Look Who's Cool! Quaker City Mercantile
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) shows Philly how to sell its hip side.
When it comes to promoting Philadelphia as a place to live, anti-establishment branding guru Steve Grasse doesn't think a traditional ad campaign would work.
"If you ran an ad in a magazine that said, 'Come to Philly,' no one would look at it," said Grasse, CEO of Center City ad agency Quaker City Mercantile.
"Whereas if I read in Spin magazine about all these cool artists and what they were doing in Philly, or maybe I read about the Space 1026 artists' collective down in Chinatown, then I'd start to think maybe it would be really cool to be from Philly."
This kind of marketing savvy is exactly what Urban Warrior was looking for when she invited four teams of advertising professionals to help her brainstorm ways to bring people back into the city and help make it grow. Quaker City Mercantile's focus on the young and "cool" crowd is a welcome change. After all, the idea that "brainy young people" are essential to successful cities - promoted by Carnegie Mellon prof Richard Florida - is now so mainstream that it's been cited by the New York Times as one of this year's 100 great ideas.
What follows are two full pages of color ads developed by Grasse and his team, with photos shot by skateboarding photographer Adam Wallacavage. But, Grasse cautions, the ads are just background. They'd have to be a part of a comprehensive marketing effort to highlight the city's counterculture and bring an aura of cool to otherwise gritty neighborhoods.
His title for the campaign?
"Philthy - The City That Bites You Back."
"Our solution would be to capture a taste of underground Philly and show how cool and fun it is," said Grasse. "Because once the cool people stay, the Wharton grads are soon to follow.
"It's a concept for Philadelphia's counterculture, taking the [city's] name and making it somewhat subversive," Grasse said. "It's a message that's aimed at the Khyber crowd, rather than the Kimmel crowd."
Grasse said the ads would underline a whole "Philthy" movement: Philthy nights at certain clubs, for instance, a Philthy fashion show and Philthy grants for young artists.
Finally, the launch should include a "Philthy Guide" to city life, featuring "110 places you can go to get Philthy."
"It would be a kind of Zagats for hipsters," Grasse said.
Grasse's "Gen-X" style plan seems edgy enough to raise eyebrows in a city known for establishment thinking.
But I think edge might be worth a shot, particularly if we are talking about attracting a generation of young people.
After all, do we always want to play second fiddle when it comes to urban cool? Why shouldn't cities like Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco get a little competition from this City of Brotherly Love?
"Philadelphia has a unique brand of style which you are not going to get anywhere else," Grasse said. "It's working-class attitude mixed with urban hipster. Very laid-back, but still very artistic. And I would argue that it rivals places like Brooklyn, which is very hip right now."
Financial Express Features Quaker City Mercantile's Unique Puma Campaign
"Puma Rolls Out Campaign With A Difference"
New Delhi: This is a print campaign with a difference. US-based sports and lifestyle brand Puma has just launched its global print campaign that has adopted animation as its style. Created by Quaker City Mercantile, the campaign will be used as a vehicle to introduce the brand's range that is due for launch in 2003.
The global campaign, which was launched simultaneously across the world in October, made its Indian debut in Cosmopolitan's anniversary issue last month and will appear in feature-related supplements in dailies also.
The campaign seeks to strengthen Puma's international positioning as the brand that 'mixes it up' and fuses the creative influences from the world of sports, lifestyle and fashion.
According to company sources, the campaign, which will continue to be created by Quaker City Mercantile, will be customised to the needs and interests of different countries.
Thus in India, the forthcoming cricket season may see a cricket-related animated ad series. It could even use Indian cricketers as animated characters, though a lot of endorsement issues would need to be tackled before this comes through. An animated series has been created with a storyline revolving around Adam Gilchrist of Australia.
P&I Covers Quaker City Mercantile's Marketing for Puma
Puma appoints Iris to boost its profile with kids
Sporting goods manufacturer Puma has appointed Iris to work on its below-the-line activity with the objective of raising the profile of the company. Iris will work alongside Puma's global advertising agency Quaker City Mercantile.
