ADOTAS Conversations: Steve Parker & Jeff Adelson-Yan, Levelwing Media

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Agencies, at least from the old Madison Avenue perspective, have always staked their claim as the shadowy conspirators behind the globe’s most memorable, forgettable, and simply regrettable campaigns.

But with the advent of the online space and more recent channels including mobile, the interactive agencies themselves have cultivated their own star power and notoriety beyond the brand, giving face to a name not seen since the days of David Ogilvy.

And while we are well-aware of the CP+Bs, Starcoms and R/GAs making headlines today, lesser-knows firms are trying to stake their claim as viable outlets for your branding solutions. One such firm is New York-based Levelwing Media, an interactive agency that bills itself as “the new agency of record.” The clientele for its campaigns range from education to automotive care to healthcare, and with ’07 well underway, Levelwing is ready to position itself as a more recognizable and desirable agency in the interactive space.

Recently, ADOTAS engaged in a conversation with the company’s two co-founders, Jeff Adelson-Yan (above) and Steve Parker (right), to discuss the history and strategy behind their brainchild, their promotional game plan, as well as the trends that will impact the interactive industry for the coming year.

Hi Guys. So how did Levelwing get started?

Steve: Jeff and I have both been involved in online advertising for essentially the better part of ten years each. I started in the online industry in 1995, and Jeff in 1996. We both have worked for a number of different publishers, sales organizations, and business development organizations in the online marketplace during that entire time including iVillage, Medscape (now part of WebMd), Q Interactive, among others.

We just started talking about doing our own thing and decided that we really wanted to start a media agency. As the online marketplace moved away from just straight CPM-type advertising to other models that were more performance-driven, that allowed us to enter the marketplace. We started doing some things that, at the time, people weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention to across the board. Specifically, [it was] really targeted and focused, qualified lead generation and search marketing. We started our business 4 ½ years ago around the time those things were just starting to take off essentially.

How has the company evolved since then? You now call yourself the “new agency of record”.

Steve: Media for a long time has been done in a very specific way—when you look at offline media, especially. The traditional agency model, for the most part, has good components and some that are very bad for clients.

But overall, in calling ourselves the “new agency of record”, it’s really looking at media from the standpoint of…for example, there are two types of pilots, you have pilots that can fly by line of sight, and you have pilots that are instrument-rated pilots. So, if you’re on a plane and you’re flying in bad weather, which one are you going to choose? You want an instrument-rated pilot. As this marketplace evolves and changes, there is a lot of clutter and “bad weather” so to speak.

Everything that we’re doing is heavily instrument-rated across the board. As an agency, everything we do has a specific goal and return of asset based on that goal, whether that be brand media, direct response, search, it doesn’t matter. It’s driving everything back to a very specific metric. All of this is very traceable and trackable, so we measure things based on instruments essentially.

That’s why we’re saying we’re “the new agency of record” because this new model is going to take hold. We’re not going to be the only ones doing it; there are others that obviously are as well. But that’s the way we’re positioning ourselves and that’s our mantra.

Speaking of going forward, you guys told me you want to put yourselves out there more in terms of publicizing Levelwing. What is the game plan for ’07 in how you present yourselves, and what is the value proposition to potential clients?

Steve: In terms of moving forward, one of the things that we’re going to do is focus on letting people know who we are and what we do. As we talked [before], we’ve been very quiet and on the backburners, just making sure we built a smart foundation and had really good clients that we worked with who get it when it comes to the Internet.

We could have grown a lot faster, but Jeff and I both started this company with our own money and we wanted to run it in a way that we thought made sense for us and makes sense for our clients. For many of our clients, we’re the only Internet-based ad agency they work with. We are going to announce those relationships, which include Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire and College Loan Corporation. We want people to know here are the clients we have and here is why they work with us.

Jeff: We’ve actually allocated a marketing and PR budget, which is something we had not done in years previously. We still are in the shadows, but we’re trying to showcase the clients that we do work with, and the expertise that we bring to the table.

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