Bad Boy’s Jameel Spencer

Q. You majored in political science and marketing at Rutgers. Did you always plan on a marketing career?

A. Even in college, I would come up with marketing plans and send them to companies and ask them to do stuff. I sent a marketing plan for Ice Cube’s album to Priority when I was a junior.

Did you hear back from them?

Not at all.

How does Blue Flame differ from a traditional agency?

The average age of people here is probably 28. So we definitely do the research, but we know inherently what works because we are the target. We live within that blue-flame segment of society—those individuals who create the trends, then go out and communicate those trends to the masses and create a sense of urgency for your brand.

How do you create the sense of urgency?

You don’t want to give [people] too much. You feed them as much as you want them to eat. Then they become used to that feeding pattern. Then it becomes urgent to them; they can’t imagine themselves without that.

How would the brand be tied into that?

We’ve created this lifestyle that is urgent. Now we have the opportunity to allow companies to come along for the ride. But it’s got to be companies that can be weaved seamlessly into the fabric of what’s going on. For instance, we were doing an event with Lincoln Mercury. We may pick up the celebrities in the vehicles and give them the cars for the evening. Nelly has a song about Nike Air Force 1 sneakers. That could be something that’s looked at as cheesy and a hoax. However, the target he reaches understands that Nelly really is a Nike fan. And that’s why it’s working well for them. People don’t mind you getting a check, but they don’t want you to get a check at their expense. They don’t want you to try and sell something you don’t really believe in.

What other synergies with music would you like to see?

Partnerships between corporate America and the music industry could be formalized, as opposed to Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes doing “Pass the Courvoisier” and then Courvoisier coming to them afterward. Companies are so thirsty for opportunities. If you’re Lincoln Navigator and you gave me $2 million—if I put your cars in every video I do for the year, you’ve gotten your money back. Not to take anything away from Tommy Mottola, but the reason he was replaced by Andrew Lack was they need someone who’s going to be a little bit more creative about the business of music and not be stuck in making the music. The business model has changed.

How did you get the name Blue Flame?

[We had] a retreat for all the companies in Bad Boy Entertainment. There was a contest—whoever came up with the name for the marketing company would win $1,000. [At the retreat], Puff made a comment: “We want to be in the blue flame; we want to be in the hottest part of the flame.” And that’s when it snapped. I came up to him afterward and I was like, “I got the name: Blue Flame Marketing.” And he said, “I think we should make it Blue Flame Marketing + Advertising.” I said, “OK, so I get $1,000, right?” And he said, “No, because the fact that I added ‘+ Advertising’ means I came up with the name, and it’s your job to come up with the name anyway.”

Who would be your dream client?

Some of the brands that enjoy enormous success in our space but are sort of afraid or maybe even ashamed to give us the credit. High-end brands that we’ve done a big part in helping them grow their market share. Before Puff bought a Bentley and got in a video with a Bentley, no one in this space was thinking about a Bentley. Now Bentley is like the en vogue car. But we haven’t been able to share in that success. When I say “we,” I mean urban America. We make them big. We make them relevant. They discount that. And when I say “urban America,” it’s not black people. Urban America is anybody who has a predisposition to urban culture. There’s an urban cat that’s 45 years old and lives in Paris. He’s just as urban as me.

Do you think a company like yours is the future of advertising?

We’re the only thing that’s still exciting in advertising. I think [McCann-Erickson] is interested in working with us because we’re talking to their clients anyway. Because their clients need something new and fresh. And where are you going to find it? We represent everything new and fresh.

What do you like in advertising right now?

I love what Gap is doing on the print side. It’s very clean, it’s very energetic. You feel like you damn near want to be in the ad. I would be interested to see if their sales have gone up, because I don’t know if they do enough to connect the dots. I love the campaign, but I haven’t been in the store in eight years.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see us being McCann-Erickson in 10 years, how about that? McCann-Erickson Spencer & Combs.