Talent Takes the F Train

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

Hudson Union

45 Main St. | The 7th floor, Dumbo
Before James Oates launched Hudson Union, the design and email marketing boutique, he had established himself as a prognosticator in New York media circles, working at Vogue and the The New Yorker as a marketing director, as well as at Newsweek. In 2006, however, the salesman spun off his talents, building a company from scratch with the help of a huddle of colleagues. After a brief stint in Manhattan, the group relocated to Dumbo in 2007, where it quickly overcame its position as David (as in “versus Goliath”) with a staff of only six employees to draw in some of the media world’s biggest game.

From its office’s Bloombergian bullpen, the group has since wrangled accounts from Oates’ former employers, as well as Elle, which recently hired the company to redesign its website, and Condé Nast Traveler, for which it engineered a mobile application that digs into the magazine’s dusty archives for reportage on Italy. “The media world is very small and you tend to move all around,” says Oates, 49. “So, yes, I know a ton of people in the publishing business.”

Big Spaceship

45 Main St. | The 8th floor, Dumbo
Like many of these firms, Big Spaceship started out small—so small, in fact, that when Michael Lebowitz founded it in 2000, his entire staff of two could squeeze into a bedroom in his home in the Brooklyn nabe of Boerum Hill. That he had the bold foresight to christen his company “Big Spaceship” might have been aspirational or cocksure, but regardless, his mission has blasted off.

With a growing staff of 50 employees, and digs now in the same building at 45 Main St. that houses many of his competitors, the company boasts a roster of modern-day empires like Google and Lucasfilm, the latter of which tapped the group to update the Star Wars film franchise for the digital age. Add to those names Wrigley and General Electric and it’s easy to see how publications like Esquire—which raved about the firm’s mobile application for Urban Daddy in 2009—would predict Big Spaceship’s atmospheric rise.

Blog pages

“Dumbo has changed pretty radically,” says Lebowitz, 38. “There were really tumbleweeds rolling by [here] on the weekends. Now it’s this sort of tourist destination, where people really walk around. It feels like a residential center, certainly, but now more of a cultural center, with all of the galleries that have opened. I’m happy about that because it follows the roots of [this arty] neighborhood.”

Mammoth Advertising 

45 Main St. | The 10th floor, Dumbo
When Miramax laid off its new media department in 2002, its vice president, Robert Nuell, took the news in stride. After teaming up with Maria Quinn, his former Miramax colleague, the pair launched Mammoth Advertising at 45 Main Street.

The group has bloomed into a tiny town of 25 employees, with many of its clients boasting the silver screen pedigree that Nuell had known so well. It has forged alliances with the some of the people behind the Oscar-winning movie An Education, as well as TV shows The Cape and Project Runway. For Top Gear, the History Channel show, it worked on a print and digital stunt that reimagined Lamborghinis and Ferraris as Checker cabs that, for one week, picked up unsuspecting passengers across Manhattan. (The Civic Entertainment Group, a big ideas firm, devised the concept while Mammoth created the digital solution).

As for the Weinsteins, Mammoth still keeps in touch. “They didn’t have digital anymore, so we filled that void,” says Nuell, 42. “That’s really how we were able to grow.”

Continue to next page →