In the world of advertising, there’s a thin line between compliment and insult. Nowhere did this line blur more than when a recent blog, when promoting Wieden + Kennedy’s SHOP pop-up in NYC, referred to the digital powerhouse as the “Portlandia of creative agencies”. For those not familiar, Portlandia is a popular IFC sketch comedy series masterminded by SNL’s Fred Armison and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein. On the show, the two artists lampoon hip-kid lifestyles like veganism, bike-punks, and Etsy-style crafting, while at the same time humorously sending up mega- companies who position themselves as lifestyle destinations (we’re looking at you Ace Hotel). When approaching SHOP, a three day sample sale “fashion pop-up” being held in the W+K offices, it’s hard not to view the event with the same lens of skepticism. Despite boasting some of the hippest indie labels around (Anna Sheffield, Saturdays NYC, Nicholas K, Steven Alan), the more cynical among us could point out that at the end of the day it’s still an ad agency trying to sell clothing to its base clientele: the young, affluent, urban, creative class.
However, at the recent VIP preview it was a pleasant surprise that instead of a cut and dry shopping event, the sale had more of an air of a communal trade-show like Compass or (Capsule). In place of the usual uncomfortable-looking DJs spinning records for an awkward crowd of PR reps and curious bloggers, there was a genuine mix of friends, business partners, and general ease- separating SHOP from the pack of other well intentioned and likeminded fetes. If online buzz and first evening turn- out is any indication, the event should prove to be quite a success, and may act as a template for other agencies hoping to branch out in similar ways. While W+K doesn’t directly rep any of the brands taking part, their affiliation with up-and-coming creatives can only help their image as one of the freshest ad groups on the scene today.
For those who might be quick to throw stones at W+K for embracing a young, hip subculture while also being Ad Week’s Agency of the year, don’t bother: as a recent episode of Portlandia confirmed they’re in on the joke and more than willing to poke fun at themselves. As for the Ad Week’s title, be on the look-out for a well deserved second term.