UK-based content agency All Conditions Media have been creating content and PR strategies for brands and media titles in the action sports space for 13 years. Run by Matt Barr (former Whitelines editor) and Jojo Cook (former SOURCE editor), ACM pride themselves in their nuanced understanding of the action sports landscape and their ability to apply this to their content and PR campaigns as “sensitively and credibly as possible.” Now with a team of eight at their Brighton office, ACM have accelerated their efforts in recent years, with Danner Boots, Jones Snowboards and Adidas Terrex three of the latest brands to put their faith in the agency’s PR and content strategy skills. Longstanding ACM clients include Arc’teryx, Finisterre, Pacsafe, GB Park & Pipe, French Mountains, TSA and Picture Organic.
SOURCE caught up with Matt & Jojo to find out more about All Conditions Media’s offering and just how they help a brand convey its message.
Could you give us a brief overview of ACM – how the company has evolved since its inception and who the key players are now.
Matt: ACM began back in 2005 as a freelance writing agency. Myself and original co-founder Chris Moran had been at Whitelines for ten years and felt there was a niche for original writing about snowboarding and other action sports. These days you’d call it a content agency, although back then we were just carrying on what we’d already been doing for a decade.
Over the years, ACM evolved as the world changed. Back then our main clients were editorial outlets – magazines, papers and websites. Then as the bottom fell out of journalism we started working with brands, who trusted our background, track record and creativity. The agency in its current form grew from there. Chris left in 2016, and today I run All Conditions Media with Jojo. Jojo worked for Onboard and used to edit this very magazine before establishing renowned agency Good Mood Media. We go way back, and in 2015 decided to get together to create one agency. As co-directors we head up a team of eight, and are lucky enough to work with the best brands in the action sports, outdoor and adventure travel industries.
Give us a summary of the brands you work with, and on what basis.
Jojo: We work with a pretty tight stable of brands who are the leaders in their field – Arc’teryx, Adidas, Dragon Alliance, Finisterre, Danner Boots, Pacsafe, GB Park & Pipe, French Mountains, TSA, Picture Organic, among others. The work varies tremendously, from the award-winning content campaigns we’ve executed for French Mountains, to our recent European PR launch for Danner Boots. Our full catalogue of work is on our website www.allconditionsmedia.com
ACM have been establishing themselves as a major UK PR force over the past 13 years. But it would seem the last couple of years has really seen things change gear for the company, with new accounts and a your reach expanding into Europe. Was this strategy, or have you been victims of your own success?
Matt: A lot of it was planned. I mean I’ve worked as a journalist for twenty years, and was always incredulous at how awful the majority of PR and marketing campaigns were. A dearth of creativity, terribly executed. Once brands understood our approach, we began to grow fairly quickly. Similarly, our multi-market campaigns came about because we recognised an opportunity – brands had followed the same unwieldy, multi-agency model for years which was something I’d never really understood. It seemed obvious there was a gap for a pan-European agency able to run campaigns across multiple markets and disciplines, so that’s how we positioned ourselves. Thankfully, brands such as Danner, Adidas and Jones Snowboards got on board and we haven’t looked back.
Do you have a selection criteria for brands you work with?
Jojo: We want to work with brands that align with our values, which have always been driven by dealing with the cultures we love and as sensitively and credibly as possible. We also want to work with brands and collaborators who are open to our unique way of working. We’re able to deliver consistent results for our clients because our values of honesty, professionalism, transparency and creativity drive what we do. But sometimes we’ve found brands or collaborators either don’t understand those values or are unable to get on board with them. So yes, we are choosy about who we work with, and we’re equally happy to walk away from relationships with brands if we think we won’t be able to work with them in the right way, or they seem unable to understand our way of working.
With the advent of social media, media outlets have changed more in recent years than they did in the previous few decades. How do you combine traditional media with social media/influencers to strike a balance for your clients?
Jojo: We’ve done everything over the years, and it’s funny seeing how trends come around and very rapidly become marketing clichés. At the moment, obviously, everyone wants an influencer campaign or a VR campaign.
At heart though the work is always about helping brands connect with audiences by telling their stories as credibly and sensitively as possible. That will never change, no matter what the medium du jour or the demands of the particular client. It’s the same thing when it comes to striking a balance with a client, as you put it. Good client relationships are about honesty and helping them achieve their goals, when often they might not have a particularly clear understanding of how to do that. Doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a global über-brand or a start-up nervously planning their first marketing spend.
What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learnt over the years.
Matt: Probably ‘be adaptable’. The industry and wider media landscape has changed beyond all recognition in the two decades I’ve been working in the industry. I mean during my first season working for Whitelines we handwrote the articles and faxed them back to the UK to be transcribed. These days we’re running multi-channel campaigns for clients across European and global markets that require a high level of client accountability. That transition took a lot of adaptability and the agency has been through many different iterations over the years. Ultimately though, the brief will always be the same: tell great stories creatively and with integrity.
Can you reveal any new clients or projects as an exclusive for SOURCE?
Jojo: At the moment we’re excited about the work we’re doing with Adidas Terrex. We’re helping them develop communication and content strategies for each of their global markets, which is a challenging, exciting brief with one of the biggest brands on the planet.
Matt’s Looking Sideways podcast has now broadcast over 30 episodes. How does the podcast tie in with ACM?
Matt: It’s a demonstration of how to develop a great story-telling brand, for one. Secondly, the network that has enabled me to get so many great guests on the show in such a short space of time comes from my years in the industry with ACM.
But really there’s no concrete affiliation other than that Jojo and the rest of the team are super cool about letting me pursue this personal side project alongside my regular work. I started www.wearelookingsideways.com because after a little hiatus I wanted to get my teeth stuck into some proper journalism once more. Personally I’ve found it a real shame that the industry had been neglecting longform content with a bit of thought and context behind it for a while. So I thought I’d try filling that gap myself, and thankfully the podcast seems to have really struck a chord with a lot of people who have evidently been crying out for that exact thing.