Many ad agency executives' jobs take them to unique locations. But very few have had the opportunity to work in an environment quite like this one.
London in New York, a new shop founded by partners and co-creative directors Carolyn London and Michael Vadino, launched this month. And unlike every other agency in New York, its principals recently worked from inside the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.
During the time London spent working alongside the Met's in-house marketing team, a rack of elaborate costumes sat down the hall from their work space and a morning trip to the basement cafeteria for a cup of coffee might have involved sharing a table with members of the Bolshoi ballet, costumed soldiers, child opera singers or the star of La Boheme.
This relationship was a first for the 133-year-old Met, which recently launched a campaign to promote a new season that opens on Sept. 26. Entitled "The Voice Must Be Heard," the campaign includes broadcast and online spots, as well as out-of-home subway ads around the city. On Oct. 4, the Opera will open its space to the public during the day for the first time—and "The Voice Must Be Heard" will continue into 2017.
The Metropolitan Opera named London in New York as its lead creative agency of record in June, but its relationship with founder Carolyn London dates back several years.
London first began working with the organization while she was an executive creative director at Serino/Coyne and created the Last Night at The Met blog; that site will relaunch as part of "The Voice Must Be Heard," though the Met has not yet decided upon its creative direction.
London began her advertising career as a copywriter at Lowe Worldwide New York after working in TV production, film and theater and later worked as a consultant or freelance agency creative with boutique fashion brands such as Elizabeth Arden, Clinique, Joseph Abboud, BEBE and Revlon.
She met Vadino while serving as senior copywriter at fashion-focused content shop Kraftworks and then brought him onboard as a co-creative director at New York startup The Liquid Agency, where she was creative lead.
The success of their partnership at that company, where they launched experiential work for clients like NASDAQ and LexisNexis, inspired the pair to branch out on their own.
"We try to keep an outsider creative lens inspired by art, music, fashion and culture " London tells Adweek. "Our output resides in this tension between this very Midwestern desire to connect … and a fierce objectivity that allows us to remain distinct and a little different."
The pair have applied that approach to their launch work for The New York Metropolitan Opera as they attempt to subtly alter perceptions of a cultural institution.
"The opera is experiential, from the second you walk in the door and see the tremendous chandeliers," London says. "There are so few things like that in the world … there's so much humanity on stage."
The new campaign aims to showcase this humanity, emphasizing the Met's broad appeal to newcomers while also reaffirming the value of the full opera experience for longtime attendees. Some past Met campaigns have relied heavily on production photography, but London In New York is taking a different approach.
"We want to strip away the production layers and get to an urgent message using contemporary images that showcase the incredible 'voices' in the Met Opera experience," London explains. "We want to create a campaign that makes it impossible to turn away. Above all, it's about the Voice. And it must be heard."
"The Met is delighted to be working with London in New York who are partnering with our in-house marketing and design team to support our ongoing ambition to generate new audiences for opera," says Gilly Brierley, assistant general manager, marketing and communications at the Metropolitan Opera House. "Allowing Carolyn and Mike to work from the Met's offices completely immersed them in the world of the Met, enabling them to create a campaign that reflects the unique elements of the institution while complementing the rest of the company's ongoing marketing and communication initiatives."
Brierley adds, "'The Voice Must be Heard' campaign is helping us shape a creative vision that reflects the exceptional talent and dedication of the artists and staff who work at the Met, and compels audiences to take part in the extraordinary experience of live opera."
This relationship doesn't preclude the agency from working with other clients. In the future, London and Vadino hope to work with the kind of tech, culture, business-to-business and health industry clients they handled at The Liquid Agency, but they also believe the Met will be a key part of their business for years to come.
"It's a pretty unique relationship and we feel very fortunate to launch London in New York from inside the Opera House," London says. "The door we entered every day [while working on the campaign] was the Met Opera stage door. It's like nothing else."