NYC Digital Agencies Work Around Sandy

Makeshift apartment offices, carpooling help shops endure aftermath

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In the two days since Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City, digital ad agencies in flooded Lower Manhattan and across the East River in Brooklyn haven’t stopped working. With public transportation limited, power outages rampant, cellphone service sketchy and drinking water supplies diminishing, shops are making due by creating remote offices around the city, carpooling and leaning on email for communications.

“We have set up temporary work areas in various parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn that still have power,” said Dan LaCivita, president of Firstborn, which has lost electricity in its Tribeca offices. In an email to Adweek, he added, “Project teams are meeting in these locations [which are common areas of people's apartment buildings or actual apartments that have power]. 

So while we are not able to physically be in the office due to the outage, we're able to conduct business as usual and stay in touch with all our clients to keep things moving forward.”

AKQA, located in the Manhattan’s SoHo district, has taken similar measures.

“Individual client teams have organized locations where they can gather and work together as well to continue to service clients to the best of our ability,” said Katy Zack, media rep for the digital shop, via email. “Our global offices unaffected by Sandy have been providing extra support to ensure that individuals and our clients are all taken care of. From IT support and travel arrangements and taking on any client work they can help, we've been incredibly lucky to have a strong global network to support those who have been affected by Sandy.”

With two Manhattan offices, Razorfish today is staffed on location at about 20 percent capacity while others work remotely, according to Pete Stein, president of the digital agency's East Region. "Many of our employees lost power and connectivity," he said via email. "And for anyone with kids, schools are closed. Obviously, transportation is a challenge for all, so we are advising that people stay home to take care of their families and avoid a horrific commute. Many of the people in the office are using it to power up, connect and even use the showers, so we'll keep the office open for the rest of the week."

SapientNitro, in the Financial District, has been shut down since Monday morning and doesn’t know when any employees will be back at its New York offices. Teams for the advertising and technology company “that can get power are working remotely,” a media rep said via email.

Things are starting to look up for Brooklyn-based shops Big Spaceship and Huge, which have employees in their offices today for the first time this week. Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz, said via email, “We were able to coordinate a carpooling plan to get approximately 80 percent of our crew to the office, with a number of others working remotely. Those who remain out of commission due to power outages and public transportation service have coverage from across the agency. We've also opened up extra space in our office for clients and other companies who are without power or Internet service.”

Huge managing director Eric Moore said Wednesday via email, “The office is moderately populated today…Many of our employees live in Brooklyn, so commutation has been less of an issue. All of our employees have been working remotely since Monday to the extent that they have been able to. All things considered, we've been working well to mitigate any issues due to the storm and have been coordinating with our clients, a number of whom have also been affected.”

Meanwhile, East Village-based Possible Worldwide has combined traditional tools with the latest technology to keep its New York staffers organized. “We have been able to account for everyone through a mix of old-fashioned phone calls and through our internal social network,” said Jen Lightbody, Possible chief of staff via email, “which has allowed us to provide regular updates to the entire agency around the world.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.