A casual observer of advertising may not know the name, Nomads Creative, the way they might know RPA, Ogilvy, or Team One, but many in the specialty food industry would know the company’s work. As the ad agency that has provided support to healthy food and beverage brands such as Califia Farms, Pete’s Living Greens, Bolthouse Farms, Pressed Juicery, and Health-Ade Kombucha just to name a few, the team of Graham Simon, Noel Woolfolk, and Cambria Guernsey are proving that a classic ad background, a DIY sensibility, and a passion that mirrors their clientele’s own are a winning combination.
Together, Graham, Noel, and Cambria make up Nomads—a success story that started in a Los Angeles high-rise and ended in a van down by the river (well, by the ocean).
“Basically, Nomads is three people. It started out between my creative partner, Noel, and myself. We met at Ogilvy, and we’ve actually worked at several agencies since then,” Graham told me. “And just before we started Nomads, we were Co-Creative Directors at Ignited. In a nutshell, there are a lot of problems associated with the traditional ad agency. There’s a lot of waste. It costs a lot of money for the clients. And in terms of your own personal life, well, you don’t really get one.”
Both Noel and Graham were entering a similar place in their lives, and the inefficiencies of traditional advertising seemed incompatible with their trajectory and their goals.
“We were both on the same track, about to have kids with our own respective families, and wanted to make a better life for us, and also wanted to start enjoying advertising all over again. We really truly loved advertising, we just had big problems with the ad agency process,” Graham explained.
At the same time, the two began working with an emerging brand in a growing market—ZICO Coconut Water, and their experience working with the passionate team behind that organization would spark inspiration for Nomads.
“We worked on ZICO Coconut Water’s first ad campaign and created all this work, and at the end of the day, there wasn’t enough money left over to actually see all the work come to life. We couldn’t even bring the work to the world because they were paying that ad agency retainer,” said Graham, who noted that the overhead of that expensive retainer is part of what forces emerging brands out of the market. “For smaller emerging brands, advertising retainers are really tough. Noel and I felt guilty, and we thought: what could we do? How could we do our own thing? How could we make it way more affordable for our clients while at the same time maintain our livelihood?”
“Our philosophy is to keep it small, so we don’t have to charge a big retainer to keep the lights on, and that allows us to work with small brands and these really passionate people," Graham explained. “We call ourselves Nomads because of our process. We essentially want to become in-house creative directors for our clients for the duration of a project, and when that project is over, we hop in the van and move on.”
When Graham says “hop in our van and move on,” he means it. The company was literally founded out of the back of his Volkswagen Vanagon, and the vehicle continues to serve as inspiration for their nomadic philosophy.
“I have an old Vanagon, and we would park at the beach where we could get wifi, and we would sit with our laptops and come up with ads. We created some really great work out of that van, and that lasted a little while until we needed some actual space. Now we have a nice office outside Venice, so not quite as nomadic, but I think that spirit lives on inside us.”
It’s in that sense that Graham and his partners continue to offer their service to healthy food and beverage companies, becoming in-house creative directors, catching the inspiration of an emerging brand, and moving on to help another.
You can check out their stuff at hellonomads.com