Thicker Than Water: B&T Takes A Look At Avenue C’s Family Connections

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Daniel and Hugo Cutrone, founded Sydney-based media agency Avenue C back in 2017, as they were unsatisfied with their jobs in the industry.

Lead image L-R: Daniel & Hugo Cutrone as children.

Following a conversation with their father about becoming the boss, rather than simply working for someone else was the genesis and Avenue C was born.

Every other week, we take a look at familial connections within our industry. Last time out, we spoke to Joe and Tom Frazer from Half Dome about their founding of the agency.

What is the family connection? 

We’re brothers.

As co-founders how did you start the business?

One Easter celebration at our Mum and Dad’s house we found ourselves talking about how we were growing increasingly unsatisfied in our jobs. At the time we were both working in different media agency roles, but found that our experience was very similar. Rather than doing the craft we initially loved and had built a career on, we were increasingly spending the majority of our time in boardrooms, managing agency politics and people.

Dad in his very honest Italian way said “Well if you don’t like the boss, why don’t you two become the boss?”. We rolled our eyes but on reflection started thinking about whether there was a different way. In all honesty, how much longer could we live with the reality that the more senior you are in the media industry, the less time you spend doing the craft you love? Could we create an agency where we could spend more time doing great work and avoid the bureaucracy we both hated?

With an overwhelming motivation to fall back in love with media again, Avenue C was born.

Were other family members involved or supportive?

Our family were hugely supportive! With no external backing (nor foundation clients when we started) we had to bankroll ourselves without a salary for the first 12 months. Daniel moved into his mother-in-law’s home with his first baby on the way and I moved out to the burbs where I could afford a more modest home loan.

Your family bond, is it a competitive advantage?

It’s funny because usually when big companies talk about being a ‘family’ they mean it in a warm and fuzzy way. However to us, as we are actually family, we bring the reality of what a family really is to our business. Families fight, argue and call each other out when they are not doing their fair share, but families will always be there when you need them and support you through the highs and lows.

Our business operates similarly. As we have a flat structure, our team feel empowered to have a no-holds-barred debate on the best media selection for example, or let someone know when they believe there is a better approach to a client’s business, yet they are also always there to support each other with workloads and to share learnings and best practice.

Does the culture of the agency reflect your family values or personality? 

As every parent will know, no two siblings are alike. Daniel and I share similar values but are very different in our day-to-day interactions. However, no matter how differently we may approach a challenge we know deep down that we make each other better at what we do. Having this respect for different approaches and working styles is something that we really embrace at Avenue C. We know that if you put together a team of people who are each specialists at their craft, they will all have something unique they can bring to the table and that the collective is much more powerful than any individual can ever be.

Do clients respond to family values?

Nobody will ever be as honest with you as your family are, and I think in an industry where many clients have been burnt, honesty and transparency mean a lot.

Does it help you recruit and retain great talent?

It helps in that we will often challenge each other openly and without hard feelings which hopefully means our staff can feel good to disagree and challenge one another to improve a campaign or business outcomes.

When you get home or attend a family event do you have a no-work talk rule?

No, we are who we are. We are media nerds at heart and will talk about our passion 24/7.  In fact, this question should be directed at our partners who would love us to implement that rule!

Any fun stories at family Christmas that impact your work life? 

Not really at Christmas, but having a brother at work means you can’t pretend you’re something you’re not. If you ever get ahead of yourself or even turn up to work in an outfit that you don’t normally wear, it is guaranteed that you will get publicly paid out! Whilst this may not be everyone’s ideal working scenario, being forced to be your absolute authentic self and laugh at yourself every day, is actually bloody brilliant.

What, if any, negatives does the family connection bring? 

We’ve contemplated bringing a wrestling ring to the office so that we can slug it out like kids when we disagree, but unfortunately, we can’t fit one in the current space! In the meantime, we settle the disputes with a voting rule and move on quickly.

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