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Code and Theory Is Fueled By Punk Energy

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In and out of the agency business

By 1999, after the label folded, Treff moved to Brooklyn and started another band. When his roommate pointed out that he was going to miss rent, he offered him a job where he was working—J. Walter Thompson, where he was told he could do whatever he wanted, which included recording with his band at the JWT studio off hours.

While Treff got to learn the agency world at JWT, he ultimately wanted to learn new digital trends and was able to land at Agency.com, which was absorbed by TBWA. He spent time working in digital strategy but sought even more tech knowledge.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been the biggest marketing person. I’m more interested in building things,” he said.

Treff left the ad industry and started a joint venture with Warner Music Group, a product innovation company called Soundscreen Design, making furniture, art books, clothing lines and digital products attached to the music industry. The position taught Treff about supply chain issues, but it wasn’t what he wanted to do professionally.

“A buddy of mine was working at Code and Theory, and he said, ‘You’re going to love it here. These people are just like you, they’re crazy,’” said Treff.

Finding a focus through collaboration

Everything Treff learned along the way led to him becoming CEO of an agency, one that has a balance of 50% creative and 50% engineers. The technology-led agency helps businesses navigate changing consumer behaviors, emerging technologies and AI, and it’s a format that fits Treff’s sensibilities.

Treff, who joined Code and Theory in 2011, loves the agency because of the ethos, ambition and mentality, especially adhering to the mantra “our goal is to only be limited by our own creativity.”

While Treff said that statement might sound like “marketing bullshit,” it’s something that cuts through the budget limitations, client difficulties and other constraints that might give other agencies excuses.

“If there’s one thing I learned in my life, from music, from art, from business—you take those constraints and you turn them into an offense,” said Treff, adding that no matter the size of the playing field and the parameters set, the agency will only be limited by the team’s own creativity and what they bring to it.

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