- Night Agency is (pictured from top down) Evan Vogel (strategy), Scott Cohn (creative) and Darren Paul (innovation) and located in SoHo.
- Evan Vogel: 26 years old. Grew-up in Tenafly, NJ; now lives in the East Village
- Scott Cohn: 28 years old. Grew-up on Long Island; now lives in the East Village
- Darren Paul: 27 years old. Grew-up in Miami; now live “on the UES with my beautiful fiance, an East Village convert. Thank god for our soho loft!!”
- Creative marketing agency
- All answers from Scott Cohn, unless otherwise noted.
A Night Agency world:
You’re not even 30 and you’re already running a company of your own. What previous experience did you have before starting Night Agency?
I was an art director at a baby clothes company and living in Hong Kong for two years after college. Then I left to do freelance web and graphic design and spent some time working at Outpost Digital and Radical Media doing broadcast graphics.
What made you think you should start your own agency?
I did some creative work for Darren and Evan (who I’d known from our days at Syracuse University), and it occurred to all of us that we were much more dangerous together than we were apart.
DP: Evan and I have been serial entrepreneurs since back in our Syracuse days. Let's just say Scott was the magic potion that turned an already kickass team into the Real McCoy.
Do you feel that your youth has helped or hindered your success in any way?
Both. Helped because we are younger and stronger, raw, unconditioned, unprejudiced, and able to work late into the night, night after night. But sometimes people think, “Ah ... what do those guys know? They’re just kids!”
DP: Youth? Our youth is what makes targeting our peers possible. How in the hell is Joe Schmo (we love you Joe Schmo, call us) gonna know what Tony from Santa Monica is doing in his spare time, and why does he care about your new movie?
Is there a difference between guerilla marketing and viral?
All the definitions are yet to be set in stone at this point, but it seems to me that viral is primarily an online phenomenon whereas guerilla is more of an umbrella term for those marketing efforts that don’t fall into longer established mediums of advertising. In the past it was mostly illegal wall sniping, but these days there are tons of legal and more interesting ways to spend the end of your budget.
What are the different challenges you face drawing an online audience to a client’s site vs. getting people on the street to stop and pay attention to you?
The challenges are pretty much the same, and that is to give people something they might actually desire instead of shoving more garbage down their throat. That’s always been the challenge. We attempt to pique curiosity and then reward that curiosity instead of leaving people feeling used and abused.
The New Yorker recently profiled Linda Kaplan Thaler, queen of a gentler, jingle-based school of advertising. Would you ever go this old-school, Casio keyboard-reliant route, or do you see guerilla style tactics the future of marketing and advertising?
DP: The future of marketing? Simple. Night agency. There is a difference between cockiness and confidence, we know that what we are doing is the future, just a matter of time... (Note to self: 27, promised my mom I'd be a millionaire by 30, hurry!)
SC: Many people like to say that traditional advertising techniques are dying, and the 30-second spot is dead. That seems a little catastrophic to me. There will always be room for well-written ad campaigns. There is no question though that spending an ad-budget properly is more difficult than ever because those grey areas where consumers reside are encroaching on seemingly safe information like Nielsen ratings.
You have about 20,000 “agents” nationwide at your disposal. Describe your typical agent. To what lengths will they go to for you?
Our average agent is college-aged or recently graduated, loves to be on the cutting edge and in the know about the latest music and trends. Aside from that they are as different as potatoes and hand-grenades. They will go far for us. They’ve dressed up as bears and gone fishing from canoes on the sidewalks of Chicago.
What level of involvement do you have with client? Are you handed a brand and told to build buzz, or do you come in at earlier stages?
Every different client is a different experience. Some bring us in from the start to brainstorm strategies for a new campaign, product, event.... Other times we are brought in later and given more parameters to work within, and sometimes, a client knows exactly what they need from us and we are brought in to consult on the feasibility of it and then simply execute. For MTV2’s relaunch, we were given the new logo and asked to brainstorm a way to consolidate buzz online. We came up with the2headeddog.com.
Are your techniques always deployed in major cities? Is it because urban residents present a greater challenge and opportunity, or do you just not want to travel to a backwater town?
Generally speaking, our live tactics have been deployed in major US cities because of the high pedestrian factor. We are not opposed to hitting smaller towns if that’s what the job calls for. We love small towns having each grown up in one.
