The Mad Men Of Lafayette Street
“Except for the drinking, the smoking and the extramarital sex, it’s just like Mad Men,” Tarik Sedky, Founder and President of PURE, said about his business and New Orleans’ newest ad agency.
The former Global Chief Digital Officer of Young & Rubicam, Sedky launched PURE in July 2010 in New York City to create a new, on-demand agency model better suited to the hyper-innovative, digitally-driven environment marketers confront today.
After marrying a Southern Belle from Old Metairie, it was only a matter of time that Sedky followed his muses (wife Aimee and his new adoptive City) to relocate his firm’s headquarters, national accounts and big brand experience to Lafayette Street in downtown New Orleans.
PURE’s motto? “The smarts of a large agency after a serious juice cleanse.”
“What I do relate to when I watch Mad Men is the excitement and passion around ideas that bring our clients’ products and services to life in unexpected ways,” Sedky said. “That’s a thrill, still, for all of us.”
It’s a toss up who exactly fits the fedora of the Don Draper character at PURE, that promises “PURE advertising, no mark-up, all ideas.”
Sedky seems to share the height, presence and the wildly attractive maniacal enthusiasm Madison Avenue’s fictionalized icon exuded. He also coined the name of their successful business model that happens to share debonair Draper’s initials, “Distributive Delivery.”
But it’s PURE’s Creative Director Eddie Snyder who seems to be able to pull a brilliant idea out of thin air and turn it into a multimillion-dollar ad campaign with ease, like Mad Men’s Draper often did on the hit AMC TV series.
Snyder, a local, who was the VP/ Executive Creative Director at Peter Mayer for 6 years, and the SVP/ CD and EVP/ CCO at Fitzgerald + CO in Atlanta before that, has a client roster that reads like a stock ticker (Aflac, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Marriott Hotels, Time Warner Cable).
“This is a city that is really open to creative thinking,” Snyder said about New Orleans. “People want more and people want different, and I think that’s what we can bring to the table. The model of Distributive Delivery allows us to work with best in class talent here and in the region.”
Sedky, who’s worked with brands including Citibank, Emirates Airline, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, LG, MetLife, Target, Texaco and Starwood, explained the world’s most talented people in advertising aren’t working at large agencies anymore, partly because the large agencies can’t afford to keep them. “Technology and attitudes have changed so much in the last 15 years that extraordinary talented people in all areas of marketing can make a very good living on their own as independent contractors,” he said.
Capitalizing on that trend, Sedky’s Distributive Delivery brings the cream of the crop to work directly for PURE’s clients, on-demand.
Sedky said he taps talent 1-degree from their core group of 12 employees in New York and New Orleans – about 100 experienced designers, strategists, copywriters and other marketing professionals they worked with in the past who are exceptional at what they do.
PURE’s core group of seasoned agency employees in New Orleans includes Director of Operations and Project Management Jacqui Gibson-Clark, and Account Manager Michael Newcomer.
“The biggest benefit is our clients get higher quality, more talented people working directly on their business,” Sedky said.
When a client hires a regular ad agency, they’re almost guaranteed they’ll be working with layers and different teams, Sedky said. And if you’re not one of the largest clients at one of the largest agencies, chances are you’re not going to work with the A-team.
“We have no B-team,” Sedky said. “Everybody that we bring to our clients is one of the best at what they do. So our clients are getting exceptional high quality work, tailor made, as they need it. And they only pay for what they’re using.”
“We’re the no B.S. agency,” he said. “I don’t have anybody sitting around, so our clients only pay for people who are working for them. That’s the on-demand portion. Our core represents the main components that you would want – strategy, creative, digital, project management and account management.”
Sedky said PURE’s efficient Distributive Delivery model fits into their clients’ business strategically and smoothly, while reducing overhead costs and without sacrificing talent and results.
“We don’t charge commission on media,” Sedky boasted. “We’re very transparent about the costs and the finances.”
For a client, this unique perk means significant savings since the standard commission on a major ad-buy is 15%. Sedky said other agencies ask for that percentage to pay for company bureaucracy.
“We don’t believe in that,” Sedky said. “We think we should be paid for the work we do. There is work involved in planning and buying media and we charge for that, but we don’t understand why a client should pay 15% for a $200,000 media buy or a $20 million buy. They should just pay for the work.”
“Tarik doesn’t bring the baggage of a New York agency; he brings the smarts of a New York agency,” Creative Director Snyder said. “He’s ridiculously smart. And we share the same true belief of what’s wrong with the typical agency model. Not a lot has changed since the 1950s in regards to the agency model except media tactics.”
“I realize that this is a creative industry, but it’s a business,” Snyder said. “Clients have problems and we have to solve them, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how good the work is, it doesn’t how much fun we have doing it, it doesn’t matter how flashy it is, and it doesn’t matter how many awards you win. If it doesn’t work, we failed. And we’re not the kind of guys that like to do work that doesn’t work. We want to do work that works.”
