As entertainment marketing changes, creative agency Elevation has remained true to its roots as a design-centered shop.
“Elevation is not only design-centered in the visuals. It’s in designing the project and thinking through the complete creative bundle,” says Stephen Cocks, co-founder, principal and executive creative director.
“Design is at the forefront of everything we do,” adds David Hendrix, creative director.
The Atlanta-based agency also has worked to maintain its commitment to quality and creativity even as clients push for work to be done more quickly and economically.
“Clients say to us, ‘we keep coming back to you because you make us look good,’” Hendrix says.
Even though Elevation occasionally dips its toes into live action, it’s a motion graphics and animation shop at its core.
“The lane we’ve picked is design as it applies over all of the project work that we are doing. We are always working to elevate our professionalism as artists. We are able to focus that very deeply into any kind of work that we are doing,” says Cocks. “We need to be good stewards of our clients’ budgets and time. Sometimes we’re not the best fit for a project. Sometimes we take a look at a project and the depth of what a client needs, and decide it doesn’t make sense for a team our size to do it.
“We make sure we’re giving the client the best advice for what they are asking us to do. We create a long-term relationship that way. It’s all about trust,” he says.
Elevation’s years of experience assist in helping the team determine what it should and should not take on.
“Stephen is really good at going in, assessing a situation and deciding what to do,” says Art Director Dianne Frisbee. “Our clients are people who have problems to solve. We’re always thinking ahead so that we’re solving those problems for our clients, who look to us as partners.”
The agency got its start in 1996 when Cocks, an immigrant from South Africa, launched it with a partner. Cocks had come to the U.S. to study computer animation during the technology’s infancy. He handled the visuals, including 3D animation, while his partner took on audio and sound design.
Being based in Atlanta, they connected with the Turner networks and started to work in television, although television hadn’t been the initial goal.
“We slowly got more into broadcast and network television and started working as an agency to the broadcast community,” says Cocks. “We were able to contribute creatively instead of just executing, and we were getting involved in concepts and the design evolution of that. We’ve been doing that ever since.”
Today, Cocks says that about 60 percent of Elevation’s work is entertainment marketing, while it works for brands the rest of the time.
At the agency’s beginning, even though Elevation was regularly working for Turner, it wasn’t seen as a major player.
“We weren’t considered in the same league design-wise as agencies in some of those bigger markets. When networks got a really big budget, they would go to Los Angeles or New York,” Cocks says. “We started traveling to those markets, meeting people and getting to know creative directors, designers and VPs within the networks. We started to develop some long-term friendships. We were able to build good, trusting relationships with people in the Los Angeles and New York markets. We started to compete very effectively.”
Those relationships stood Elevation in good stead when the industry started moving to streaming in 2015-16, Cocks says, even though the move has also meant that many of the people with whom they had relationships have now left the industry.
One project the agency recently tackled is an immersive experience for Cox Enterprises’ semi-annual leadership conference, Dialog, in 2020 and again in 2022.
“Elevation exceeded expectations for the original ask and worked hand-in-hand with us to brainstorm ways to make the experience impactful,” says Amanda Atkins, senior director, presentation and video production at Cox Enterprises.
“They are true partners – engaging closely with our internal creative team to bring the concepts and creative to life, offering suggestions, and problem solving. They handle the inevitable curveballs gracefully and are embedded in our core team. They join us on-site to make last-minute adjustments and make sure the project gets over the finish line. While the work is intense and fast-paced, it is always enjoyable with the Elevation team. We can’t wait to partner with them again in 2024!”
Elevation this fall completed its first campaign for Fox with the return of Hell’s Kitchen to the network. The campaign features Americana as its theme, with an American flag at this center.
“Elevation gave us multiple directions that we were happy with, including one direction that we thought might be too adventurous to make it through. We were delighted that this is the creative direction that ended up being approved,” says Jeffrey Hazan, executive director of operations, broadcast design, at Fox.
Elevation also drew inspiration from artificial intelligence (AI) to produce Promax’s 2023 awards look, covering all competitions.
“Our field has been dominated by a massive story over the past year: AI. Mind-boggling advancements in AI-generated art and writing continue to flood the headlines. As a bunch of nerds, we’ve always been fascinated with the intersection of technology and creativity. Nothing quite captures that area of our curiosity right now like AI. It’s equally cutting-edge and controversial,” wrote Elevation’s James Grosch on the company blog. “Big questions began swirling around our industry and our team, from the practical – what does this mean for our workflows? – to the philosophical – is art defined by the creator or the end result? This topic was flooding our minds and our Slack channels.”
Even though Elevation has more than 25 years of experience in the field, it continues to approach each new assignment with fresh eyes and enthusiasm. And the Elevation team is headed into the future, with eyes and minds wide open as they confront AI and other technologies that are set to push the industry quickly forward.
“What differentiates us, I think, is that there’s still an excitement after all of these years of doing this,” Cocks says. “There’s still the anticipation of not knowing what client is going to contact us with what kind of project.”