There are good reasons for having dogs at a company.

October 4, 2011

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO at NYCA

Here’s what our friends bring to NYCA each day.


Rut Busters: What do you see?

September 28, 2010

By Dave Huerta, VP/Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

In every agency it’s the same story. Buildings filled with problem solvers doing their best to meet shrinking timelines, while providing their clients with their freshest thinking.

As you can guess, shrunken timelines and fresh thinking don’t get along great. Let’s just say they’re not friends. They don’t even like being in the same neighborhood. And rarely will anything good come about when they’re forced in the same room, let alone brief.

So being the super smart and evolved communicators we are, we naturally kick into high gear. Faced with no time, our brains do a quick search of all the solutions that have worked in the past and finds the one that best matches the problem in front of us. (Probably has to do with some left over fight or flight issues.)

Anyway, it’s awesome for meeting a timeline. But not awesome for creating unique and effective work that addresses a unique communication challenge. It leads to patterns and ruts where you end up with the same solutions to completely different problems.

At NYCA we don’t like ruts. They’re not good for agencies or clients, so we’re doing an internal series of rut busters in the way of visual teasers, thought provoking questions and brain contorting challenges. Just different ways to keep our minds open and seeing problems from unexpected directions so we can continue to provide our clients with unique and effective grow! work.

And it’s not just for the creative department. The Rut Busters are for every NYCAer whether you’re the President, in accounting or part of the cleaning crew.

Who knows, it just might reveal which senior account person will be our next jr. art director or writer.

Here’s the first rut buster and what NYCAers’ saw.

What do you see?


Giving voice to the silent

September 8, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

On our walls we display the artwork of the people of St. Madeline’s Sophie Center. Those who created the paintings are gifted artists and developmentally challenged people.

They are never listed as one of our target audiences on our briefs. These people have little discretionary budgets. We don’t do research on them; don’t obsess over what will make them change their behavior, what their media intake is. We don’t create our stimuli to engage them and so we don’t listen to them.

And that is why we have their art all over our offices and why we have had these artists in our offices. Their work is beautiful regardless of who created it but it’s important work because of who created it.

It teaches us to hear all, to learn from all, to be there for all. We are transformed when we accept all the gifts we are offered.

To do that we must hear what is out of reach of our ears.

As you pass by the artwork on the walls, a plaque reads: The wonderful art you are enjoying comes to us from the gifted residents of St. Madeline’s Sophie Center whose mission is to empower adults with developmental disabilities so they can discover, experience and realize their potential as members of the greater community. Feel free to be inspired.


Gifts to the kids of the gifted.

August 25, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA


“You sure you want to work at NYCA?” I always ask, shove a bit, “There are many easier places to work.”

Though we are a wonderful place for some, we are not right for most. It’s my job to point out what we really have going on here with candidates to help them make the best decision for both of us.

I tell them we work long hours, including weekends now and again, we are meeting crazy (too crazy and we are adjusting that with the hope of keeping the collaboration strong), we are relentless, always searching for a better idea, even on the way to the meeting, in the meeting, after the meeting is over and the work is approved. It’s demanding. That’s why we always give birthday and holiday presents to the kids of the people who work here. It’s our way of thanking them for so generously sharing their loved ones with us and to let them know we love them, too.


The propulsive power of do.

July 16, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Yesterday we closed the agency and got everyone up to speed on our evolved agency process. Our workloads are fast and furious right now. All the more reason to catch up to each other.

You see, NYCA doesn’t work “assembly line style” like many agencies. We work in a circular fashion – in grow! teams. Every member of the team has a stake in every part of the process. It makes our strategies more creative, our creative more media oriented, our media more productions, our productions more strategic. And everyone is pouring their passion into each client from day 1 and forever.

It’s not easy to work like this. You don’t experience that lull after the campaign goes out, that many agencies get to have. Grow! does not allow you a lull. It’s a painful itch that is not easily scratched, that asks each of us – now what?

The pain of grow! can only be mitigated by the fun and passion that each of us bring to this place. Lynne made up a cheer so we could remember part of the process. I don’t think anyone will forget it. You can ask our accounting team to do the cheer, and even though they aren’t part of the creative process, boy do they know the steps now. James made us play Process Twister. If you could not remember the steps, then you were in compromising positions that make me glad we do not have an HR department. Lisa took us through our new media process – it was bursting with creativity. Dave showed us what we should be aiming for creatively – and opened the door for it to happen.

At the end of it – everyone was singing this song – a reminder that we invent because we love it. A new NYCA burst forth from the existing one today – and though our work can be draining of time and energy, that energy is renewed in a second with a new idea, a new employee, and with every new client.


Doing good matters.

June 30, 2010

By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA

Last week I walked out of a strategic meeting with one of our solar start-up clients re-invigorated that what I do, to an arguably significant degree, matters.

Think about it. Advertising can fuel healthy competition and encourage progressive innovation yielding better products for consumers and society at large.  Advertising done well can also bring about much needed societal shifts in peoples’ thoughts and behaviors.

