It wasn't exactly the Big One, but when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit the bedrock of the media world -- including Madison Avenue -- Tuesday afternoon, it set off a number of aftershocks, including the evacuation of several big ad agencies, with at least one whose entire staff left for the day.
Most of the evacuations were tantamount to a fire drill, lasting about a half an hour -- and were generally ordered by the management of the buildings the agencies work in, including Universal McCann in New York's Herald Square area, and MPG and OMD in the shadow of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.
While their building's management gave the all-clear, OMD shut its New York office permanently for the day as a precaution in case of aftershocks, and to give staff more time to get home in case there were mass transit disruptions. According to the City of New York, there were no significant transit disruptions resulting from the quake.
MPG, which is located in the same downtown building -- 195 Broadway -- resumed normal business activity after employees were allowed re-entrance into the building, after about 20 minutes.
"It was a little disconcerting," said an anonymous agency executive who works near the 9/11 site, who emphasized that the event didn't spark panic so much as "a little concern" -- not knowing instantly what was going on and New York City not being known as an earthquake capital.
MPG Televisual chief Mitch Oscar -- who was at an off-site meeting at over-the-top TV developer Rovi in Lower Manhattan -- was struck less by a sense of natural disaster or potential terrorism than by economics, quipping that being so close to Wall Street, the rumbling had resulted from the "tumultuous" financial marketplace.
Jeff Siegel, a senior vice president in advanced advertising at Rovi, who was hosting a contingent of MPGers and their guests, had just finished a presentation and was speaking with Oscar and a MediaPost reporter when he asked: "Is the floor shaking?"
Realizing it was an earthquake, Siegel followed standard procedure by scooting underneath a doorframe. Then, as Rovi staffers evacuated onto Hudson Street, he was prepared for the worst, having grabbed a plateful of cookies and a soda. Siegel stood in the street offering the cookies around, although he found little interest.
Media researcher and MediaPost regular contributor Charlene Weisler was also at the Rovi meeting and said at first, "I thought I was dizzy -- I thought it was me," but when she saw the doorframe shaking, she knew it was an earthquake.
The team at online video advertising firm Tremor Video didn't exactly follow standard earthquake procedure. Instead of moving to a stable infrastructure like a doorframe or under a desk, much of the Tremor team gathered around the giant window in Chief Media Officer Jason Krebs' office, which has a picturesque view looking north at New York's Empire State Building.
Krebs said the Tremor team wanted to see whether New York's tallest landmark was swaying due to the quake. It was not, he said, realizing after the fact that standing by a large piece of plate glass might not have been the best decision following an earthquake.
That said, Krebs felt the tremor had some upside for, well, Tremor -- sparking a significant amount of chatter about the company's name on Twitter.
"We view what we do as earth-shattering, but we did not orchestrate this particular tremor," Krebs quipped, emphasizing "and everyone is okay," before adding that the company remains committed to continuing the "industry's seismic shift into video."
The enterprising new business team at New York City-based Targetcast TCM was also quick to draw a positive earthquake-related analogy when the tremors were felt during a client pitch in its offices on the 31st floor of 909 Third Avenue, which was particularly affected by some unsettling seismic swaying.
While some agencies claim to move the earth for their clients, CEO Steve Farella quipped that Targetcast literally does. He said it was too early to tell whether the agencies won the account, but that he expects a positive ripple effect from the meeting.
Wayne Friedman, David Goetzl and Steve McClellan contributed to this story.