Shoe Leather, Roller Blades, Rented School Buses and Cookie Bribes Rule the Roads

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NEW YORK ( -- Trains and buses operated by New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority stopped running when its workers went on strike, but Madison Ave. remained open for business.
Photo: AP
Empty of commuters and guarded by police, New York City's subway stations have been closed since the strike began.

For most agencies, when the union decided to strike at 3 a.m. on Dec. 20th, the operating procedure was business as usual. “We told people to make their best effort to get in,” said Rob Moorman, head of new business at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.

Roller blades
And, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Jason Becton, a senior art director at McCann Erickson, New York, roller bladed from his SoHo digs to midtown. “I’m not very good,” he said. “I’m not awful, either, but I don’t want to spend money on a cab -- I'm sure I'll get ripped off.” The trek took 45 minutes or so, extending his usual subway commute a bit.

Michael Zuna, exec VP-group account director at Saatchi, an avid surfer and skateboarder, rolled his way atop a brand-new “longboard” (an extra long skateboard) from his Columbus Circle apartment to Saatchi’s headquarters on SoHo’s fringes.

Mark Wnek, chairman-chief creative officer of Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Lowe, New York, used the strike to hone his timing. Barreling down to the city from his home in Greenwich, Conn., in his Saab SUV, Mr. Wnek managed to hit one of the checkpoints on the city’s edge just as the high-occupancy vehicle restrictions were lifted. Born from jets, indeed.

Cookies as transit currency
Others tried a different tack: sweet talking a van driver by handing over home-baked treats

Photo: AP
Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic and given over to the legions of workers who peddled their way into the city.
originally intended for their work colleagues. Jenna Marrone of Lime, the public-relations unit of MDC Partners’ Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, and her colleague Jim Anstey exchanged holiday sugar cookies for a ride from Brooklyn to Kirshenbaum’s lower Manhattan office.

Some simply hoofed it -- for miles. Anthony Dunn, who runs the mailroom at Havas’ MPG, left his home in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, at 7 a.m. Tuesday and got to lower Broadway at 9:45. A camera crew from local station UPN caught him during the trek, and “he gave them a piece of his mind,” said Joanne Bosch, office-services manager at MPG. Tom Lupoli, a human-resources administrator at Saatchi, covered 16 miles total in one day, from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Saatchi in Manhattan and back again.

Rented school buses
Not surprisingly, some marketing masters turned a bad situation into a promotional opportunity. GoGorilla Media, a media agency specializing in guerrilla-marketing tactics that serves both media and creative agencies, on Tuesday morning brainstormed ways to help agency clients, and hit on the idea of renting school buses. A call to City Line Businesses yielded three school buses, rented for four hours each Tuesday night. One went to MPG’s offices and ferried employees around Manhattan, while two went to MediaEdge:cia. “It was a nice thing we could do,” said Allison Baker, a designer at the agency and one of several who put the plan into action.

Of course, many who work in advertising remember well the transit strike of 1980, and point out that technological advances made coping today far easier than it was a quarter of a century ago.

“Back then, I was dealing with rubber cement and razor blades,” said Brad Mintz, senior VP-manager, graphic services at McCann Erickson, New York, referring to cutting and pasting artwork on boards. Back then, a print ad that needed to be checked for, say, a color correction would have been messengered from the engraver to the agency, distributed widely around the agency, then sent back to the engraver for changes.

Broadband commuting
When ads need to be color corrected today, he re-touches it in-house, uploads the files to a server, sends an e-mail containing the link to the files to a creative director who is working from home, and that creative director can check it out online.

The difference, he says, is a matter of days vs. hours. So much of production has been brought in-house the agency has far more control over it. Thanks to technology and the ability to work remotely, “We’re running as hard here this week as were last week,” said Mr. Mintz.  

The strike has brought out moxie in many. Samantha DiGennaro, a principal in New York public relations firm HYPR, said that even before MTA workers struck, a cabbie angled to take advantage of pre-strike angst. “I was on the Upper East Side and hailing a cab to Brooklyn, and the cabbie wanted $150 cash.”

Cab fares
It goes both ways, of course. Ann Alice Wilson of SS&K took a cab from the West Village on Wednesday morning and the cabbie charged $10. “I agreed as solemnly as I could,” she said. “I didn’t tell him that’s a $2 discount from what I usually pay.”

Noelle Weaver, also of SS&K, posted a message on Craig’s List, the community Web site, saying, “Need a ride from Williamsburg?” She got a lot of responses, “even though most were headed in an entirely different direction than the SS&K offices down on Wall Street. Some really got me into the New York spirit, like the one that said, ‘Send me your picture and I’ll see if I have space for you.’”

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