Idris Elba, Marketing Guru, Launches London-Based Agency Silly Face

The “Luther” actor’s latest endeavor with cofounder Marc Boyan is to help brands navigate today’s challenging climate

Idris Elba (Credit: Getty Images)

Idris Elba is adding “marketing guru” to his long list of side gigs.

The “Luther” star is launching Silly Face, a marketing and content business based in London meant to help brands navigate today’s challenging climate and improve upon diverse representation in advertising. The name, he told The Financial Times Thursday, is inspired by his hope to bring back a sense of fun to the space.

Elba cofound the company with Marc Boyan, who owns the independent British media group Miroma. The partnership was born after the two initially considered offering a bid to acquire the British public broadcast station Channel 4, but the government decided not to sell it in January.

In addition to his acting career, Elba is also a DJ (performing as DJ Big Driis or Idris) and singer. He also produces original content through Green Door Pictures, including the AppleTV+ series “Hijack.”

Last month, Elba announced another partnership with media mogul Mo Abudu aimed at developing the television and movie industries across Africa and to bring African stories to a broader audience.

It’s a difficult time to start a marketing venture, with advertising dollars seeing a widespread slowdown across media of all types as economic worries force typically big-spending companies to tighten their wallets.

Elba, who said he’s gained insight on what audiences want thanks to his career interacting with different people, told The FT that consumer-facing companies are broadening their offerings across categories. “A sports brand getting into music and music brands getting into fashion… and that needs guidance,” he said. Boyan’s Miroma will provide support for the new agency, which is recruiting a team of creatives and executives. Elba said he wants to build the company with people from diverse cultural backgrounds who could bring alternative perspectives and ideas for marketing to their clients.

The “Three Thousand Years of Longing” actor added that there’s a need for “honest conversation.”

“Consumers are so smart, now, they can smell the bullshit, they want to be sort of treated with integrity, they want to be represented,” Elba said. “It’s hard for brands to navigate.”

Boyan noted the amount of pressure and scrutiny companies face of their positions in areas such as politics, climate and diversity.

“When I walk into companies, people are slightly fearful,” he said. “They do not know what change looks like going forward. We are building a safe place to get together.”

Elba added: “I feel the world needs to find different ways to explore ideas without the tension, without the fear of being cancelled.”