Remade in Manhattan

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In the global design and advertising worlds, Attik has been a known and respected quantity for some two decades now. James Sommerville and Simon Needham launched the company in 1986-yes, out of an attic, belonging to Sommerville's grandmother in Huddersfield, England-and it gradually evolved from a pair of art school grads' upstart dream, to one of the innovators in print and broadcast design, with work for clients from adidas to Virgin Mobile. Attik made deep inroads in the States in 1997 when the founders, along with longtime partner Will Travis, opened offices in San Francisco and New York. But two years later, Attik's frontmen decided to refocus the shop's strategies, targeting not just design-minded clients but high-profile brands, as a full-service global creative agency. It was an ambitious decision that weathered some tough times-in 2002, Attik was forced to shutter its New York office, one of the many casualties of the post-9/11 economic fallout. In the meantime, however, the shop became agency of record for Toyota's youth-targeted Scion brand, whose creative, out of the San Francisco office, has flourished.

Bolstered by its success with Scion, the principals this month reopened in New York's Tribeca district, joining an increasing number of independent creative shops that are vying for their place in the N.Y. sun. The Manhattan office will be home to a core team of 20, led by U.S. president Travis; creative director Wayne Hanson, formerly of Lowe/Sweden; account head Amy Elkins from Euro RSCG/N.Y.; and interactive/broadcast vet and head producer Mark Bartlett, all of whom are already engaged in a multimedia campaign for its first client, MTV Networks' Country Music Television. While CMT doesn't have the cachet of a car client, it's a full-scale job, involving broadcast, print, POS-and Dixiefied funnyman Jeff Foxworthy. Beyond that, Attik will have its eye out for "clients who understand marketing, respect having a creative partner and don't expect a production facility relationship; clients who understand the power of design and the leverage it can have on brand longevity across all media," says Travis.

The New York hub will also be involved in Scion's future projects. "All Attik studios have input on Scion and all our other key clients," Travis explains." It keeps our input global and non-precious." The convention-challenging, multiplatform Scion project has centered around the cryptic but cool "Scion By" tag, and one of its keystones has been wildpostings of Scions via the lens of real-life or fictional creative types-from graffiti artists to police photographers and paparazzi. That tag also inspired a variety of guerrilla marketing events, as well as Transformer-inspired commercials for cinema and TV. "We've spent 18 years without the budgets the large agencies have been lucky enough to run with, so we've relied upon more below-radar techniques to gain impact," reflects Travis on the campaign's success. "It just so happened these techniques have been more respected and accepted by Scion's youth market. It spoke with them, not to them, and it left the Scion product at their door to be let in or not. It presented honest equity in the brand that reflected the youth hunger for exploration and expression, and delivered it where and when they wanted it." The shop gained much of that insight from its Taxi arm, a peer-to-peer-based research vehicle that's dedicated to getting into the fickle heads of the youth market.

As Attik gets more comfortable in its new full-service skin, it will continue to collaborate with select agencies. "It comes down to respect and relationship," Travis says. "If other agencies want to partner on a brand, wonderful. However, if they want us to polish bad concepts, there are plenty of other hot design boutiques around who will service them." Meanwhile, the company has a rock-solid foundation on which to develop its new direction, Travis believes. "When Attik was first setting out to land work for major brands, we found that our best opportunities came when we went to the heart of those companies to gain a thorough understanding of what made them tick. To be able to compete against other firms and agencies that already had these relationships, we made human connections with the heads of the business and worked with them to passionately grab hold of what their brand was about, and what it could be. That's the root of our success. To this point in our history, our approach has involved applying our marketing background first, then deploying our creative skills."

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