Brooklyn is no longer just the hotspot for new residents seeking cutting-edge culture, cool vibes and an “affordable” place to crash. It’s also becoming a destination for creative marketing and design agencies seeking to harness those identical elements in an effort to garner a competitive edge.
Take 1000 Dean Street, for example: Nestled in the heart of Crown Heights, the 150,000-sq-foot building, which opened in April 2014, currently is home to more than two dozen businesses, many of which share a focus on innovation, brand strategy and design (and many of which, five years ago, most likely would have chosen Manhattan as their headquarters).
The building’s biggest and most popular draw is Berg’n, the 9,000-square-foot beer hall/coffee shop and food court on its ground floor that, by day, draws college students and stroller-toting nannies looking for a quiet-cool hangout and, by night, draws an eclectic mix of neighborhood folks seeking ambiance, music and a dose of hipster vibe.
However, 1000 Dean Street’s lesser-known tenants also are hard at work, quietly cooking up a flood of fresh product ideas, campaigns and marketing initiatives in which you have likely and unknowingly also partaken.
In this five-part series, we will take a look at five different businesses housed at 1000 Dean Street; their work on a regional, national and/or global level; and the reasons they have chosen Brooklyn as their nerve center and home base.
Praytell Strategy is a startup communications agency that blends traditional pubic relations strategy with new school social/digital media marketing and non-traditional brand development and design. Now, take this creative shop’s proprietary recipe, add in a hefty dose of free health and dental insurance for its associates, an agency-wide profit-sharing program and a dash of giving-back-to-good-causes, and what do you get?
Founded in 2013, Praytell Strategy originally opened in an office space in DUMBO with nine employees and three clients: Logitech, MAC AIDS Fund and the Food Bank of New York. The agency specializes in three segments: greater good work; disruptive and emerging technology; and global lifestyle brands.
Within just one year of launching, the agency’s revenue grew 217% to $2.94 million as it added a number of US and international clients, and its staff more than doubled, increasing to 21. By 2015, they were ready to move up to the Big Leagues– out of DUMBO… into 1000 Dean Street in Crown Heights.
“We started in DUMBO, had a great time down there, and then we ran out of room,” said Andrew Pray, founder of Praytell Strategy. “As we looked around, Crown Heights became a no-brainer.
“Really, we looked all around the borough, and decided living above a beer garden made a lot of sense for us,” said Pray, laughing. “No really, Crown Heights is a great community; it’s a creative community that wants to share, collaborate and work together. And so far, so good.”
Pray says he believes a major reason for the agency’s fast success is its “scrappy” approach to branding, born of its newbie status as a startup.
“We think like a startup; we don’t really have time to do things just for the sake of doing things. We’re always looking for efficiencies, trying to get results as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. And I think that because we are scrappy ourselves, our thinking is scrappy. And that sort of ‘disrupter’ status for us leads to disruptive work.”
For its clients MAC Cosmetics and MAC AIDS Fund, Praytell was asked to make young people take action around HIV, an epidemic they had grown wary of hearing about. Praytell’s idea? Produce, license and publicized a feature-length documentary, “It’s Not Over,” working with Netflix. The campaign was wildly successful.
Through its Passion Project, Praytell offers pro-bono support to a handful of non-profit agencies doing great work, including Ecpat-USA, Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and The Global Foodbanking Network.
“This work that we do with the Passion Project is incredibly important for everyone that works here, and i think that’s what makes Praytell so special, because it’s really built into our culture this feeling of this need to give back,” said Sydney Campos, senior producer at Praytell and who also runs the Passion Project. “It’s really impactful to see our efforts going towards raising funds and getting them the type of awareness and attention that they deserve. It’s really incredibly meaningful work.”
The agency’s selfless, “we’re-all-in-this-together” attitude can also be seen in their workspace, where there are no walls, no offices. Staff across diverse disciplines sit together in random groups known as pods. In fact you will find Pray, the company’s founder and CEO, working at a desk, smack in the middle of his “subordinates.”
“We strive for diversity to make sure our ideas are representing a whole ecosystem of the people we work for and their core consumers and their end-users,” said Pray. “We work with companies that are not selling to only one person; they are selling across the board, across race and gender and sexual orientation.
“And so we are always thinking of ways to attract talent from different backgrounds and locations. We still have work to do, but we’re on the right track.”