Talent Takes the F Train

Across the river from Madison Ave., a new breed of agency is setting up shop

Area 17 (l. to r.): Sara Berks, Chris Spearpoint, Rumsey Taylor and Andrew Ackermann | Photos by Gluekit


When is an advertising agency not an advertising agency? What is a shop that makes ads, but isn’t principally interested in selling products? Actually, in addition to ads, it often makes documentaries, Web series, builds sites and apps, and pitches reality shows. Still, it’s not just a production house, nor necessarily an interactive agency. It’s a new game run by entrepreneurs who are focused on tools and technology. And they’re doing it in a world far removed from Manhattan and its corporate mores and price structure—but one reachable by the L and F trains.

When ad shops first started to populate Madison Avenue in the 1920s, they were a hybrid of talent agency, commercial art studio, vaudevillians, radio announcers, novelists, and nascent marketers (a.k.a. hucksters). The new ateliers that have grown up in Brooklyn are as unformed: geeks, Final Cut Pro jockeys, visual artists, and video guerillas, supported, as often as not, by advertising work.

If their function is not always clear, what’s evident is that they’re remaking the way the creative world is conceived, executed, and produced—and at what cost. Worth noting: more and more, ads aren’t even made on Madison Avenue (or in TriBeCa or SoHo); they’re subcontracted to Dumbo or Williamsburg. And, too: those heretofore cheap subcontractors increasingly are talking directly to clients.

This then, we believe, is the first map of the unfolding creative revolution—a reconfiguration of geography and function, in which creativity gravitates to new talent, a different vision, better tools (and those who can use them), and cheaper real estate.

Indeed, it’s unfolding so quickly that, as people in the know have already begun to say, even before Brooklyn has been officially acknowledged as the new capital of creativity, Philadelphia could soon be the new Brooklyn.

– The editors

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