"Creativity is the magic dust for any kind of company. Whether you’re a tech startup or a manufacturer, if you’re not bringing original ideas to market, you’re not long for the world."
Alec Beckett and his company, Nail, are sort of the business version of an American cult band that’s more popular in the UK than at home. The award-winning advertising firm attracts national clients and is well known outside our borders, but very few Rhode Islanders have even heard of it. That doesn’t really worry Beckett. He sees Nail as a company that can help return Providence to its ‘80s and ‘90s heyday when it was actually a nationally prominent hotbed of the advertising industry.
“We’re hoping the stage has been set for that to happen with us,” he says. “We’re making some noise. We’re hoping some of those national brands can start rediscovering Providence and getting it back on the map.” Indeed, the firm, which has quintupled in size in a little over a decade, is attracting national clients like Gore-Tex outerwear, Vibram Fivefingers sports shoes and Mike and Ike candy.
What really excites Beckett, however, is some of the work Nail has done closer to home. Last year, for instance, his company partnered with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to launch the Nothing campaign, in which supermarkets and other retailers sold cans of Nothing© (they actually trademarked “Nothing”) to benefit the Food Bank. This year, they will take the campaign national by expanding into Vermont and Ohio, with “nibbles” from other states.
Nail also ran the Providence Journal’s “We Work for the Truth” campaign to rebrand and reestablish itself. While Beckett recognizes that advertising isn’t always the most altruistic work, he sees these as examples of how it can actually do some good, and he believes his work can help expand our city’s notion of itself as the “Creative Capital” beyond the fine arts. For him, the “Creative Capital” is a place for creative businesses too – businesses like his that he believes can attract more young entrepreneurs.
“Everybody likes to talk about taxes and business climate,” he notes. “I’d much rather create an ecosystem where young, high octane, creative people want to be. If they’re here, you’re not going to be able to stop them from doing the things that they do naturally – just stay out of the way.”
• Majored in Russian and Soviet Studies at Harvard.
• Reason he went into advertising: “I went to a fancy private high school that made you wear a tie. One of the things that came out of that was a desire never to wear a tie again. Advertising seemed like a tie-free business.”
• Is married with “two ridiculously awesome kids.”
• Twitter Handle: @NailProvidence
• Last year Nail won what Beckett refers to as the “holy trinity” of advertising awards: Jay Chiat Award for Strategic Excellence, Effie Award for effectiveness, One Show Award for creativity.