Puma is targeting 16 to 24 year-olds with activity that is due to kick off towards the end of this year. According to Ian Millner, Iris managing partner, the drive will include in-store pushes in high street sports shops as well as Puma's own stores.
"We will be elevating the profile of the brand through mechanics including POP, in store theatre and staff motivation programmes, he said. "Our work and experience in the sector convinced Puma that we were the right partner."
Philly Business Journal Profiles Quaker City Mercantile
"Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) spins to its own beat"
Steven Grasse is the crazy man your mother warned you about.
Only now, Grasse is running a growing advertising agency that's gotten recognition representing the sin trade -- cigarettes, booze and strippers -- but also candy and sneakers.
With his head shaved clean and his G-Mart T-shirts and Friday afternoon beer-on-the-desk routine, Grasse presides over a staff of 67 that's housed in a cramped, chaotic former bank branch in Society Hill.
His company, Quaker City Mercantile, has clients that include R.J. Reynolds tobacco (Winston, Camel, Salem), William Grant & Sons (Glenfiddich Scotch, Hendrix gin, Just Desserts liquors), Puma sneakers, M&M/Mars and, locally, Delilah's Den, the gentlemen's club in Northern Liberties.
Grasse won't say how the large the agency is in billings. But Quaker City Mercantile, which is based on the 300 block of Walnut Street, is clearly riding high right now.
It is the agency of record for German-based Puma, which spends $90 million a year on advertising. Much of that is geared toward the World Cup -- and Quaker City Mercantile's commercials are playing throughout soccer-mad Asia and Europe right now. For the Puma-sponsored Cameroon team, for example, Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) made a commercial that uses the same Japanese animation techniques used in video games. Another ad features international soccer stars in a old Western style fight, except instead of a saloon the fight takes place in a sushi restaurant.
On July 1, client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. plans to broaden its line of Camel cigarettes, offering a stronger Turkish Royal brand. Grasse would not say, specifically, what that will mean. But, for RJR, Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) handles point-of-sale materials.
"If you walk into a 7-Eleven, everything you see (marketing RJR brands) is our work," Grasse said.
For any other industry, that might seem like small potatoes. But tobacco companies, which spend $4 billion a year to sell cigarettes, can't advertise on TV or radio, so packaging and point-of-sale advertising are a huge outlay. RJR brands have nearly 6 percent of the market, up from 4 percent in the mid-1990s, according to industry research cited in Advertising Age.
The RJR approach -- coming up with new products, finding new ways to market them -- may have helped broaden Quaker City Mercantile's approach.
"We've been smart enough to diversify, rather than doing just advertising. That helps when the economy is down," Grasse said. "We also do event promotion, packaging, new product development, strategic promotion, strategic consulting. It's one of the reasons we've been able to stay around; we're multifaceted."
For example, for candy giant Mars, the firm is retooling Starburst packaging.
In an industry where everyone wants to be cool, Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) seems to understand the 20-something market. But it also works hard to plumb the depth of that market.
"I hate the term Generation X," said Grasse, now 37. "We got tired of the slammin', jammin' talk that you'd hear in commercials. We were, like, `That's not the way we talk.'"
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) has also branched into the retail business, which gives it a first-hand look at purchasing patterns.
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) runs a retail shop on North Third Street in Old City, G-Mart, that sells retro sneakers and T-shirts. The store has monthly sales of $30,000 and is profitable, Grasse said. It is also the largest seller of Puma sneakers in the city.
Then there's the Sailor Jerry brand, which is a line of clothing and a type of rum named for the famous Honolulu tattoo artist. The clothing is sold in 1,200 retail stores worldwide, and its top market is Japan. Sailor Jerry is also a brand of rum, which is distributed by another Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) client, William Grant & Sons, and is sold worldwide.
"Sailor Jerry is a significant revenue generator, (and) it helps with our underground image," Grasse said of Sailor Jerry, whose Web site links to tattoo parlors and sponsors tattoo contests.
