From left to right: Barney Hobson, Rick Chant, Alex Bennett Grant, and Jamie Kim (click = full picture)

There’s a new shop in town, called WE ARE Pi. It is located on the Herengracht, in the same building as production agency 328 Stories and theGirls™. It was founded by Alex Bennett Grant (account/strategy) and Jamie Kim (production) – both ex Wieden+Kennedy – at the beginning of this year. We already wrote about WE ARE Pi last April when they organized a fundraiser for the victims of the tsunami that hit Japan. A clear case of “practice what you preach” we said then, since the agency’s mission statement is to create ‘shared value’. In the first half year of its existence WE ARE Pi was in beta; Bennett Grant and Kim experimented with their proposition. As of last month, creative team Rick Chant (copy) and Barney Hobson (art), with whom Bennett Grant and Kim worked at Wieden, filled up the still missing positions. Now they are officially a full service agency. Enough reason to have a chat.

Why did you guys leave Wieden?
Alex Bennett Grant (ABG): We left, because we wanted to start WE ARE Pi. We wanted to be able to implement our view on advertising into our own shop. Starting your own business is one of the most exciting things you can do – in advertising, that is.

Jamie Kim (JK): At Wieden you can feel sheltered. And after a while, things become somewhat familiar – even when you don’t know exactly what’s coming. We wanted to have our feet closer to the ground again, meaning getting our hands dirty and getting knee deep in the unpredictable.

And you, Rick and Barney, why did you leave Wieden?
Rick Chant (RC): We wanted Change and Opportunity. We’ve worked as a team at Wieden for 7 years and then things start to itch.
Barney Hobson (BH): On top of that we wanted to work with these guys very much. Sort of a dream coming true.

Since Chant and Hobson have joined, you’re an ‘official’ Wieden breakaway, what does that say about WE ARE Pi?
ABG: We all loved working at Wieden; you work with the best people, on exciting projects, and on multinational clients. It is the best experience you can have; it assures you of an impressive track record, which always opens doors. At WE ARE Pi though we’re nimble, which means we are able to collaborate closely with clients on strategy, even product and service development. We also focus more on interactive and activation, so we can offer fully integrated solutions.

Where does the name ‘WE ARE Pi’ come from?
RC: Pi is infinite, open ended.
ABG; It is somewhat of a mystery and should communicate we’re in constant pursuit of the answer.

You’re brand proposition is about generating ‘shared value’. What does that mean?
ABG: Finding shared interests with customers. Being useful. It’s not about simply bursting into mass media, but about creating something for the longer term, giving people something to play with.

[JK, who has been typing on her laptop in the same room, all of a sudden walks to the window and starts waving at someone who is staying at a hotel on the other side of the canal. It is Rutger Hauer, we learn. She was chatting with him.]

How do you know Rutger Hauer?!
JK: We met him at TEDx Amsterdam, last year. And we’ve become friends I guess you could say.

[While JK walks out of the room to Skype with Hauer, we teach ABG how to pronounce Rutger Hauer in Dutch – he says ‘rootger’]

You recently created work for Deloitte, an accountant. How did they become your client?
ABG: We met them through TEDx Amsterdam, Deloittte is a sponsor. They were ready to launch in the online market, but needed a relevant proposition to get them noticed. We took a data driven angle. Among other things we created Data at the Races, the world’s first data derby.

RC: Mario Kart meets Bloomberg.

[JK is now leaving to meet with Rutger Hauer. BH tags along to see if he would pose for a ‘Thumb Portrait’]

Do you have enough business?
ABG: It’s going well. At the moment we’re conceptually translating the TEDx Amsterdam slogan ‘Ideas worth doing’ into a launch campaign. An exciting project we are working with an orgy of different partners. This week we’re meeting with the National Ballet and the mayor of Amsterdam. We’re also working on a super cool project for Lego. It’s for a new product launch. They asked us to help on a strategic level.

[BH now returns with Rutger Hauer’s ‘Thumb Portrait’]

A pretty special portrait. And a pretty special bunch of folk. We’ll be following them closely.