A few examples to which I’m personally privy: one advertising campaign can help recognize and champion the far too often neglected and invisible mom.  Another can celebrate “real beauty” across the planet instead of glorifying 21st century, computer-augmented glamour.  These “do good” ad campaigns have the power to impact more than just units sold.

Clean energy advertising, from exclusively an advertising point of view, has the greatest potential to fundamentally change our world; I believe it’s what is needed to catapult alternative energy adoption to the masses.

If you are someone who stays up on advancements in sustainable innovation, then you already know alternative energy is no longer a dream for tomorrow; it is a reality for today.  A recent NYCA project in the solar roofing sector validated, to me, how close we are to leading a more energy efficient existence, where the world is less reliant on finite energy resources and more empowered to be self-sufficient.

I was amazed to learn there are so many proven, and increasingly affordable, sustainable energy practices readily available in the building sector alone.

I predict somewhere down the road, cutting-edge architects and regular old homeowners alike will share my enthusiasm for integrated photovoltaic systems that blend into existing roof structures.  What’s the hold up? Well, people don’t yet understand the ins-and-outs of alternative energy nor do they realize entrepreneurs have made saving the planet profitable.

I believe the groundwork for solar success is in place; sustainable technologies are constantly being encouraged by governmental incentives and there appears to be an emerging appetite for solar growing amongst a segment of “citizen consumers.”  What is next needed to help transition our world into a sustainable era is widespread demand across demographics. Who can best influence consumer behavior and shape culture in a positive direction? Advertisers – those whose messages are heard by the masses.

I’ve spent over four years working in this consumer-centric industry and have become well-versed in understanding what triggers people and finding a way to position products/services in ways that have meaning.  In order to ensure people embrace alternative energy completely, we must find a way to create conceptual badge value of doing good for the planet as well as find ways to fulfill the human need to reap personal gain.

It’s undeniable – advertisers have an important job to be done; we can accelerate the speed of progress toward sustainability. I look forward to partnering with alternative energy companies, making strides in growing their businesses and simultaneously taking steps in changing our world.


How to be in a constant state of wonderment.

June 16, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Quietly taking her place among the circle, Lynne bends open the book and turns us into children.

She more than reads; she breathes life into Harold and the Purple Crayon and the 40 people of NYCA.

This is the true story of how creative power trumps all. It’s based in fact. And it’s a ritual we do every year, whenever.

However many we are at that moment, we sit on the carpet, quiet, some eyes closed, various stages of smiles smiling. It’s a cookies and milk, endless sky, puffy-white-cloud NYCA moment.

To see the world as a child is to be fully alive to invention.

Lynne’s voice rises, vibrates, slows, floats, pitches and loosens the titles. The years melt away and unfurls grip on the baggage, and creativity rises, weightless, colored in all colors.

Playfulness and possibility and openness and agelessness and measurelessness.

“And” is a big word here. It’s an energizer. A window opener. A mind cracker.

And this happens and then this could happen, yeah, and then, and…

“And” kicks “but”’s butt, and dances merrily over “no”, and can’t even hear “can’t”’s doubts.

It is just so very easy to be old. To know; to be sure, safe, right.

Lynne takes her work seriously to make us young. She arches an eyebrow and her neck narrows and cranes a foot longer, “And so Harold…”

She does this so we ask why the night is darker than day, and how to build integrated communications platforms that perform beyond expectations with less time, smaller budgets.

She makes sure we question what we have been taught. What has been proven. To disbelieve in barriers. So when it appears we have no way out, we all know all we have to do is reach to the NYCAer next to us and borrow the purple crayon.


Are our Facebook profiles stealing our identities?

June 11, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

We tell our life story to the world and to ourselves. We think about it, we write it down, we share. This is my name, this is my job, this is my role, this is what I believe, this is something I like. And we think that’s us.

Asian. American. Minnesotan. Male. 34. Son. Brother. Husband. Father. Buddhist. Engineer. Failed architect. Successful entrepreneur. Lover of novels. Healthy. 329 friends on Facebook. Likes the Twins, ice fishing, golf, adidas originals, the Clash.

These can all be true but is this really anyone? The more we allow our minds to absorb the material and the external about us as who we are, the less we may be willing to explore further to find our own individual essences.

Narcissus by Caravaggio

This is easier to do now because of how we are “forced” to tell our stories these days.  All of the social networks have similar blanks, depending on the site’s focus: business, sports, religion, politics, family. The forms dictate the ends: a series of boxes for us to fill in with “ourselves.” They push and mold us to fit, and in that act we become homogenized and less true to our real self.

With all of our information kept on one page and viewed multiple times a day by our Facebook “friends,” Linked-In associates, all our subscriptions, etc., it seems like constantly looking in the mirror and saying, “Yes that’s me.”

But is it?

I have heard, “This is only my virtual self.” But do others see that? Do we really see that as we move from page to page, hypnotized by the repetition and familiarity?

With all the talk of privacy invasion – this is theft. Spiritual identity theft.  And it’s not Facebook but we who are the culprits! Whoever we are. (I have on my profile “I am funny,” so I added this.)

