US + Partners Pushes 'Second Digital Age'
According to Steve Stepanek, agency co-founder and managing partner, that means stopping talking about technology and focusing instead on the content.
"Others are still focused on the technology," he explained. "They're still selling extraneous services around this."
"All of us have been fascinated by the technology, the latest devices, the latest processes," Stepanek told Online Media Daily. But now that "the technology is in place, [and] we all know how to use it ... it's all about how effective the message is, and where the message is encountered."
Stepanek said US + Partners has been operating in a soft launch mode for about six months, and already has several clients on board, which will be announced in the coming weeks. The agency currently has 13 employees, with offices in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Stepanek heads the Detroit office, with two other employees. His experience in a career spanning more than three decades includes co-founding and serving as CEO at BroadBandagency, as well as stints at Ogilvy & Mather, Audi, BBDO, J. Walter Thompson and Ketchum.
It was at Ketchum more than 25 years ago that Stepanek first worked with Jerry Moore, now US + Partners' managing director, Western region, based in Los Angeles. Following Ketchum, Moore went on to firms such as Interpublic's Falhgren/Lintas and his own Moore Communications Group, most recently serving as director of client service at The Park Entertainment.
Stepanek has known one of the heads of US + Partners' eight-person New York office even longer than 25 years: his sister, Marcia Stepanek, the agency's managing director, social and new media. She's also a social media faculty member at New York University, and covered the Internet as a journalist since the early '90s for Businessweek, Ziff Davis, Hearst and Knight-Ridder. She has a new book, "Swarms: The Rise of the Digital Anti-Establishment," due out later this year.
Co-heading the New York office is Steve Ulin, US + Partners' co-founder/creative director, who was most recently creative director at Engine, Inc., and has also worked -- in such locales as London and Sydney as well as New York -- at Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, Ammirati & Puris and Swift and Ulin, an agency he co-founded in Sydney.
Finally, in Chicago, Chris Scott serves as managing director, client services. He was formerly senior vice president at Hodge Schindler Integrated Communications, vice president at Hodge Communications and managing editor at Digital Chicago.
The new agency has received funding "from a small group of investors on both coasts and client capital sourced from our network," Steve Stepanek said.
Elaborating further on the "second digital age," US + Partners' press release said that while "banner advertising and a Facebook page may have been adequate in the first digital age, the current criteria require the integration of customer insights, data, analytics and adaptive media approaches."
Explaining these adaptive media approaches, Stepanek said that while good advertising used to be "about telling a story," digital advertising is about "telling a story that's served -- put through a channel at a time and place that resonates."
Stepanek also stressed the global implications of this new digital age, saying that US + Partners would be willing to serve as a "secondary or tertiary agency" for clients, including "mid-tier businesses," looking for reach outside the U.S.