details - you know, the stuff most people don’t like to handle.
Couple this with the many hats we’ve worn over the years, and we’re well-equipped to be flexible, nimble and never above taking on a task.
What creative problems did WIP present to you for the 37.5 campaign that needed a Shine & Polish solve?
When WIP came up with the awesomely crazy and ambitious idea to build a pop-up shop 300 feet in air on the side of a cliff, they knew it could be done but they weren’t entirely sure how. We had worked on a project with similar foundational demands - climbing-focused, daring and pretty wild - so we had an inkling of how to make it happen.
What lead you to take on the challenge? What excited you most about the brief?
The idea was so out there and bold. As we were going through the brief we could see some of the logistical challenges and immediately started piecing together solutions. It made us giddy and we just knew we wanted to be part of making it come to life.
The shop also generated funds for the preservation and access of public lands which, as lovers of the outdoors, further sold us.
What was it like having WorkInProgress as a creative partner?
What a phenomenal team. From start to finish they were an absolute pleasure to collaborate with. These guys know their shit but they operate with a humbleness and reserve that you don’t always see in the ad world.
The entire team, in fact, was fantastic to work with - our production partner Louder Than Eleven, the fabricators, rigging team, and park services. We all jived and worked as a united front. No egos, just hard work and dedication to making the idea come to be.
Can you share some of the creative and logistical challenges + breakthroughs that came with this undertaking?
From the onset, the idea presented a host of challenges. How do you build a shop on the side of a cliff without it turning into a kite? How do you make the concept resonate with the climbing community - an often skeptical group? Can we get permitting for drones in a park that’s historically against them? Where will the shopkeeper pee?
In the end, the biggest obstacle was shop fabrication, specifically that it wouldn’t become airborne. We partnered with Cain Cain Studio to build the pop-up. One of the founders is a climber and he understood it needed to be both beautiful and structurally sound. Using a portaledge as the base and tons of ingenuity, they created a piece identical to what the client envisioned - sleek and safe. The shopkeeper peed in a bottle.
Were there added legal or insurance hurdles given the extremity of building a cliffside popup shop?
Any big production will come with its legal and insurance hurdles. Our approach is to lay a solid foundation on both fronts, hope to never use them and instead work to mitigate risk entirely. We accomplished this by choosing skilled partners, such as Colorado Mountain School, that took the utmost care in rigging to protect the park and those participating.
What have you discovered about each other through working together?
Rich: Clarissa is more of a perfectionist than I realized. Nothing but the best, no cutting corners. If you work with her you’ll get 150%. She’s persistent and has an incredible work ethic.
Clarissa: Rich makes things happen. He’s fastidious, abhors lingering to-dos, and powers through tasks with a remarkable attention to detail. If you want to get something done, you make sure he’s involved. He’s also genuinely curious - he used to take toys, computers, and skateboards apart as a kid just so he could see how they worked and put them back together. I believe it’s why he can tackle any IT, accounting, design or production question without hesitation.
Do you find that it helps to promote the fact that you’re married? Ever hide it?
It typically comes up at some point and we certainly don’t try to hide it, but it’s not usually something we lead with. Ultimately, we’re partners through and through - whether in marriage, life, work or otherwise - and that’s how we present ourselves.
Favorite thing about working together? Hardest thing?
Favorite is taking an idea you hatched together from ideation to creation, and being able to celebrate those successes with each other. Hardest is knowing when to turn off. Maintaining boundaries between work and life.
What do you do when Not Working? Any climbing or other extreme activities?
We love being outside – trail running, climbing, camping. We love it so much we recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Denver, CO in order to spend more time away from a desk and in the mountains. Some of our best work meetings have been over a hike or run, when other demands wash away and your mind can flow more freely.
What’s some great advice you’ve heard or received that all creatives should hear?
Make yourself valuable. There are tons of creative, talented people but it’s about having solutions. Understand your client (or potential client) and make them understand how you can be beneficial. Provide a solution, not just a service.
Any advice for other creative couples on how to balance working and not working?
Full disclosure - we’re really not the best at the balance part.
But, on the working side - Respect each other. Listen. Celebrate one another’s victories and help each other move past failures. Understand strengths and weaknesses, then sort in advance how tasks are delegated. Make sure it doesn’t always feel like work.