Michael Lebowitz, Founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, is clearly the opposite of the guarded, high-powered stereotype. No doubt its Lebowitz’s leadership and vision that drove his agency to the top, but also, as a 2008 Harvard Business Review 37-page study described in depth, so much about the agency, including the way they run their office, defies convention. And, according to Lebowitz, also defies labeling. “The great thing about this award is that we aren’t a social agency. We’re just a smart, strategic, modern creative agency that recognizes the truth, which is that everything needs to be social-out.”
Lebowitz admits that the Brooklyn-based actually started out “tiny,” and it was their “scrappy” sensibility that made it work in the beginning. “Since we opened our doors in 2000, we’ve been focused on having fun and doing amazing work — figuring things out as we’ve gone along,” Lebowitz explains. “I’ve always been proud of awards and distinctions, and needless to say this is a tremendous honor. But [awards are] the effect of our culture and focus, not the goal.”
Their mantra — “All creative, no Creatives” — is cool enough to inspire the average to Joe to jump up and start a movement. After all, it was just Lebowitz and his then-partner Dan Federman at the inception; eventually they hired two employees. There’s not enough space to list all of their big-name clients here, but maybe you’ll recognize a choice few: BMW, West Elm, Nike, Adobe, HBO, Victoria’s Secret, The New York Times.
And let’s not forget about YouTube.
“Our relationship with YouTube grew in a unique way, and evolved quite organically,” says Lebowitz. He recounts the unexpected twists that brought the two companies together: “The whole thing started when YouTube found out that we were behind the voice of Skittles. They told us that they had three holidays coming up and asked us to write three lines of copy, beginning on ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ in 2012.”
YouTube loved what they saw and asked Big Spaceship for more. “They asked us to do ten more single Facebook posts. We started out in a tactical role, and soon after that we pitched them to work on all of their social campaigns.” From then on, Big Spaceship was named the social agency of record. “Now, we really do it all and function as an extension of their team. We don’t just handle their daily content, but we work closely with them on their overall campaign, influencer and analytics strategies.”
As if that’s not impressive enough, the last year alone contains more accomplishments than most company’s complete brag book. Last November, Big Spaceship and YouTube combined sources and determination to kick off the YouTube Music Awards. Big Spaceship also helped evolve YouTube’s social channels over the past year; in November 2014, Big Spaceship hatched an idea for a big science installation in Madison Square Park, introducing the public to the YouTube science news, history, video sensation SciShow. The event drew a sea of enthusiasts. Another huge success for Big Spaceship.
Also in the fall of 2014, Big Spaceship launched a microsite called “IsYourMindBlown.com” for SciShow, which cleverly engages even the most apathetic high-schooler by showcasing some far-out facts — and asking if your mind is blown. “Without any paid media spent, we made it to the front page of Reddit,” Lebowitz proudly reports, “and were blown away by its popularity right out of the gate.”
This past spring, Big Spaceship became global social AOR for Samsung Mobile and acquired speedy success in a very short time. Proving once again that Big Spaceship has the proverbial Midas touch, their work with the launch of Samsung’s Note 4 created a campaign which crossed a million views in its first hour; a not-so paltry 14 million views in one week. “Among other things,” Lebowitz says, “we’ve worked with our client partners there to push the boundaries on what real-time content can be.”
This year Big Spaceship also started working with Google Play and Google Maps. “We’re digital and social AOR for the former and social AOR for the latter,” Lebowitz clarifies. “We conducted a war room for Google Play around the Emmys that involved over twenty people, and was a great testament to how far we’ve come with real time marketing over the past twelve months.”
So, after denying the social agency label, how does Lebowitz feel about being named the Social Agency of the Year? “It’s an incredible distinction with all of the work we’ve done that is socially-oriented, and our team absolutely deserves the distinction in every way,” he says. “I think there’s some satisfaction in the hope that we might be ‘a something-else agency of the year’ next year. We want to stay relevant to consumers and what they do, which is ultimately what we’re all about — understanding peoples’ behavior.”