Mother Births New Model for 'Mass Roots' Marketing

Content Unit Looks to Fill Neighborhood Needs for NBC Local, Others

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NEW YORK ( -- Mother, New York, the creative shop that has added fast-food entrepreneur, music-festival organizer and product designer/consultant to the job description of ad agency, is spinning off a new unit that aims to reshape the local-media space.

Linus Karlsson, co-founder, chief creative officer, Mother, New York
Linus Karlsson, co-founder, chief creative officer, Mother, New York
The founding client for Mother Productions is NBC Local Media, an organization of 10 owned-and-operated media properties in major markets including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles. The division adds a structural layer to Mother's broadening creative efforts, and the partnership with NBC will see the agency playing at the intersection of advertising, marketing and programming, potentially creating new kinds of content in the burgeoning local arena.

Paul Malmstrom, co-founder, chief creative officer, Mother, New York
Paul Malmstrom, co-founder, chief creative officer, Mother, New York
"The partnership with Mother is emblematic of the times and the kinds of relationships we need to have now," said NBC Local Media Senior VP-Marketing Brad Soroca. "To address how do we think beyond the traditional, how do we use the creative energy that comes from an agency like Mother, how do we innovate in this space and develop new connections with local communities across all our platforms?"

Mother has worked with NBC Local and Mr. Soroca for the past year, having been originally tapped to handle design and communications around the relaunch of NBC Local websites. "Part of the solution we developed was not just doing ads, but creating properties and platforms that acted as content as well as traffic drivers," said Mother co-founder and strategist Andrew Deitchman. Those properties include the Golden Local, whereby city residents were engaged in voting and debates through NBC Local sites on everything from their community's best burgers and dry cleaners to best places to sunbathe. The debates carried over to local blogs and local culture generally -- in Chicago, the winner of the White Sox vs. Cubs fans Golden Local threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game. In New York, Mother and NBC Local created significant buzz in culture and food circles when, as part of their Locals Only campaign, they brought celebrated chef David Chang to a street corner, where he whipped up a secret free lunch accessible only to a small group of people who had answered a series of questions based on local knowledge.

The establishment of Mother Productions will take the NBC creative partnership further. The new arm will have a staff of 12-15, including writers, motion designers, editors, producers and others, and will also draw from the agency's existing talent pool. It will orchestrate everything from station brand ID and promos to digital efforts and ads, while also creating locally-based content and relationships. "For us, it's exciting to have a client in 10 of the largest markets across the U.S," said Mr. Deitchman. "We get that much more ingrained in those communities. We'll explore what the best solutions are to connect across all platforms. Maybe it's finding a great blogger who lives in that community who becomes an on-air personality. It's creating things for people to feel more connected to their community."

Mr. Soroca and Mother are bullish on the local and hyperlocal space as a way to foster those connections with consumers, to build a platform for new kinds of content and to offer major marketers a chance to engage with consumers from a different angle.

"Local media is going to be the intersection of utility and entertainment and everyday life," said Mr. Deitchman. "As things are globalizing, local becomes even more vital. You have the same brands, the same food, etc., wherever you go now. Local is what makes things different; it gets to what people love about their neighborhood, why they decided to live there."

For national advertisers who want to do things on a local level, "there doesn't seem to be a turnkey solution for that in a lot of ways," added Mr. Deitchman. "There is an opportunity to start to build that."

Mother calls it "mass-roots" marketing. "You start with an event or something that happens in a small community in one locale and you're looking at it to amplify out from that. NBC Local is well-placed to help big marketers to put those new kinds of programs in place. You'll still have people buying local 30-second spots, but more and more also putting together programs that make an impact on a very local level and have that radiate out in significant ways."

Beyond the relationship with NBC Local, Mother Productions provides a mechanism to allow the agency's already expansive view of brand creativity to grow. Since its launch in 2003, Mother, New York, has represented the new model -- a creatively-driven, media-agnostic, entrepreneurial agency. While it has developed integrated brand communications for marketers such as Target, Coca-Cola, 10 Cane Rum, and Johnson & Johnson, the agency frequently transcends the communications role, working with Dell, for example, on ads as well as curating its design studio and custom-laptop program; spearheading a giant music festival for Virgin Mobile; launching a series of mini books and other items with novelty products maker Blue Q; and of course, launching Dogmatic, a gourmet-hot-dog stand and now restaurant in New York.

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