“We’re not curing cancer here, people!” Those words have sizzled in the ears of every burned-out agency person at least once in their career. And it’s one of the phrases that inspired our founder, Jonathan Hart, to launch Bigmouth Creative.
No, creatives, project managers and client support teams don’t directly cure cancer. But our work can carry immense value when used as a voice for good. Design, communication and marketing have the power to shine a light on underrepresented and misrepresented corners of the world, elevating crucial stories of struggle and success into the public conversation. This power inspires our work at Bigmouth.
“We’re not curing cancer here, people!”
Why do we undervalue the impact we can have as creatives? Let’s start by unraveling the toxic environments that lead to burnout.
Defining our journey
We started Bigmouth in 2018 on a mission to do good — to create a culture of respect and inclusion, to work with brands that share our mission and values, to create the very best work we possibly can, and to make a difference to communities that could use our support.
We’re on a mission to build something to believe in:
As a business, we:
Rank potential clients based on the four Fs: fit, fun, fortune and fame. The ratio of each is subjective, but a good fit is non-negotiable.
Are picky. Bigmouth only works with clients whose work directly impacts the lives of others, particularly members of minority groups.
Give back a portion of our profits to the community. In 2021, we donated nearly $15,000 to organizations that benefit Chicago communities.
As individuals, we:
Admit what we don’t know. Exposing ourselves to multiple avenues of education and support is crucial to creating representational work.
Bring our experiences and passions to the table. In the long term, each team member will pick passion projects for the firm to support.
Grow Bigmouth into a business that works for us. We all take responsibility for remaining purpose-driven by protecting our values, our authenticity and our whole selves.
Bigmouth as a voice for good
Remember our “cancer cure” scenario? Bigmouth does have a role to play. We elevate the stories of struggle and success: the families fighting for their loved ones, the medical teams providing care, the researchers exhausting every possible avenue. One recent example: Our work with myWHY Agency to help the American Medical Association celebrate its 150th anniversary. The campaign tells all sides of their story – from the life-saving recommendations they’ve made, to the doctors they’ve supported, to the missteps they may have made.
People and businesses who share our values don’t trust their stories to just anyone. That’s why defining Bigmouth as a purpose-driven agency adds a layer of responsibility to our work. We build authentic relationships to tell authentic stories, and never take trust for granted.
One of our most important partners in finding voices to elevate: the LGBT Chamber of Commerce Illinois. As a certified LGBT Business Enterprise and Rainbow-level Chamber member, we’re part of an amazing intersectional community committed to learning from one another. Through this partnership, we’ve built valuable relationships that have allowed us to help bring mental health services to underserved communities, build free welcome newborn kits for Chicago-area hospitals, champion women’s rights across the state, and brand a non-profit that helps victims of gender-based violence tell their stories.
Putting our actions where our (big)mouth is
By forming relationships with brands and organizations, Bigmouth becomes part of their story. What do we want our role to be in that story? Rather than simply doing the work we’re paid for, we want to physically be part of the solution and improve lives in more ways than one.
Our OneChiFam project with the Chicago Department of Public Health brought us to the intersection of words and action. The multifaceted initiative works to equip new parents with savvy tips through their babies’ first 12 months. Our team felt a deep personal connection to the work, completed during a deeply challenging time, and wanted to continue building our relationship. We’ve donated $9,000 to OneChiFam partner Cradles to Crayons, and volunteered to assemble donation packages at their Giving Factory warehouse.
Where we’re headed: 2023 and beyond
Designers outside their natural environment.
Bigmouth-designed welcome baby books.
Approaching business development from a DEI perspective. Currently, the core Bigmouth team is composed entirely of LBTQ-identifying folks and women. We prioritize bringing other voices to our table, whether through future hires or our vendor-partners.
Continuing to define our low- and pro-bono offerings. This is a community benefit we’ve been able to offer in the past, but adding more structure to our decisionmaking keeps us accountable. We also donate 5% of every project fee to a charitable organization of the client’s choosing.
Pursuing B Corp Certification. Businesses earn this global designation by demonstrating their commitment to positive social and environmental impact; in other words, by being a voice for good. Bigmouth already operates in manners congruent with B Corp—being conscious of how we do business is baked into our DNA. But getting B Corp certified will signal to our clients and our peers that we mean business. And, joining the growing fabric of certified businesses amplifies opportunities for change.
Living a healthy definition of “productive.” At U.S. agencies, employees are often pushed to achieve 95% productivity — that is, 95% of your work day (or more than 7.5 hours of an 8-hour work day) can be billed to the client. In countries where employees take two or three months of vacation every year, 67% productivity is more acceptable. That number ensures people aren’t burned out, are still passionate about their work and live our lives in a way that works for all of us. Bigmouth shoots for the middle ground. Ideally, we achieve 75% to 80% productivity, with 5% to 10% consisting of passion projects and pro bono work.
We’re always building and rebuilding our own definition of a “big mouth.” Commonly, the phrase conjures up someone whose mouth gets them into “trouble.” (We’re OK with that as long as you use activist Congressman John Lewis’ definition.)
We use our “big mouth” to amplify deserving stories in a way that makes people sit up and listen. Recently, one of our clients told us we were making public health “sexy.” That’s a sign we’re on the right path.