Wear a Tie, Say Goodbye

By Tk Published on .

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Ken Braun, president/creative director at a tiny interactive agency called Lounge Lizard, has found his marketing niche. No, it's not the slightly bizarre name of his shop, though he does have a tank of piranhas in his office and he's about to buy an iguana. It's account executives. In short, he hates them. Well, yeah, who doesn't, but Braun has taken it a step further. He's never hired one and he never will, "no matter how large and successful we become," he swears. He has a big "No Suits" sign in his office, and, in a profoundly moving promotional stunt, he cut up a perfectly good Italian silk tie and sent us the pieces in a box along with a package of his work.

Braun, 33, was an art director at conventional shops like Wells Rich Greene before moving on to interactive agencies like K2 and iXl, but he always ran into the same problem no matter where he worked. "The creatives never have direct contact with the client," he complains. "An account exec is always in the way, and something gets lost there. If I'd ever picked up the phone and called the client myself, the account group would've had a shit fit."

So Braun opened his own shop about 18 months ago, and he's doing it his way in Great River, Long Island. You can bet his seven young creatives aren't into semi-formal neckwear. "No one here would want to wear a tie," but an overdressed prospective em-ployee "would not be encouraged to join the company," Braun cautions. The dressed-down staff is sure to increase, however. Lounge Lizard is billing over $1 million now, according to Braun, doing mostly banner ads, some Web design and a smattering of print. But he's worked for name clients like Minolta, National Geographic and ESPN, and he has a four-spot TV campaign underway for Keytradeonline.com, whose nosy banner ad is seen here.

But what if his business really takes off? Won't he need at least one guy in a tie? No way. He hired a project manager "to make sure the jobs get done on time," and that's all he needs, he insists. "The creative vision is mediated through me. I'm the one who goes through the discovery phase with the client." And what if he discovers the client is wearing a tie? It'll come off sans scissors. "A lot of my clients feel very relaxed with me, and it shows in our meetings by their casual attire." We bet they're wearing silk underwear, Ken.

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