How this agency’s eco-community Earthtopia netted it a book deal with Penguin
On social media accounts and company blogs, agencies dream of virality but struggle to achieve it. We sit down with agency 33Seconds, whose self-run TikTok, Earthtopia, has taken on a life of its own.
Agency 33Seconds on their TikTok success with Earthtopia / Credit: Margot Richard via Unsplash
With over 280,000 followers, Earthtopia’s claim to being ‘TikTok’s biggest eco-community’ is hard to dispute (that’s more than Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion combined). Attracting 5.6m likes to date, the account will be entering the world of flesh and paper this year with a Penguin book deal.
It has worked with partners such as Nike, YouTube and eBay, as well as eco clients including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), climate action platform Ecologi, and Greenpeace.
What those millions of viewers don’t know is the account is the brainchild of London-based creative agency 33Seconds. Using the full diaries of three workers, the account’s on-screen talent draws from the agency too – including account director and head of Earthtopia Rob Greenfield.
As Greenfield tells The Drum, Earthtopia started out in 2020 (with since-departed colleague Michael Brown), when the perfect storm of lockdown boredom and pandemic escapism sent TikTok stratospheric. The agency saw that it’d soon be advising clients on the app, so decided to dip its own toe into the water first.
The passion imperative: how to build a brand on TikTok
33Seconds’ chief exec and co-founder Dominic Cook says that Earthtopia was the agency’s first foray into TikTok: a place to “practice” under the assumption that “it’s better to make mistakes on a channel we own”.
Many agencies have followed that path of practicing on owned channels first. But as anyone who’s scrolled through marketing content on TikTok knows, plenty of agency accounts have close to zero engagement. Their mistake, perhaps, is thinking that a broad audience will care about the goings-on at their agency; 33Seconds decided on a different approach.
The question, Cook says, was: “Can we build a community around something that we’re passionate about?” The organizing idea behind that question was clear from the agency’s experience elsewhere on social media: “It has to be built around a passion.”
So, step one: passion. Step two, Greenfield and Cook tell us, is trend-jacking. While posting regularly about environmental issues earned a steady organic growth to a few thousand followers, jumping onto a trend that incorporated megastar Addison Rae initially blew the account up. That didn’t require the team to dance to Cardi B’s WAP; just calling attention to themselves via trending formats and topics.
@earthtopia Eco tiktok do your thing and help us help the planet #hurtfeelings #climatechange #ecofriendly #zerowaste ♬ Bulletproof - La Roux
Step three: keep going. “We’re always at the mercy of the TikTok algorithm,” Greenfield says. “It’s important to not give up.” That algorithm is capricious; the only way to ensure reliable returns from even a sizeable following is to keep feeding the algorithm constantly and never stop: “Consistency is key. You need time and effort, and you need lots of content always lined up.”
If that all works out, step four is to make the most of it. As Cook tells us, the benefits of a successful homegrown TikTok operation are manifold. Beyond direct revenue from sponsored posts and partnerships, it shows that the agency knows what it is doing, it’s valuable in talent attraction, and it provides constant insight into what users really engage with. In recognition of the value of this insight, 33Seconds now runs an agency-wide TikTok trends meeting every week.
With staffing costs and other expenses, Earthtopia isn’t yet a money-maker for the agency, though Cook hopes that it will be soon. Nor does the agency plan to jack in its creative comms work in favor of building more homegrown TikTok accounts. Instead, while the Earthtopia team focuses on new partnerships like with the UN’s prestigious Earthshot Prize, Cook and his co-founders are focused on building out a strategic offering to deepen relationships with clients as social budgets expand.
The independent agency, says Cook, remains focused on “doing good work for good clients” and “enjoying the ride”.
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Founded by three former directors of MySpace, the leading social network of its time, 33Seconds was born out of an ability to help pioneering and progressive companies become recognised as leaders in their field and for their brands to form an inherent, relevant part of everyday culture.Find out more