The New Next: Right Here, Right Now

It's been exactly one year since I moved to New York, started at naked communications and wrote my first new next column. After some reflection, I realized that New York is actually the New Next - the most exciting place to be right now for this business that we're in. Not only is this city naturally bursting with cultural opportunities, but brands are also beginning to add to this culture in smarter and more strategically complete ways. There are so many different kinds of agencies forming here all the time that do a variety of fascinating things, ranging from digital strategy shops to design and innovation startups.

Ten years ago, the mass communications industry in New York was far from exciting. Global brands worked with monolithic agencies, nobody wanted to take risks and there seemed to be a predictable formula for all campaigns. The Madison Avenue giants that dominated the ad world were as corporate as banks, and clients themselves were conservative. So much has changed since then though, and now this industry matches New York as a city.

New York has always been anti-establishment - and about opportunities, taking risks and being unafraid of change. It could never be the capital of this great country because New York is not so much about historical tradition and preservation as it is about tearing things down, reinventing and starting over with the next exciting thing. For example, McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, built by the WPA during the Depression, was once one of the biggest swimming pools in the country. Closed for years, it's now used for a weekly summer indie rock "pool party." The High Line, a former elevated freight railroad in Chelsea, was abandoned and left to rust in 1980. By next summer, it will have been converted into a floating park for New Yorkers to enjoy.

People were always telling my class at the VCU Adcenter that we were coming into this business at the most exciting time in the history of advertising and media. We didn't understand what that meant until we got to jump in and live it. Whereas there were a small handful of general media channels in which to buy and place communications years ago, there are dozens today. From digital peer-to-peer to experiential out-of-home and SMS response, media channels have been fragmented and broken down enough to allow for virtually infinite ways of communicating with people. We can finally be more strategically creative about things.

For example, Nike Vintage Running didn't stop at its beautifully crafted and designed Web site - they had several of the shoe models displayed in a beat-up van right in front of the weekly party at McCarren Pool this summer.

It was so strategically placed and branded that partygoers had a hard time figuring out if it was a Nike-sponsored stunt or just a bunch of hippies trying to beat the heat in their van. Scholastic recently shut down an entire street in SoHo and converted it into "Harry Potter Place" in anticipation of the midnight release of the final volume. They brought in wizards, artifacts from the books and a giant countdown clock to entertain fans who had waited in line for hours to get the first copies.

This refreshing change in our industry is not going unnoticed, either. Global brands with billions of dollars in ad spend are pulling out static, one-way communications ideas and starting to take risks. Big agencies are re-evaluating and trying to reinvent themselves. Smaller agencies are growing because they were willing to take huge risks that are now paying off. And not just risks, but strategically smart ones.

The renaissance of the creative inspiration that was present in the early days has slowly been making its way back into our industry for a little while. Now it's in full swing. They were right - this is the most exciting time to be here, and I'm thankful for that. I'm able to watch and contribute to the energy that surrounds the thinking in our industry. We might not be the capital of the country here in New York City, but we are the capital of the creative and entrepreneurial spirit.

Written by Johanna Beyenbach, associate strategist, and curated by Paul Woolmington, Naked Communications. ( and

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