NYC Digital Shop Steps Into Real World; Brands Follow

  • by March 29, 2007
They're parties populated by like-minded creative people that deliver a heady concoction of interactive performance hijinks, competitive challenges and actual, as opposed to virtual, social networking opportunities.

Hosted by LVHRD, short for (Live Hard), the semi-secret creative society's membership and activities are masterminded by thehappycorp global, a New York City-based digital creative shop that's putting a new spin on branded tie-ins and interactivity.

LVHRD, a members-only group of professionals across career disciplines--art and design; fashion; health/science; media; and entertainment--stages monthly and often bi-monthly parties where there is typically some sort of challenge to be solved or confronted.

For example, two teams of architects recently competed in a timed challenge to create sustainable green architectural designs for a New York City neighborhood out of cheese. Yes, cheese. Think "Iron Chef" on steroids.

A LVHRD fashion duel, a la "Project Runway," pitted two fashion designers against one another spectator sport-style, to design clothing out of tinfoil. While members attending the event were asked to bring a roll of tinfoil, the designers had no idea what they were being asked to do until they arrived on the scene.

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Eager to forge affinities with LVHRD's eclectic and savvy 22- to 35-year-old members, brands such as Dewar's, Brahma Beer, Brooklyn Brewery, Lincoln Mercury, Sapporo, Absolut, Adobe, and Zipcar are among the sponsors that have partnered with the group. The shop's approach with LVHRD might well spawn a new model for events, promotions, and branded associations.

Speaking at the PSFK trends conference earlier this month, thehappycorp founder and CEO Doug Jaeger said LVHRD began in 2004 based on the idea that computers should be used to bring creative people together. But not only computers: Wireless text messaging, which at the time wasn't as popular in the U.S. as it is today, was also part of the equation. LVHRD members are notified by text message of event locations and details on the same day as the event to promote an aura of secrecy and exclusivity.

In the beginning, Jaeger said, LVHRD (lvhrd.org) held events on Monday nights since that's when the majority of bars, clubs, and event spaces weren't booked. Since late 2004, the events have grown--with membership hovering at 3,500 with an average of 200 to 500 people attending each ticketed event. All the events are intended to facilitate interaction among members, potential creative collaboration, and just plain fun.

The organization also publishes a quarterly multimedia magazine in PDF format featuring video clips, plenty of Flash, and interactivity, a Web site, and blog. LVHRD is also poised to expand to other cities.

LVHRD's bi-fold series takes a different tack--pairing artists who work in different mediums to discuss their work, inspiration, and approaches. For example, last summer, famed comics artist Paul Pope, who's designed installations for Diesel during New York's Fashion Week and is collaborating with other brands on a variety of projects, teamed with musician Mark Denardo, who uses devices like a Nintendo Gameboy to compose music.

One of the wackier events is a vending machine challenge in which teams compete to see who can eat an entire machine's worth of junk food the fastest. Last year's challenge defied reality as a team of designers competed against members of the New York City Ballet who don't normally consume one Snickers bar, let alone 10.

To date, one of the group's most ambitious events was an association with New York's Museum of Modern Art in a social experiment of sorts where nearly 1,000 attendees surrendered their cell phones for the evening and enjoyed a concert in the museum's atrium.

Each phone was sealed in a Ziploc bag and pinned up on a board; the phones vibrated, rang, and beeped all night as bewildered partiers wondered if they'd get their phones back.

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