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) also produces independent films like "Bikini Bandits," which had its debut at the Philadelphia Film Festival this spring. The movie is shameless in its exploitation of bikini-clad women and stars a lot of, well, formerly famous people, like Corey Feldman, Jello Biafra and the late DeeDee Ramone. But Grasse loves it.
"I want to make big movies," he said.
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) seems to specialize in all things politically incorrect -- which is partly how the company got where it is.
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) was founded in 1989 by Grasse and Emma Hagen, who is no longer at the agency.
Around that time, Shyamala Joshi was working in the New York production office of fashion designer Albert Nipon. In an effort to get her business, Grasse called incessantly.
"He called every day. He wouldn't stop calling," Joshi said. "Finally, I just said, `OK, I'll meet you at 30th Street Station before I catch my train to New York. Five minutes. That's it.'"
They got to be friends and he eventually convinced her to join the agency.
Joshi, now president of Quaker City Mercantile, said her relationship with Grasse depends on a good guy-bad guy approach. Which is which?
"That depends. Today he's the bad guy," she said. Overall, in advertising, "so much is pranks and performance art."
Along those lines, their biggest break may have been in using Charles Manson in a print campaign for the South Street punk rock store Zipperhead. Grasse freely admits it was tasteless and got them fired by a major telecom company.
But it also gained them media notoriety. As it's been said, there's no such thing as bad publicity. The piece led to work with MTV, which lasted for seven years and spun itself into other work.
In Philadelphia's agency community, Grasse clearly relishes the bad-boy role. Snubbing convention, Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) does not participate in the Philadelphia Advertising Club or AAAAs.
It wasn't always that way. At one time, Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) was proud of winning local awards. But Grasse and Joshi knew their focus had to be national and worldwide advertising.
"We threw out all of the awards," Joshi said simply.
Now, in an age when independent agencies are often just a check away from becoming part of a monster conglomerate, Grasse acknowledged that there are advantages to being part of a bigger agency company -- say, an Interpublic Group or Omnicomm.
"It gives you access to bigger clients," he said. "And a lot of offices."
But, when asked about then having to take orders from someone else, Grasse's face turns dark. "It only gets worse when you get to that level," he said.
- Peter Van Allen
Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) Co-Hosts Event
"Supper clubs and cabarets are gaining popularity with Philly's 20-something set."
On Dec. 13, Neil Stein and Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) -- an unholy match if ever there was one -- make Avenue B a palette on which to return to the pre-'60s vibe of showgirls and supper clubs, complete with tuxedoed servers, cigarette girls and big bands fronted by distinguished vocalists. As a test for what Stein claims is his next move -- "I'm thinking about a new supper club restaurant on the horizon," he says -- he'll make Avenue B into a sparkling Vegas-of-the mind, filled with projections of gambling and old Sinatra films, piano lounges, champagne bars, deep red lighting and parachute drop ceilings. To top it off, live music includes Swing Doctors and Smooth as Silk, plus DJ Kurt Wonder spinning Rat Pack rarities.
"It was sexy -- merging food, design and clothing, men and women, gangsters and celebrities," says Stein of the elegant happening that was the supper club. As much a fan of Sinatra and Fitzgerald as he is of Capone, he sees the sex appeal of the supper club and feels it's due for the comeback he's helping herald in. "Rock has never gone away and never will," says Stein. "But the Œgood old days' in America are coming full circle to this style of entertainment. Simply put, it's about nightlife with more style. It's time to stop young people from being so jive and point them in a direction that is cool."
So forget your cell phones and BlackBerries, your Hives and your Vines, your Sevens and your Miss Sixtys. It's time to dress up and swing.
Steven Grasse of Quaker City Mercantile (formerly known as Gyro Worldwide) directs music video for Phantom Planet.
Phantom Planet is a defiantly L.A. band. For one thing, they've got Jason Schwartzman, hero of Wes Anderson's Rushmore and member of Hollywood royalty family the Coppolas, as their drummer. They got a record deal--rather effortlessly, one would imagine--and made their first album, Phantom Planet Is Missing, at the tender ages of 16 and 17. They've got the fresh-faced, non-threatening sex appeal of a Gap ad (in fact, lead singer Alex Greenwald was in one). Roman Coppola just made their first video, a 16mm documentary-style chronicle of the band's recent tour with Pete Yorn. And perhaps most significantly, they call girls "dude." "How's it going, dude?" are the disarming first words out of 21-year-old Greenwald's mouth.