Sedky said one of the great benefits of their Distributive Delivery model is they can produce profitably at virtually any project size from $1,000 engagements to multimillion-dollar projects.
PURE’s biggest client Aerotek started as a $7,000 brochure project.
The $6 billion global company is the largest staffing firm in North America, and as Aerotek’s lead agency PURE eventually developed a complete brand re-fresh, including a new positioning, brand identity, logo, tagline and website. PURE also created new ad campaigns and marketing materials, and serve as Aerotek’s agency for strategy, digital, social, search and content. PURE works across all three Aerotek brands, in the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific.
“We have this kind of relationships with our clients,” Sedky said. “It’s talking, not posturing. It’s personal, not institutional. And it makes a big difference for everyone.”
PURE’s new swank headquarters inhabit a 1,500 sq. foot ground floor office suite on Lafayette Street right around the corner from Barcadia, W.I.N.O., the St. James Cheese Company and Vic’s Kangaroo Café, about 1,300 miles from their New York office at 1369 Broadway.
The eclectic area exemplifies what Sedky loves most about NOLA.
“New Orleans is thriving from a creative standpoint right now,” he said. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that fits perfectly with the PURE model. I feel like we’re coming to New Orleans at a perfect time. The City itself is attracting talented creative people, and those are exactly the people we need to succeed with out clients. I’ve been coming here for 10 years, and it feels like New Orleans is in an upswing.”
“The work ethic in New Orleans is unbelievable, “Snyder said. “People come to work and put on their headsets, and they start cranking, and they start thinking, and they start designing and they start doing. Here people are like I’m going to come to work, I’m going to rock my job and then I’m going to live my life. People balance life and work so brilliantly here.”
“We’re a New York-based agency with relatively little New York business,” Sedky said. “Our business is in Atlanta, Savannah, Baltimore, Colorado. We have a little business in New York, but we’re not tied at all to the place where we are located. But where we are located has a lot to do with the people that we bring to our clients. New York is filled with immensely talented people in our business, and we bring those to our clients wherever they are. New Orleans reinforces that similarly. The talent and the creativity here is extraordinary.”
“I’m also excited about the prospect of participating in the rise of New Orleans,” he said. “I really feel like there is something happening here. That’s the sense that I have. To be part of something that is growing. I find that very exciting.”
While PURE doesn’t have any New Orleans business just yet, their who’s who of clients includes Aerotek, AT&T, Callaway Gardens, DuPont, Georgia-Pacific, GlobalMeet, GoEnnounce, Grady Hospital, GlaxoSmithKline, The Home Depot Foundation, MXenergy, Optim Orthopedics and Zep.
“Everything for us starts with strategy and positioning,” Sedky said. “And from there we develop an overarching creative concept, and then we execute depending on the needs and budgets of our clients.”
While PURE’s core concentrates on positioning and strategy work and overarching creative concepting, they farm out execution and special marketing needs to their talented pool of free-agent colleagues.
“We do have a special emphasis on digital,” Sedky said. “It’s my background and a particular passion of mine, and it’s where a lot of business is headed. But we also do a lot of TV, print, radio, out-of-home, direct, social and search.”
Sedky said one of his favorite ad campaigns is Geico’s Hump Day TV commercial. “It’s hysterical,” he said. “It gets you thinking about and talking about a company that you would otherwise never talk about. It’s something I learned from my work with MetLife. When you increase likeability and awareness levels, oftentimes perceptions of trust increases as well. I think that campaign does a great job hitting those points.”
Snyder said his favorite ad campaign of all time was “Let’s Motor,” created for the U.S. launch of the MINI Cooper in 2002. “That was a brand that came to the United States and didn’t have money to do traditional brand advertising, and they proved the theory that you can build a brand using out-of-home advertising,” he said. “You’re in your car, and you see their ads while out driving in your car. It was so simple and so big at the same time. It’s using a medium that’s still the fastest growing traditional medium today, which is out-of-home. It’s growing by millions and billions of dollars every year with billboards, bus shelters, on the sides of buildings, anywhere that you can create something where it becomes a bold visual experience.”
Snyder said his client wish list would include Tabasco, Emeril’s Products and Entergy, and he aims to work on renewable energy and energy conservation campaigns as well as Louisiana hospitality, travel and tourism.
Sedky said he wants PURE to promote New Orleans as an health care hub for the region and nationally. “We have a lot of health care experience,” he said. “To have the opportunity to build New Orleans as a premier health care center represents a dream opportunity.”
“Our dream clients are clients who are looking to make a real change in how they present themselves to the marketplace,” Sedky said.
Sedky said PURE is looking to hire local creative and strategic marketing talent, from designers to art directors, web designers and strategists.
“I couldn’t be luckier in many ways,” Sedky said of his recent move down South. “All the signs have pointed us in this direction.”