"We work for agencies, we're not an agency," said Mr. Simmons.
"We're a digital solutions [company]. We think our future is
working for agencies, not working around them." Narrative is
launching with about 9 employees, and by end of year Mr. Simmons
and Ms. Clarke-Stone expect to have close to 20, mostly based in
New York, with some key people in Los Angeles.
Narrative touts itself as a company that provides marketing
solutions for publishers, agencies and brands. Its purpose is to
create digital campaigns that are rooted in social media, branded
entertainment and celebrity-driven content, using techniques such
as crowd-sourcing, gamification and rewards. Campaigns are
distributed through pop-culture, entertainment, music and lifestyle
websites, bolstered by behavioral-data analytics and a custom
ad-serving platform, among other technologies.
"We're creating unique experiences that we're producing, and
then we have the technology to be able to scale it across platforms
and then deliver really highly robust analytics," said Ms.
Clarke-Stone. Narrative's founding clients are Sprint's Boost
Mobile and GlobalGrind.com, Mr. Simmons' pop-culture,
lifestyle and entertainment website he founded in 2008, of which
the marketing, sales and business development have been overseen by
Ms. Clarke-Stone. GlobalGrind.com is currently handling a campaign for Boost Mobile that
features hip-hop artist Meek Mill, and is an example of the type of
campaigns that Narrative will handle.
Under Ms. Clarke-Stone's leadership, GlobalGrind.com created
campaigns for Universal Pictures, Toyota, Pantene,
Boost Mobile, Pepsi and Tide.
With Narrative, campaigns will run on sites and platforms outside
of GlobalGrind.com, though they will likely run on there as well.
Narrative's campaigns will likely also include content on ADD, an
acronym for All Def Digital, a YouTube channel Mr. Simmons will be
launching later this spring.
Narrative will focus on the so-called new American mainstream,
because in Mr. Simmons' view, American pop culture has changed to
the point where urban culture is the mainstream, and urban is not
just about African-American culture anymore. "It's urban because
it's integrated... I've been integrating since the Beastie Boys and
Run DMC. ... I don't want it to be limited to 10% of the
population, because nothing I ever did was, and I think our
solutions will come across as that."
Of course, Mr. Simmons isn't the first hip-hop mogul to invest
in an ad firm. Jay-Z is well known for his involvement in Translation, an
agency that started out as a multicultural shop and has since
morphed into a general market ad agency, working with
Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's and
Though others like Jay-Z have blazed the trail before him, Mr.
Simmons is getting into the ad world because he sees "a great hole
in the market" and he's often drawn to the things that no one else
is doing. As an entrepreneur, "I like to find new experiences." He
said that he invested in Narrative because "these creative
campaigns are fun to participate in," adding that Ms. Clarke-Stone
"understands clients so well and ... gives a business plan where
the potential is so obvious. It fills a hole."