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NY Times: A Pop-Up Agency Shows Off Emerging Talent

Published: September 15, 2008

THE idea of the pop-up has always been popular in advertising and marketing. There are Kleenex tissues, which “pop up one at a time,” as the old slogan goes; pop-up stores, those temporary outlets for retailers like Target; and the snarky cable TV series “Pop-Up Video.”

Jack & Bill, a pop-up agency started by Porter Novelli, gave some younger employees a chance to serve five clients free.

Porter Novelli, a leading public relations agency, is popping up on the list with a short-term, pop-up agency inside its halls, staffed by younger employees who have spent the summer creating campaigns for clients with fledgling businesses to promote.

The entrepreneurial pop-up is named Jack & Bill, after Jack Porter and Bill Novelli, who joined forces in 1972 to found Porter Novelli, an agency now owned by theOmnicom Group with 100 offices in 60 countries.

Eight Porter Novelli account supervisors and account executives — average age, 26 — have been running Jack & Bill on behalf of five clients that are receiving free services.

“We have an agency filled with millennials, with a need to feel empowered,” said Lisa Rosenberg, partner and managing director of the Porter Novelli New York office, referring to the demographic group, also known as Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1994.

“This was an idea they were tremendously excited about,” she added. “And as a senior manager here, it’s exciting to see the strength of our young people.”

Ms. Rosenberg estimated the expense of the Jack & Bill project for Porter Novelli at more than $150,000 — an economical sum for a summer’s worth of publicity generation that generated its own share of publicity.

One goal of Jack & Bill is “showcasing our digital-media expertise,” Ms. Rosenberg said, services “that we may not always get to do for bigger clients.”

So Jack & Bill has a microsite, or special Web site; a blog; and a channel on YouTube. The pop-up agency also has presences on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

A decision was made that Jack & Bill would concentrate on clients in the fashion field because many of the younger Porter Novelli employees worked on accounts in areas like “fashion and style and art and culture,” said Erin Osher, a partner at Jack & Bill who is an account supervisor at Porter Novelli.

“It was really the chance of a lifetime to create an agency with the support and help of a big organization,” said Ms. Osher, who has worked at Porter Novelli for three years.

To give Jack & Bill’s temporary life an appropriate end date, the work to be done by the staff members for their clients culminated with the annual Fashion Week, which took place last week in various venues across Manhattan. The pop-up project was wrapped up with a party on Sept. 8.

Jack & Bill and its clients found one another in a way that turned upside-down — or perhaps pop-up-side-down — the traditional pitching process for selecting a public relations agency. Typically a client calls in several agencies to compete for an account; in this case, the partners of Jack & Bill asked potential clients to audition to win the pop-up’s free services.

“More than 150 people showed up for the casting call” in mid-July, Ms. Osher said, which was chronicled on the Jack & Bill Web site and blog as well as through Twitter and the other digital means of dissemination.

“We were taking photos on iPhones, which were sent to Flickr, and doing live blogging,” she added, “and we invited others like PR Week, Huffington Post and People to live-blog.”

The winners of the free services from Jack & Bill were drawn from several areas of the fashion business.

In women’s apparel, the selection was Aira, a company started by two sisters, Karen and Annie Lin. Kalyn Johnson, a former lawyer, was chosen for her work as a fashion stylist; her company is Style by Kalyn Johnson.

And there is a model, Christopher Fawcett, a 22-year-old from Aurora, Colo., who moved to New York about a year ago.

One fashion item, jewelry, is represented twice: by Dannijo, a line created by two sisters, Danielle and Jodie Snyder, and by Badgley Sneed Designs, a collection from two long-time friends, Lynne Badgley and Jan Sneed.

If the name Badgley rings a bell, it is because Lynne’s son, Penn, is an actor with a lead role in “Gossip Girl,” the buzzed-about series on the CW network. (Ms. Sneed is his godmother.)

Asked to recall the Jack & Bill selection process, Ms. Badgley laughed. “I spent years auditioning with him,” she said, referring to Penn, “and all of a sudden the tables were turned. Now I knew what he felt like.”

Mr. Badgley accompanied his mother and Ms. Sneed to the audition, along with a co-star, Blake Lively, who plays his girlfriend on “Gossip Girl” and, as they say in the gossip columns, is seeing him off-camera, too.

Their presence drew considerable attention for Jack & Bill as well as for Badgley Sneed Designs, which has since added a “Gossip Girl” necklace to its offerings.

“Every other contestant asked: ‘What are they doing here?’ ‘They make jewelry, too?’ ” Mr. Badgley said about his appearance with Ms. Lively.

Ms. Sneed, who is executive vice president for corporate communications at MPG, a media agency owned by Havas, praised the young staff members of Jack & Bill for their work.

“They know what’s out there,” she said, “and how to use it.”

Mr. Fawcett agreed, pointing to coverage he received after working with Jack & Bill that included a fashion blog on the Web site of New York magazine.

“I thought you had to be really famous to have P.R. representation,” Mr. Fawcett said. “They really do make me feel like a star.”

Ms. Osher said it was possible that “Jack & Bill may live on after this,” to assist “emerging talent needing help to get off the ground.”

The Jack & Bill partners, in addition to Ms. Osher, were: Claire Buxton, Alyson Campbell, Erin Crumpacker, Erica Lichtenberger, Richard Small, Lauren Szczerba and Emily Zanovich.


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