Last night was a messy night in New York. Slushy sleet and snow stalling traffic, pedestrians making their way through drifts at every corner. A bad night to have a big party in Midtown, you might think. And you would be wrong. Because Grey, the major media company that recently moved into new digs on Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, threw a party that a lot of people thought was worth braving lousy weather to attend.
Near the elevator were 3 members of Ethel, the amazing group of string musicians--who play everything from Bach to rock'n roll--the same folks who had transported us at TED two weeks ago in Long Beach. They set the classy-hip tone of the evening.
Waiting in line at the coat check (which took a while, given the umbrellas, snow boots, heavy wet coats everyone wanted to shed), we were entertained by the scene in the nearby area where several people were sitting around drinking and watching television...in their underwear. Yep. Fruit of the Loom is a client of Grey, and someone thought it would be a great idea to show happy customers (no doubt happy actors acting like happy customers) in their Fruit of the Loom best. Hysterical. If you've seen their Super Bowl ads showing office workers in their underwear, you'll get the joke. Otherwise, trust me, it was hilarious.Metropolis magazine says the Grey headquarters is "the most innovative and contemporary restoration of an historic building in decades." True. It's the kind of space that provokes conversation. And last night's party put the talk on overdrive.
Making our way down the stairway-- which resembles the stairway the famous ocean liner La France used to make every First Class passenger entering the dining room feel like a rock star-- we happened to be right behind a brass band (yep!) leading the way to the already crowded floor below.
Lots to talk about. For example, the atrium at the center of the building, which opens to the sky, so that the falling snow provided a backdrop better than any manufactured scenery could provide. And the ice sculpture there, spelling out GREY just in case you forgot who was hosting the party.
Partygoer attire was studied casualness that young Manhattanites translate to mostly black, boots, jeans, knit caps for those so inclined (with a few sequins and such thrown in). A look aping self-consciously stylish urban supermodels at play. This group had it down.
But mostly I was fascinated by the conversation. Or rather efforts at conversation. It was loud in the place. Deafeningly loud. But no one seemed to notice. Conversations--long ones--took place for as long as 20 minutes and required people to scream at one another. No matter that you had to talk above the din provoked by "San Francisco's hottest DJ, DTek. Business was being done. And lots of flirting. Great fun.
A cleverly placed cheeky note was the message streaming in large black letters down a white industrial column from a camera somewhere. It said "If conversation is awkward, talk about the weather." No one bothered to discuss the snow. The vibe was ultra coolness. Totally befitting a company that is all about branding. No accident that early in the evening, the folks from Fast Company were on hand to announce that Grey has been selected as one of this year's 50 Most Innovative Companies. Everything about the evening fit what I assume was the objective of the evening: to let the world know that Grey is cool, knows all about branding, and is a great place to work.
The evening was Brandversation at its best. Bravo, Grey.
Did those in the crowd who don't work for Grey wish they did? Probably so. And did those who've been thinking about becoming clients wish they could? Probably so.
Thanks, Don McKinney, for inviting me. We're still talking about it here at Wf360.