Seems this is the contemporary story of Narcissus. Instead of water reflecting our image, we get our digital reflection bouncing back in bits and pixels. Nowadays that information is instantly spread through our networks and so more untrue reflections of our false self are causing mass confusion.

The latest advancement in social technology is the “Like” button. Seems fine on the outside, but having my likes counted, monitored, and housed by Facebook and sometimes  distributed to marketers furthers the solidification of my false self. I can see that it will better help them be relevant in marketing to the “me” of my profile but, in the end, I don’t believe there can be a virtual self.

I should thank Facebook for making me ask, “Who am I?”

Now, as I ponder, I am wishing there was a multiple choice box to fill in.

Nah, I’d never fit.


True blue, baby.

May 19, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA’s corporate color is baby blue.

We paint our walls with it, our PowerPoints show it off, so do our biz cards, our site, and our grow! studies. One of our beach cruisers was even dipped in it.

Baby blue is a mindset.

Our baby blue Electra cruiser.

We bravely fly the pirate flag of innocence. This is hard to do with a team as deeply experienced as ours.

With knowledge comes history. History brings memory. Memory can make you lazy, whispering, “Oh please, we’ve done this before; just go about it this way again.”

We firmly resist such a paint-by-numbers approach – politely, of course – as our culture is one of spirited collaboration.

We go at the daunting task of growing our clients’ businesses fortified by our daily dose of naiveté.

This beginner’s mindset is fearless, eternally optimistic and wide-eyed to better see the possible along the well-trodden road or ones forsaken just because there’s a sign that says, “Dead End.”

The world’s too young and abundant with great opportunities to be so cynical. You can’t be anything but productive and hopeful in baby blue.

Some great brands are affiliated with colors. Coke has trademarked Coca Cola red, a color suggestion from inventor John Pemberton. McDonald’s has golden arches reminiscent of its famous “golden” fries. Apple does gray to let its products star and bring the color.

Baby blue represents the vision to see and the ingenuity to create what’s next.

And it makes a great t-shirt.

You have something you believe in? What’s your color?


Mixology – A tender crash course in NYCA’s grow! culture

May 13, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA vibrates on the edge of the ocean. We put the agency’s roots down here to be close to our core customers. Encinitas is our home; known for sun-dazed walks along the beach, awesome surf spots called Swamis and the Boneyard, cutesy eclectic retailers displaying their wares and social consciousness. We made sure to put ourselves far from the city and the hum-drum, conventional thinking of the ad agency world and land in a neighborhood where the hairdressers take cigarette breaks while thumbing through People magazine, by the hardware stores, and a diner, the kite store (never saw one of those before but it makes sense when you’re on the ocean), indie sneaker store, used-car lot, Self-Realization center, French bakery, dry cleaners. We’re with the people, and that keeps us in touch with reality – something I’m not convinced most agencies are and the cause for many of the misses in their work. It’s hard to relate to people when they look like ants from the 47th floor and you’re cooler than thou.

Being far enough to be close puts added pressure on us because if we are to fulfill our mission of growing every client’s business in the marketplace, we must be — and remain –current to what is happening in their businesses. We must be stimulated by each other, by our clients, their products, their customers, their competition, the industries, the mediums, the marketplace, the technologies and more. That’s why Michelle, our president and chief planner, invented Mixology – and I love Mixology! It’s 1 hour every other week around 4 pm when we have guest innovators come visit our beach shack to share what they have been tinkering with, what they have learned. These generous experts jolt us. We learn, we apply, we grow!

Last week we had an engineer from Apple in to show us the marketing uses of the iPad (he was kinda cooler than thou but in a real way). We’ve had people from Yahoo!, Facebook, musicians, loads of media companies whom I think are the real night crawlers searching for connection between message and audience – thanks for that! And we have hosted technology companies and a dream interpreter and nutritionists, futurists, and bakers opening us to the new, the effective, the failures. We have focused the SoCal sunlight on our own NYCAers who recently shared breakthroughs in TiVo: we experimented and crushed the projections on this campaign! Lisa showed us how in PowerPoint our ideas can be more powerful and useful in meetings.

We are a contradiction to conventional approaches, a connection with the ever-changing present – a culture that has ourselves on the edge and in the middle to make sure we are inside the customer’s heart and mind because we are so out there. The dichotomy is NYCA, and we are comfortable with the oxymoronishness.

We are the sharpened teeth of New York and the tradewind vibes of California. We work in harmonious chaos, comfy and danger-filled days, mashing up science and mysticism, instinct and data, music, pictures, words and silence; we are the fathomless open mind of the Pacific Ocean and the social technology revolution that is happening in mobile now.

My favorite cookie growing up was a black and white: 50% vanilla frosting, 50% chocolate frosting. I would eat from the edges into the middle, side by side, leaving two pieces at the end – each purely themselves — and then smush them both in my mouth for the ultimate flavor mélange sensation. That’s the taste of NYCA.

Mixology is that. You gotta come by and check it out. Let me know if you want to teach or be taught – either way you learn. Both sides working distinctly and in unison, like a black and white cookie.