Agency Profile: Michael Alan Group

The founders of The Michael Alan Group come to guerrilla marketing with experience at a previous firm, Fourfront. But they also use what they learned from their work in the film industry and on Broadway.

The Michael Alan Group was founded at the end of last year by Jonathan Margolis and Sean McCarthy. The firm specializes in delivering big results even if the client doesn’t have a big budget.

It has made a splash since it started, with an event on Today promoting CourtTV and a write-up on the front page of The New York Times for the network’s 1970s-themed party to celebrate the cable channel’s 70 millionth subscriber.

When CourtTV wanted to promote its new investigative and forensics programming, the network’s marketing executives worked with Margolis and McCarthy to create something special. One idea, a traveling road show, would allow visitors to actually join an investigation, as the network’s slogan promises.

It’s this mixture of showmanship and marketing that helps Disney Theatrical promote its three Broadway shows. The firm hires and trains the people who do the marketing, teaching them about the shows so they’re not just handing out free stuff but can also answer questions about them. "They’re really the front line for us," says Leslie Barrett, Disney Theatrical’s marketing manager. "At every turn, they’re there, reaching people on the street." Barrett says Margolis and McCarthy have good instincts, which has averted disaster from Disney Theatrical’s perspective. Michael Alan designed and built a temporary tattoo parlor for children to raise awareness of the Broadway shows. The parlor, which has appeared throughout the Tri-State area, was caught in the rain at Bryant Park and the front was heavily damaged. Quick-thinking Michael Alan employees ripped the tops off the fans they hand out and replaced the damaged façade, saving the day. "They think on their feet and they’re incredibly reliable," says Barrett. They’ve done plenty of smaller campaigns too. "We’ll look at $5,000-$10,000 to $50-100,000" campaigns, Margolis says. "We try to find the most creative, cost-effective campaign within that range." While many of the firm’s campaigns have been in New York City, it has also planned and carried out parties and other events away from the Big Apple.

The CourtTV party that landed on the front page of The New York Times (thanks to an appearance by Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins) took place at a cable industry event in New Orleans. Michael Alan organized a party at a local hotel with a ’70s theme, complete with Charlie’s Angels look-alikes and plenty of disco music.

"The more creative they let us be," Margolis says of clients in general, "the more buzz and press they’ll get." CourtTV’s Evan Shapiro says he’s pleased with the way they listen to what the client needs and don’t just shoot out ideas. "They’re really creative, but also they’ve done what they’re supposed to," Shapiro says. "It’s something you don’t always get" with some firms espousing guerrilla marketing, he says. Margolis says they like the creative process and the challenge of working within a budget.

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