A few people from the press have asked how all this started and I wanted to write it down to get it straight in my own booze-addled mind. This idea was spawned out of several disparate events that all came together fairly neatly.
Planting the seed:
About five years ago there was a mutual fund started called the Vice Fund (vicex). I was just quitting an agency job with DDB Dallas and folded my 401k into it because I thought the concept was brilliant. A mutual fund dedicated to investing in Gaming, Tobacco, Liquor and Defense. Little did I expect, the fund doubled and made me a true believer.
Seeing the need:
Several years later, I was freelancing for another large Omnicom shop and they had a "bodog"-type online gambling client on the hook. Well, I was doing most of their pitch creative and saw the numbers in the RFP. To my amazement, this gambling outfit (which I had never heard of) had budgets that rivaled a pretty large multinational. But as it turned out, Omnicom got wind of it and made this shop withdraw from the pitch. This struck me as ultimately hypocritical as other shops have clients that range from Philip Morris to Diageo to Harrah's. But then I remembered all how furtive they handled even these large clients. Their logos rarely showed up on the client slide and the work was usually handled by the least experienced people in the shop.
The final piece of the puzzle:
After three years trying to get a traditional shop running with little success I was frustrated as hell. We would go pitch like mad and I would focus all my efforts in that direction. We'd run out of cash and I'd have to freelance for other shops to cover running expenses. Rinse and repeat. Then we had a bit of success and landed a fairly prestigious Texas homebuilder, Sotherby Homes. This was in large part thanks to the consultant and now business partner David Marett. David and I had been friends for a long time but seeing this side of him was remarkable. He's a salesman at his core, but not to the point of being erudite or cheesy. He was doing everything right in the pitch and the success was sweet and addictive.
Once the concept of the Vice Squad Agency was spawned from my ultimate frustration (and half a fifth of Maker's Mark), everything snapped into place like all the elements had rubber bands attached. Either the rest will be history or the whole idea will be. But you never know till you try and I like our odds.