The Genesis Of The gapingvoid Business Model

company culture value


For those of you new to gapingvoid, I thought I’d tell you what the gapingvoid business model is all about, from my own unique perspective.

My background is advertising. I often noticed while working on Madison Avenue that the problems clients were asking us to solve weren’t really going to do much good, even if our agency was doing a stellar job.

What’s the use of doing an award-winning, attention-grabbing Super Bowl ad…if the product actually kinda sucks and nobody really likes it? [That happened a lot during the DotCom bubble, as we all know.]

And why was the client allowing itself to put out dud products that nobody likes? And why are they expecting their ad agencies to kill themselves trying to compensate for the fact the product is a dud?

To me, it seemed like a lot of wasted energy.

Clients expect their agencies to fix crappy problems. The crappiness began long before the agency ever got the brief. The crappiness began at an internal, cultural level.

So we figure that if we are allowed to intervene sooner with the client internally, we could create a lot more value than the agency model, a lot more quickly and painlessly.



[An "All-Over" we did for Cisco etc.]

Back in my Chicago freelance days, my friend, the well-known advertising music director Ira Antelis (he writes jingles and does sound design from TV commericals), commissioned me to draw a poster for him. It was an all-over with a lot of advertising music in-jokes. It was a great little piece (I’m told there are still a few prints knocking around; I’ll try to get one from Ira later). People loved it.

Ira then got a couple hundred of the posters framed and gave them to every A-List advertising creative in town. Leo Burnett, DDB, Foot Cone; they were in all the corner offices all over Chicago, because they were just so damn cool (they were, trust me). Everybody wanted one for their office.

And so what happened when people walked into said offices?

“Wow. That’s really cool. Where did you get it?”

“Ira Antelis.”

“Who’s Ira Antelis?”

“You remember that guy who wrote that Michael Jordan jingle for Gatorade…?”

“I want one!!!!”

“Give Ira a call…”

Give. Ira. A. Call.

Just like that, Ira was being talked about (and contacted) on a daily basis, by pretty much all the people who mattered in the business.


Fast forward to the present. Drawing on the preceding experiences from my time in advertising, in Chicago and elsewhere, plus everything we’ve seen happen in our work and on the Internet, Jason (my business partner) and I decide that the best way to create value for our clients would be using art to shift corporate culture, internally and in the right direction.

We create cultural change by using art to provoke the right conversations, the same way we did for Ira Antelis’ business.

Our timing could not have been better. As anyone who reads Harvard Business review can tell you, culture is now a hot button subject for business. Recent bestsellers like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” (Tony is a good friend of ours, by the way) tell us that the secret to growing a great company is growing a great culture.

gapingvoid makes art that is totally aligned with that idea, working with amazing companies who concur: Microsoft, Rackspace, Cisco, HP, Roche, VMware, Hubspot, Techcrunch, to name a few. [Client page is here.]

We jokingly call it “motivational posters for smart people”, but at the end of the day, it’s serious stuff. It’s a superb business to be in, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.

If you’re in the culture shift business, we’d love to talk to you.

Thanks for reading.

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

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Former President, Babson College

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Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark