World: Analysis - Mother gets to grips with the inhospitality of the Big Apple

In its first year in New York, Mother believes it has been fairly lucky.

In the almost one year since Mother arrived in Manhattan, its partners, "the Swedes" (Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom) and "the Americans" (Rob DeFlorio and Andrew Deitchman), believe they've had it easier than most other start-ups. "We've been lucky in that most of our clients have been introduced to us," