Tuesday, January 25

Starting a New Agency

My very dear friend from Cornell, Ed Catto, recently started a new agency. No small undertaking ... I did it once myself (just take a look at the struggles of the "Mad Men"!). But Ed is an amazing marketer and crazy creative, so I have no doubt that his new venture will soar. It's called Bonfire Agency. I am in love the concept that he and his business partner Steve have come up with, so I asked him what it was like to start a new agency, especially "these days". Here's what he had to say.

Ed, what's your experience? Jim.

So, instead of just opening a new agency, we thought we’d make it even more difficult.

Wouldn’t it be fun, we told ourselves, to also create (well, “define” really) a whole new demographic? Given our deep backgrounds in the so-called “Geek” culture, my partner Steve Rotterdam (formerly of Time Warner’s DC Comics Division) and I have formed a full-service marketing firm, Bonfire Agency. The core idea is to help companies and brands better reach and engage with this geek demographic.

Just what is the geek demographic?

This term, admittedly somewhat clumsy, has come to mean hyper-intelligent, hyper-connected passionate fans who love comics, science fiction movies, collecting toys, action TV shows, anime, manga adult cutting-edge comedies and more. Their passion typically stretches across several genres. You see these fans on Big Bang Theory or waiting in line on opening night for the next big movie.

Not only do these fans spend their time and money on entertainment they like, but they talk about what they like. All the time. In person and online. They are critical, highly articulate and eager to share their views. You can imagine that they make the ideal consumer for brands- - not only will they buy what they like, but they’ll tell others about it!

As we articulate our agency’s reason for being, folks seem to get it. With the proliferation of geek culture spilling into mainstream (who would’ve thought the Green Hornet would do better box office than a Ron Howard movie starring Vince Vaughn?), it’s a logical next step.

And you know, working in this space will be an opportunity for brands to showcase their most creative, edgiest work. Although when people ask, “why hasn’t anyone done this before?”, it makes us wonder too. There is a slim line between visionary and deluded fool, I’m sure.

One thing that we didn’t anticipate was the great interest from professionals who want to ‘join the team’. In the marketing community, so many art directors, copy writers, marketers and strategists have reached out saying, “Great idea! I’d love to join you!” This combined with the initial positive reaction from early clients and potential clients, is encouraging.

So, three weeks into it, as we’re past the point of all those pesky housekeeping/start-up issues, such as getting staplers and filling them with staples, we’re focusing on the projects at hand and the potential ahead. Like the song says- “deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out”.

But it’s so much fun and so engaging. It’s invigorating to have something fresh to champion and to leverage, helping all involved. I could talk about it all day. On the other hand, I’d really love to hear what you think. What’s your experience?

- Ed Catto is a partner and co-founder of Bonfire Agency, LLC in New York City. For more information, please visit BonfireAgency.com.

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