Strolling to a Fine Start

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72 and sunny seem to be the perfect conditions for rolling out a baby stroller. That's exactly what the founders of the atmospherically-named El Segundo, CA- and Amsterdam-based agency have been doing since they opened their doors earlier this month. The four partners, John Boiler, Glenn Cole, Greg Perlot and Robert Nakata launched 72andSunny as a full service advertising, branding and design agency, aiming their efforts on the global push of the ultra cool and super functional Dutch-made Bugaboo stroller, which has popped up on the set of Sex and the City and wheeling in front of celebrity parents like Madonna and Julianne Moore.

And why the big deal about these men making a big deal about baby vehicles? Well, it so happens that the four partners had spent the last decade as veritable rock stars on the international advertising and design scenes, their combined efforts spread among major global clients like Nike, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Siemens. Partners Boiler and Cole both hailed from Wieden & Kennedy/Portland before they moved to respective roles as executive creative director and creative director at the agency's Amsterdam office. There they were joined by Nakata, another ten-year W+K/Amsterdam alum known for his wavemaking in the global design community. The new agency's fourth partner is Perlot, a former director of advertising at Microsoft, who for all practical purposes is the "account" guy, although he's not your run-of-the-mill suit. "Glenn and I met Greg when he was at Microsoft killing our ideas, and anyone who could do that and still be funny was probably a good business partner for the future," laughs Boiler. "We also shared a lot of the same kind of ideas of how to work together," adds Cole. "Get the process out of the way and just get down to it."

For such a well-pedigreed crew, a baby trolley may not be the most obvious opening gambit, but it fits their aspirations for the new venture. "After working on Nike, Coke and Microsoft, you realize your fame comes on standing on the shoulders of giants," explains Boiler. "I think where we find fulfillment is making a giant, finding something just on the verge of becoming a big brand that has huge untapped potential and just helping to push it into that. Apple proved you could get emotional about a computer and build a brand on it. Strollers are not a mainstream advertising type of thing but they could be, and what we'd really like to do is to make that next giant." Whether or not the Amsterdam-based Bugaboo could resonate worldwide on the level of Mac is hard to predict, but the crew builds an intriguing case. The current UK rollout features clean, crisply designed print ads that strikingly show off the goods while leading the consumer to the website (bugaboo.nl/uk/daytrips) where parents can download a daytrip guide-a magnificently designed map of Central London that looks like a Rorschach blot gone gorgeous. Moreover, the story they've told does strike a unique emotional chord: "In our discussion with the client about who they were, we were finding the core of the brand was the modern parent who still wants to be mobile," Boiler says. "After you have a baby, your life doesn't end, you don't have to be hobbled in exploring the world. That's a brand value we and the company all rallied around, the idea of keeping people alive and moving."

The multi-media, brand-evolving approach on the Bugaboo campaign is a good demonstration of the 72andSunny ethos. "We just have a real distaste for 'ads,'" notes Cole. "Everything out there feels or sounds the same. Sure we've done 'ads,' but we also have tried really hard to find what connects, whatever form that is and try to make it look as least addy as possible." The partners' experience lends credence to that claim. In Amsterdam, they helped to turn Nike into a formidable soccer brand via the memorable Nike morality play "Good vs. Evil," the more recent "Secret Tournament" soccer studfest, and multi-faceted campaigns like Nike Soccer's 2000 "Amsterdam City Attack," which started as a non-branded music video whose characters eventually worked their way onto Nike-swooshed-out posters plastered all over the city and onto trams.

At 72andSunny, strategy isn't about figures and statistics. Rather, it's about telling a story by whatever means possible, cutting out incidentals that might get in the way. "That's where brand culture is going now-stories that really connect with people," Perlot notes. "The Mini launch was a highly integrated campaign with a relatively small ad budget. But it told a story and provoked people in lots of different ways, and it was highly design-centric as well." The shop's streamlined M.O. will be as much about advertising and branding as it will be about design, all of which for these guys, are inextricably intertwined. For example, following their first ads for Bugaboo, the team moved onto creating a brand bible for the company, the stuff usually reserved for a design shop. "It just seemed natural even though en masse that's the domain of a corporate identity firm," says Nakata. "Simply put, a company's logo and its tagline are the two core visual and verbal things consumers know about it. What designers have done traditionally is create a tone of voice, which is obviously a big part of how a brand is perceived. So looking at both its corporate identity and advertising just seems like a no-brainer."

Nakata will be remaining in Amsterdam overseeing the European homebase, allowing the crew to maintain and continue developing relationships with production companies and clients there. Beyond Bugaboo, the agency has produced spots for the Portland Trailblazers in conjunction with Oregon-based shop Nerve and just signed as a client Musicmatch, the leading Windows online music downloading company. As a four-man team, are the founders prepared to tackle the big guns once more? "We've all worked on top global brands for most of our careers," says Cole. "It's not daunting to us and we have plenty of opinions on how to run those things. If the client feels like a fit, then scale doesn't matter."

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