The New BLK is the new face of PR
September 19th, 2012
Omaha, NE- Five Omaha men started an unconventional business two years ago. It’s part traditional PR and marketing, part democracy, part community organizing and part art gallery.
On Friday inside a downtown studio, Omaha artist Oakley debuted his latest exhibit Raising the Value of the Dollar. A collection of real dollars bills was framed and mounted in the gallery’s basement. Oakley painted over and around George Washington with beach scenes and other surrealist and realist art. Patrons leaned in close to take in the details, but Oakley’s art was intentionally only a small part of the event.
Shawn Bainbridge is one of five co-owners of the ad agency and creative think tank The New BLK. “It’s more of a kind of spectacle, a show, rather than an art opening,” he said.
He’s right about the spectacle. Walking out of The New BLK’s building on 12th and Jones Streets, patrons were greeted by a saxophonist on top of a car and fire dancers twirling fire balls in the middle of a circle of onlookers. It was all a part of Oakley’s vision. Oakley’s art wasn’t really the main event, Bainbridge said. It wasn’t even priced for sale.
“The irony of it is…everybody inside wants to know how to buy his art, but he won’t give it up,” he said.
Bainbridge pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket with general prices, though he said he wasn’t sure if asked, he could even sell the work.
It might be unconventional, but it seems to fit perfectly with the culture of The New BLK.
Eric Gautschi, brothers Shane and Shawn Bainbridge, Matt Linder and Jon Hustead are the men behind The New BLK. “So, two of my favorite analogies that we use a lot, one is music and being like a band,” Gautschi said. A boy band, Shane Bainbridge joked.
The men poke fun at their promotional photos which they said look, unintentionally, like album covers. But they are kind of like a boy band ad agency—but a less manufactured and heavily regimented boy band.
Figuratively, they are all equally singer-songwriters, musicians, managers and producers within the business.
“More U2 than Guns n’ Roses,” Shane Bainbridge laughed.
“Yeah, a boy band…we’re known for our dance moves,” added Gautschi.
The New BLK came to be two years ago when its founders left their more traditional advertising employers to pursue a progressive and innovative business model. Taking from the book Creative Company, based on non-traditional PR firm St. Luke’s in England, the guys of The New BLK knew they wanted a democratic and fluid approach. One that was quick, artistic and self-sufficient. All have some form of art, design and marketing backgrounds.
And instead of utilizing their traditional offices, they prefer to set up their laptops in an area they call “The Pit”–a large island that sits in the middle of the office.
“In other agencies we’ve worked at, what used to take two weeks to generate ideas, vet them, refine them, put them out the door—we can do in a day,” Gautschi said.
Gautisch said they know modern consumers are more savvy and are hungry for more innovative advertising that he said is “genuine and organic,” rather than demanding and “dumbed-down.” They treat every campaign like art. The New BLK looks for clients with progressive causes like energy conservation and stem cell research. They especially look forward to representing local businesses and artists.
“Being able to help and invest in local community and local culture and playing our part in that, we’re able to help some of these emerging artists promote themselves,” Gautschi said. “And lot of times, the difference between a really talented artist that makes it and one that’s just penniless, it’s a game of inches.”
“A lot of it is good luck,” he added. “But some of it is the marketing savvy we can bring to these folks.”
“That’s huge for them.”
Shane Bainbridge said the benefits of working with talented artists are reciprocal.
“Conversely, some of the fine art inspiration they can bring to us that we can filter into the work we do in the commercial, that’s all the better for our clients and for us,” Bainbridge said.
Back at the Oakley event, Shawn Bainbridge said The New BLK genuinely appreciates any opportunity they can provide to their clients.
“We’re not trying to pretend we’re the end all gallery. We’re just a platform to get these cats into a serious situation where they have representation in a gallery where they can live as artists,” Bainbridge said.
“And if throwing an art party around what we love is curating them into that spot, we’ll take it. We’ll take it.”