The Cannes Lions crowd has been talking about the controversial “attractive women only” email blast sent out to various people who planned to attend last night’s VaynerMedia/Thrillist party featuring Wyclef Jean. Even Brad Jakeman of PepsiCo mentioned it in an OMD panel on diversity today.
Long after the story went live, though, the promotions continued: the 20-year old niece of a source’s friend was repeatedly approached on the Cannes boardwalk that day by aggressive promoters trying to give her VIP tickets despite the fact that the party’s sponsors told us that the guest list “has been closed for some time.”
This is standard practice for a certain type of party promoter–as is requiring that these VIP attendees meet some unspoken physical standards, apparently.
When the story first went live, Gary Vaynerchuk said his agency was not directly involved in the hiring of the company in question, and a Thrillist rep wrote, “A third-party promotions company sent this email without us knowing.”
In a follow-up email, Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer described the company in question, iGetIn, as “a production group we’ve worked with multiple times in the past in the US,” adding, “This company then went on to hire several other companies to help with various aspects of the event. No one at Thrillist (or Vayner for that matter) knew anything about what this vendor was doing and we are clearly appalled by it.”
This may well be true. But the man behind iGetIn is hardly shy about the way he does business. Noah Flom is listed as the managing director of iGetIn, which is another name for Las Vegas-based “full service brand strategy and marketing firm” Ark Endeavors. On its homepage, the company notes that it specializes in “developing/marketing/launching/branding ‘cool’ product/services to the 18-34 demo.”
It also lists an impressive array of clients including Nike, Disney, NBC, MTV, Us Weekly, MillerCoors and Maxim Magazine.
Flom was, in fact, a model and talent scout for Maxim magazine for well over a decade according to his LinkedIn page–and again, he’s pretty open about the way he operates. In a 2006 interview with that very publication that the company posted on its site, he had some interesting things to say about his personal tastes:
“[Some guys] want a looker they can tell what to do. I like smart, sexy, independent women because I’m surrounded by models all the time. I mean, 22-year old hot chicks are fun to hang out with, but like my grandmother says, at some point you gotta play with kids your own age.”
A few months before the above story ran, someone reposted a party invite email sent by Flom and his associates under the headline “Maxim Super Sleazy” and noted, “it’s actually charming how these guys understand and embrace the utter shallowness of their undertaking.”
From that email:
“This is one of the hottest parties you will ever go to, and you’re only getting in because you’re a hot chick.
…don’t come starving for dinner, unless that’s the only way you’re going to look good in that mini-skirt or liquid latex outfit you have planned…then by all means, fashion is a bitch.
Be honest with yourself and us, because if [your friend] is not hot enough for us she won’t get in, then you will be faced with that unfortunate choice of leaving her in the cold while you party like a rockstar…
…even though you RSVPed and we added you to our exclusive list, we still retain the absolute right to refuse entrance to anyone we want. Sorry, this week we are shallow guys who only care about looks; this is our job and we like the money and the perks; don’t embarrass them or us.”
This is the kind of company that Ark Endeavors happens to be. Here’s another interesting post whose author claims to be a woman who didn’t live up to the promoters’ physical standards.
That isn’t to say that Thrillist and VaynerMedia knew exactly what was going on with the email and the boardwalk solicitations. But anyone who chooses to work with Ark Endeavors can easily discern the way the company operates via a quick Google search. And as Lerer noted in his email, Ark has promoted Thrillist events for years along with those sponsored by such companies as Playboy, PayPal, Doritos, Crown Royale, Kaiser Permanente and Pepsi. On its homepage, Ark lists “[finding] atmosphere models and ‘filler girls’ for special events” among its services, and that’s exactly what it was doing with the Vayner invite email and IRL street “activations.” In other words, Ark specializes in getting “eye candy” to attend its events without paying them for their presence.
The point is that no one involved in this story can believably plead total ignorance, and it’s pretty easy to guess that some people will find Flom’s business strategy off-putting.