You gave the world—“ass-vertising”… The campaign made a lot of noise, but was there a way to measure impact, did it turn anyone off to the NYHRC—or are you believers of the “all publicity is good publicity” school of thought? Do such stunts lose impact after a while?
We measured ass-vertising by it’s amazing syndication online and the sheer volume of inquiries we received after we did the stunt. We had eight people flashing their bottoms out around Grand Central Stations for a few hours one day, and we are still getting calls about it. It really blew a lot of people’s minds. I’m sure it turned off some people – we got some hate mail from it, but out-of-state mostly. The way we feel about is that it was an effective publicity stunt. We don’t use cookie-cutter tactics, and ass-vertising was a perfect medium for the client, who wanted to get some buzz around their “Booty Call” class. We wouldn’t do ass-vertising again unless it was totally appropriate.
There is such thing as bad publicity and we always play our ideas out in every direction to safeguard them against a major backlash before we try and sell them.
How cynical/impressed/ outraged were the citizens of New York when you pull stunts like the Booty Call one?
New York is a pretty cool town for the most part and people were pretty unphased by Ass-vertising. I mean, we have Robin Byrd, commercials for hookers on cable, in the papers, and on top of taxi cabs. This was far less racy than many ads I’ve seen here.
Do your clients come to you, or do you ever approach companies that you’re interested in? If so, what would be the sort of challenge you’d crave…?
We’ve been lucky enough to have a positive word-of-mouth spreading and most of our clients seek us. At the same time, we are always reaching out to companies we think we’d work well with. Sometimes they let us come in and do our song and dance and other times they don’t. We like any company with a sense of humor.
Would you go overseas with one of your campaigns, or do international counterparts of Night Agency already exist?
Ass-vertising was a huge hit in Brazil. Many of our campaigns end up on websites whose languages we don’t speak. Sherlock is a great tool on Mac with translation software. It doesn’t really work that well, but we can get the gist, or at least some really funny gibberish. Expansion abroad is one of our many goals. We have friends in Europe, South America, and Asia who we talk with regularly about this kind of stuff.
What campaign have you enjoyed the most?
[MTV2’s] the2headeddog.com was a dream come true for us. The client basically told us to go out and create something huge, mysterious, and funny. We had very close to complete create freedom. We made a musical about toast and threw dummies down stairwells and held the Men’s Strip Poker Championships and a whole bunch of other stuff that we’d always wanted to do.
Is there anyone/anything you’d refuse to take on as a client?
Yeah. We try and avoid politics, religion, tobacco, and other things that don’t make for a nice dinner party. We truly hope our work makes the world more pleasant and not any less.
Ten things to know about Night Agency’s Scott:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the
Nothing – it’s all infested. My roommate brought in this chair once and then he got the flu.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you
J&R Music World.
Gotham Mad Lib: When the _____ (noun) makes me feel
_____ (adverb), I like to _____ (verb).
When the house makes me feel quickly, I like to run.
Personality Problem Solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
I’ve become more hysterical and obsessive since I started living in New York. New York is definitely a part of me because when I travel people instantly recognize me as a New Yorker. It’s cool sometimes but not always. It’s particularly bad when traveling domestically.
NYC Confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Vinny Vincenz pizza on 1st Ave is the best pizza in the world and I eat it twice a week. Vinny – you’re making me a fat man!
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly
happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
My chair in my den.
What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
Crash a wedding and then get a bagel with chicken salad at four in the morning.
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I guess I get that feeling when I’m trying to make a train at Penn Station and I’m being blocked by teams of tourists on 34th street, but I don’t think I’ve ever acted on it.
Describe that low-low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
Every New Year’s at around 5am.
Besides more square footage, what luxury would you most like to have in your apartment?
I’d like to have soundproofed walls, floor, and ceiling.
311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
One time my friend was getting mugged, and I called it to ask if they thought calling 911 might help.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
I had a crazy guy who stood outside my front door around the clock for a year after the blackout. He learned all our names and we came to like him and he would sign for our packages and hold them for us. One day he disappeared and no one’s seen him since.
Night Agency’s campaigns include MTV2's "the2headeddog.com," K-Y® Brand's "Warm Up Date," and the “Impossible Heists” Court TV launch. For more information about Night Agency and examples of their work, visit nightagency.com.
-- Interview by Lily Oei and Aaron Dobbs