The fivesome of childhood friends--Schwartzman, Greenwald, guitarists Darren Robinson and Jacques Brautbar and bassist Sam Farrar--seems genetically engineered to be famous, or at least happy. By all appearances, growing up in Hollywood hasn't debauched them.
Enter Steven Grasse.
Grasse is the CEO of Quaker City Mercantile, the Philadelphia-based advertising agency that handles Winston, Puma, Kamel and Delilah's Den accounts. He's also director of the wildly popular series of Internet films, Bikini Bandits. Named in "Debbie Does" episodic porn fashion, each installment features women from Delilah's and other busty ladies defying the law while wearing skimpy two-pieces. It's Philadelphia's answer to Howard Stern's most inane bit, and it's just as popular. In fact, Grasse claims it's the most downloaded film on the Internet.
Last summer, Grasse shot a full-length feature film version of the Bandits' exploits here in Philadelphia. Imagine, if you dare, Corey Feldman acting alongside ultra-political ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, and you've got the general idea. The combination of Grasse's marketing expertise and the film's main conceit--boobs--made it easy for him to score both stars and viewers. So when he went looking for a band to play on the soundtrack, he easily snagged Phantom Planet, which shares an agent in common with him. Now the band is headed here to shoot a video for their peppy "Hey Now Girl" with Grasse, who intends to widen the band's demographic.
"Girls already like this band," Grasse says. "We want boys to know that they're cool, too."
After a day of shooting at Delilah's, the band will play a show on Third Street, outside of G*mart, to get the rest of the footage. "This video is going to be all about girls," says the 35-year-old Grasse. The band, excited about their East Coast adventure in fecklessness, was not as cavalier.
"We love Bikini Bandits and we love the man behind Bikini Bandits," says Schwartzman, who after all is related to Francis Ford Coppola and Spike Jonze and ought to know a thing or two about filmmaking. "He's swell, smart, kind, ginger, full of soul... "
"I think [the films] are intelligently shot and put together," says Greenwald. "If there's intelligence behind it, there's nothing wrong with it. I'm just out of my teens here! Not to sound too chauvinistic--I don't know if that's the right word." Yeah, it might be the right word. But bikini girls or no, it certainly is winning to say "dude" a lot.
Phantom Planet's new EP, Phantom Planet Live, and forthcoming second album, The Guest, channel that bright SoCal charm and, actually, an undeniable braininess. If the first record was buoyed by Schwartzman's cult following, the band's second effort shows a professionalism and evolution away from predictable power-pop that could set it afloat in its own right.
"It's evolved naturally just because we were all 16 and 17 years old when we made the first album. We've been playing in this band for a little over seven years. I don't know if that's an embarrassing thing or a good thing," says Greenwald.
Regardless, Phantom Planet already has quite a following in their hometown. "Last night we had a fan club show, which is such an odd thing," says Greenwald. "I think we have a really supportive fan base, if not a large fan base. Everybody who comes to our shows is really smart and nice, someone I'd want to know." Aw.
The band's also opened for big-name acts, including, oddly, Morrissey. Greenwald says sharing a bill with the auteur of Meat Is Murder was kind of nerve-wracking. "There was this set of rules from his tour manager that were so strict you'd get kicked out for breaking them. You couldn't bring meat into the building or even talk about meat. We were so nervous that Sam--the bass player--would say, 'I sure could go for a fuckin' burger right now.'"
The show this Friday should feature the same spirit of Bikini Bandits, and if they can swing it, a Mummers float will make a cameo. How do these California beach babies feel about shooting an outdoor video in Philadelphia in January?
"I'm not really dressed for the weather. I might get hypothermia or something," Greenwald says.
At the rate they're going, it might be overexposure instead.