Even the arctic temperatures couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. The scene at 55th and Fifth was, although celebrity-free (unless you count a cast member from “The Real Housewives of New York City) even wilder than usual. The media mavens (Lesley Stahl, Cynthia McFadden), magazine power gals and honchos (Anne Fulenwider, Connie Anne Phillips, Jack Kliger) and fashionistas (Fern Mallis, Mickey Ateyeh) must have had plenty to talk about because at one point the decibel level hit its tipping point and I could barely hear the folks I was with and believe me, they were worth a listen.
I was joined today by Deacon Webster and Frances Webster, co-founders of Walrus, a multi-disciplinary creative agency, and they have quite a story to tell. If you want a laugh, check out the talking Walrus that touts the agency’s work on the company’s website. Hilarious. The husband and wife team, who first worked together at Mad Dogs & Englishmen, founded their award-winning (Ad Age’s 2012 Northeast Small Agency of the Year) in 2005 and, says Frances, have seen their business grow an astounding 300 percent in the last three years. Our mutual pal, PR veteran Diana Biederman, who is currently consulting for The Humane Society of New York, brought us all together and we had a lively lunch dishing about the ad biz. Deacon is the agency’s chief creative officer and Frances handles the business side as managing director. Their yin-yang skill sets keep things humming at work — and at home. The Brooklyn-based couple gave up trying to keep work talk out of their after hours conversations (“We quickly realized that was impossible,” says Frances) but did decide that having their desks facing each other in the middle of their open floor plan office was a little too much togetherness. They now keep their distance on opposite ends of the office and everything is going swimingly.
I’ll say. Having started their agency with the “21 Club,” Emergen-C, Grand Marnier, CWX and The Economist as clients when the principals at Mad Dogs & Englishmen decided to close up shop and passed the business on to them (“We went to them and asked if they’d mind if we took the business with us and they were okay with it,” explained Frances), the Websters now boast a roster that includes Amazon Kindle, Bazooka Brands and Bloomberg Businessweek as well as hotter-than-hot Rent the Runway and came up with a funny and effective photobomb video campaign to tout to the fashion site’s growing wardrobing capabilities. They’re also the team that AMC tapped a few years ago to develop a brand strategy for “The Walking Dead” and we all know how that turned out.
These days, the Walrus team is busy touting the preventative properties of Emergen-C on social media and in the digital realm and is promoting the message that the cold medicine isn’t just for when the flu strikes but rather a wondrous preventative elixir that is best taken daily (they’ve taken the brand from 5,000 to 531,000 likes on Facebook and counting). They are also working on attracting younger moguls, hedgies and the like to Bloomberg’s Businessweek. “We’re telling younger people that the magazine has really changed.” The good news is, says Deacon, since changing to the weekly delivery system that subscribers get along with their daily newspapers, the magazine is getting a lot more attention from subscribers and “there hasn’t been a lot of newsstand drop off. If people read three issues in a row, they’re hooked.” Their mission now: to find different venues for digital sampling for the consumer and keep the buzz going over their eyebrow-raising covers.
You can check out Walrus’ witty, out of the box thinking on Friday in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal with their full page ads for Smith & Wollensky which explain why scoring an internship at Smith & Wollensky is better than landing one at Goldman Sachs, Lazard and Morgan Stanley. The ads explain, among other things, that “Lazard might know a thing or two about capital markets, but when it comes to creamed spinach they might as well be Lehman Brothers.” Got your attention, didn’t it?
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Hollywoodlife.com’s EIC Bonnie Fuller and publisher Carlos Lamadrid with Penske Media’s vice chairman Gerry Byrne hosting Real Housewife of New York City’s Aviva Drescher, Sirius XM’s Serena Kodila, Island Def Jam Music Group’s Laura Swanson, Comcast’s Julian Broadsky, Activate’s Michele Anderson and Matrix’s Patrick O’Keefe.
2. Fern Mallis and Mickey Ateyeh
3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko. One of today’s hot topics among the regulars was “When is Dave going to announce his next move?” Plenty of folks stopped by Table 3 to inquire. Our lips are sealed …
4. PR maestro Steve Rubsenstein
5. Herb Siegel
6. “60 Minutes” Lesley Stahl, “Nightline’s” Cynthia McFadden and Joni Evans who were passing some papers around the table. What’s up, gals?
7. DuJour’s Jason Binn
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Paxton Quigley (What a great old time New York name!)
9. InStyle’s publisher Connie Anne Phillips
11. Vector Records’ Jack Rovner
12. Tony Hoyt, who must have brought thse frigid temps with him from Vermont, with Arlyn Gardener and Ed Gardener and The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Tsigrikes
14. Deborah Grubman, Margo Winkler and Hilary Gumbel (wife of Mr. Bryant Gumbel, in case you were wondering)
15. Kay Koplovitz
16. Deacon Webster, Frances Webster, Diana Biederman and yours truly
17. Judy Price
18. Peter Price (Obviously, the secret of a happy marriage is separate tables!)
19. Interior designer Kathy Ireland with, we hear, the owner of Scalamandre. We love Kathy on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorators” and felt her pain when she tried to help Lindsay Lohan furnish her rental home in a recent episode. When Lindsay famously didn’t show up for the big reveal iun exchange for getting all that fabulous furniture for free, the powers that be made lemons out of lemonade as only Bravo can by showing the episode anyway and telling the backstory behind the star being MIA getting more publicity than they would have had the errant starlet shown up. Genius.
20. Marie Claire EIC Anne Fulenwider and producer Desiree Gruber
21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher
22. Bloomberg’s Manuela Hoelterhoff
23, Wednesday Martin (Loved the fur hat!) and two elegantly attired ladies
24. TV Guide’s acting CEO Jack Kliger
25. PR guru Tom Goodman and Arthur Sando who is now Vice President, communications of Hustler. The guys are getting ready for tomorrow night’s benefit for Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation where Bob Costas will be honored. “Bob has been very supportive of the foundation and has been our emcee for ten years,” Arthur told me. Katie Couric will do the honors when Bob receives kudos in the company of a host of sports legends including Yogi Berra, Ron Darling, my Greenwich neighbor Lee Mazzilli, Jorge Posada and Rod Gilbert among others. The bgi event, which had to be rescheduled because of Superstorm Sandy, is happening at Chelsea Piers. See you there!
26. Gannett’s Maryam Banikam
27. Rogers & Cowan’s Judith Bresler
28. Pam Wagner
29. Ellen Perry
Faces in the crowd: My good pals Kira Semler an Vi Huse who braved the cold and came all the way in from New Jersey for their first champagne lunch of 2013 at the bar and spinmeister Stu Zakim with biz blogger Mike Berman and consumer reporter Asa Aarons in the Garden Room.
Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.