D’Amato was a leading media planner during his time at Omnicom and regularly featured in Campaign‘s list of the top 10 media planners in the Annual – most recently in 2018.
In October last year he left Omnicom after more than 17 years to “explore new opportunities”, and is now Friendly Giants’ chief strategy officer.
Leisfield – who is now Friendly Giants’ chief creative officer – worked at Dare as a creative lead before landing creative director roles at ITV and BBC Studios. In 2017 he launched independent creative studio Littlehawk, which has now been retired to make way for Friendly Giants.
Hailing himself as a “big kid at heart”, D’Amato credited his new agency’s name to reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG to his daughter.
“The BFG collects good dreams and ultimately fights against the big, ugly giants in the world,” he told Campaign.
“We are friendly giants – we both come from huge backgrounds and craved something a little bit different for ourselves.”
The agency’s founding clients include Netflix, BBC Studios, Virgin, Tech Nation and Merlin Entertainments, all of which are working with the agency on a project basis off the back of previous work with Leisfield at Littlehawk.
Funded entirely by Leisfield and d’Amato, the agency has hired a producer and two permanent team members, but plans to work with a rawster of industry members on a project basis in order to function as an “agile giant” as well as a friendly one.
D’Amato said: “We have effectively been building our network of friendly giants and people we love working with who are great, but it’s not a fixed model so it’s always evolved into the project.
“In turn, it saves clients on cost, and it actually makes the briefs that we return much more effective, and the work stronger as well. So far, the clients have been very positive and responsive to that.”
He continued: “If we can do that we can be an agile giant, which is kind of an oxymoron.”
Friendly Giants is currently based in Dalston, though it has adopted a working from home model as the UK continues to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.
Leisfield remarked that the pandemic has created an ideal environment for people to launch agencies as “all bets are off”.
“This is the year to reevaluate without any fear,” he said.
“This is definitely who we want to be and how we want to do things, so we’re going to try it.”
Friendly Giants is handling Notonthehighstreet’s Christmas campaign, which was won by the agency following a creative pitch and is set to be released next week.
Penny Parnell, creative and brand director at Notonthehighstreet, said: “Friendly Giants have managed to create our most engaging pieces of advertising and content ever, helping elevate our brand awareness and sales to record levels, and standing us in good stead to keep supporting the 5,000 small businesses who need us now more than ever.”
Ahead of Christmas, Friendly Giants is also set to launch a children’s book, Elf-19, of which 50% profits will be donated to charities to support children affected by Covid-19.