After landing the Alaska Airlines account earlier in 2016, creative agency Mekanism touched down in Seattle with an office to handle the account, complete with an upcoming opening party that is the more official 'how do you do?' for the market.
With successful hubs in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, getting into the burgeoning Northwest market – with a high-profile client that recently made a deal to merge with Virgin America – may seem daunting for an independent agency. But Mekanism, the group behind such winning campaigns as Jack Link’s “Messin’ with Sasquatch,” Trulia’s “TruliHome” and major campaigns for The White House, Jim Beam, Axe and the Super Bowl, has never flown an easy route to success.
Mekanism Seattle office
As they enter a new market, Mekanism president and CEO Jason Harris and partner/strategic development Pete Caban talked about how they approach their new town and client. The office is in the vibrant, boho-chic neighborhood of Capitol Hill and will echo the unconventional sensibilities of the agency as it ramps up.
“We're up and running. We've got some full-time hires and it's all happening, which is awesome,” said Caban. “Our office has some pretty cool themes going on. It's sort of a fishing lodge theme. We got a rowboat in there, for starters.”
Caban went on to say that they chose Capitol Hill because it has “so much of a creative vibe. When we stared bouncing around with Alaska, the team there, they said, ‘That (Capitol Hill) would be great!’ Because I think they all enjoy going over there as well. It fell into place pretty naturally. Also, we're trying to get new people to come to work at Mekanism in Seattle. The priority is to make it all about the creativity, about the collaborative vibe — and the space itself has just got a fun energy in it. We felt lucky that we found a good spot up there.”
Seattle is a new destination for the company that has, thus far, called more “major markets home” — which means an opportunity to grasp a new culture.
“It is a new area, but we've been doing business up there for years. But to set up shop and really start to be part of the community it's a two-way street. We're going to have to be in tune with what's happening up there. It's different than Chicago, or New York, or San Francisco in terms of the culture. I think we're getting a pretty good feel for it. It's a smaller town vibe. Everybody really does know each other and I think we're looking forward to getting to know the other shops a bit better,” said Caban.
Mekanism has a habit of becoming part of the community and culture, helping them not only fit in but also endear themselves to the community and help build within the culture while building their own business.
“One obvious thing is that we're trying to grow the office with a blend of Mekanism employees that know the culture and then Seattle natives, so there are people that understand the market and understand the culture,” said Harris. “We're not barging into Seattle. We're coming into Seattle specifically for accounts we've won and we're going to grow organically from there.”
Harris notes past experience, and the resulting better work and relationships, by being on the ground, specifically where their clients are based.
“We started New York based on servicing Pepsi, which was a big account at the time. And Pepsi, being based in New York, we were servicing out of San Francisco. We were on airplanes all the time and coming in for meetings, but we weren't creating a tight collaboration like we like to do with our clients. So it's important for us, whatever market we go into where we have a lot of clients, that we set up a presence. Part of the way we work is by being very collaborative with our clients, walking the halls, being in front of them, mixing things up and just kind of jamming with them,” said Harris.
Harris and Caban acknowledge that Alaska is the reason they are able to set up shop in Seattle, and they aim to make sure their office and employees have a great feeling and understanding for the Alaska brand.
“I think having grown up with the Alaska brand is something we are looking for a little bit. It's got such great, nuanced history and cultural significance in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle specifically. We're looking to make sure that we try to capture that,” said Caban, noting that who they hire also needs to grasp Mekanism’s storytelling for emerging media concept.
Ultimately, Harris and Caban are excited to be a part of the Seattle, and Pacific Northwest, market.
“For me personally, I'm really excited about Seattle because of the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of the place, of the city, without the saturation of agencies that San Francisco has,” said Harris.
“Alaska's got an amazing amount of momentum as a brand and as a business,” noted Caban. “Obviously what's happening with the Virgin America merger, they are now really starting to become a major player nationally. I think we're going to pick up a lot of insight from the Seattle area.”