November 23, 2014
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August 23, 2010

Pop-Up PR Firm Jack + Bill Turns into a Smashing Pop-Up Success Story for Porter Novelli

By Jim Bucci

For children, pop-up books are among the most thrilling gifts. Pop-up maps have added another dimension to navigating unknown terrain and exploring unknown lands and cities. The "Pop-up Video" became a VH1 icon. Pop-up stores have also become a recent innovation in brand-building buzz stunts for mega-retailers like Kohl's and Target.

But, what about launching a pop-up PR agency?

For a group of eight twenty-something Porter Novelli staffers, the pop-up PR agency would translate this universal and suddenly trendy theme into a tool to revolutionize PR.

In the summer of 2008, they created Jack + Bill, the first pop-up agency in the PR industry with the goal of helping young designers, who typically don't have access to big agency expertise, promote themselves leading up to Fashion Week in early September.

Inspired by Porter Novelli's entrepreneurial founders Jack Porter and Bill Novelli, the new approach of a Jack + Bill pop-up agency paved the way for fresh thinking and redefined "business as usual" in the agency and industry.

The Challenge: Fit Jack + Bill into a Short Window of Time. "The biggest challenge was ensuring we were able to meet all of the objectives of the Jack + Bill project in the short timeframe of the project," says Porter Novelli account executive Alyson Campbell, one of the eight Jack + Bill partners.

With only a few months until September's Fashion Week, the team had little time for all the steps needed to launch Jack + Bill and the PR campaigns that would follow. To maximize their time, they skipped the typical pitch process by hosting an open "casting call," driving applicants by relying on dedicated MySpace and Facebook pages, a digital flyer, Craigslist postings, Twitter updates and digital media outreach.

The Strategy: Take Advantage of the Jack + Bill Team's Fresh Approach and Thinking. With the average age of the team at 26, the group of millennia's used the Jack + Bill pop-up agency to demonstrate the importance of fresh thinking, experimentation and entrepreneurship in reinvigorating the PR industry.

"We wanted to showcase the Jack + Bill pop-up model to demonstrate Porter Novelli's commitment to innovation," explains Campbell. "We also wanted to give away services on a small scale to launch and build relationships with the next generation of fashion and creative leadership in New York."

An open "casting call" was held to select their clients, which would be an apparel designer, a jewelry designer, a model and a fashion stylist. Leveraging social media and emerging digital technologies, the team publicized the program on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, showing the group's entrepreneurial guts and youthful exuberance.

In July, just months before Fashion Week, the Jack + Bill team created a blog and website to document the agency's development, as well as industry trends and their strange, new client selection process. To drive applicants, the team used "uniquely millennial skills" to create dedicated MySpace and Facebook pages, a digital flyer, Craigslist postings and Twitter updates and conducted digital media outreach.

In all, 150 applicants attended the casting call, including "Gossip Girl" stars Penn Badgley and Blake Lively, who accompanied Badgley's mother Lynne, a jewelry designer.

"To continue the buzz, the team engaged in activities traditional clients are often wary of," offers Campbell. "We took photos from iPhones that were sent directly to real-time Flickr feeds, live blogged with no senior agency oversight and posted video of the applicants and process on YouTube."

She adds: "Once the clients were selected, the team developed individual plans for each, ranging from online video content to blogs and digital fashion press buzz."

The winners included, women's apparel company Aira, stylist Kalyn Johnson for her company Style by Kalyn Johnson, model Christopher Fawcett, Dannijo, a jewelry line created by sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder and Badgley Sneed Designs, a jewelry collection from friends Lynne Badgley and Jan Sneed.

The Results: The Pop-Up PR Firm Turns into a Pop-Up Success Story. The team's efforts culminated with a style trends panel for European fashion journalists featuring Jack + Bill clients and a party for 250 staffers, journalists and friends. This was enough to catch the attention of New York Times advertising guru Stuart Elliott. Additional media coverage included FOX News, People, the New York Post and The Huffington Post, PRWeek and Ad Age.

Jack + Bill clients were featured in Us Weekly and New York magazine's "The Cut" and on E! News Daily, CW11 and InStyle.com, while the agency has gone on to broaden distribution to major retail stores and represent a major packaged goods company. The Jack + Bill blog garnered more than 6,000 views and the agency attracted over 214 Facebook friends, over 6,150 views on YouTube, 180-plus followers on Twitter and more than 260 Flickr views.

Secrets of Success: Read on as Campbell offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Gold in "PR Innovation of the Year" at the 2009 Bulldogs Awards for Excellence in Media Relations & Publicity.

Tap into the unique experience of your staffers. "Unconventional experience matters," she offers. "Each of the staffers understood social media and being able to bring those tools to the table was a key in building pre-buzz and maintaining the buzz after the campaign launch."

Spread the wealth—make sure each staffer has a part to play. "Assign roles for the •cooks in the kitchen,'" she explains. "It was important that each of our staffers had an assigned role in order to balance the work and ensure everyone felt they had a say in the project without getting sidetracked given the short time period in which all of the activities needed to be executed."

Speak up—let your passions and interests be known. "You don't have to quit PR to become an entrepreneur," she says. "If you're passionate about something, speak up. Others may also be interested and once you know who supports you, you just need to put together a team and make it happen."

WINNER'S PROFILE: Founded by Jack Porter and Bill Novelli in 1972, Porter Novelli, an ad agency now owned by the Omnicom Group, has 100 offices in 60 countries, its expertise encompassing healthcare, consumer marketing, corporate affairs, technology, public affairs, digital media and social media.

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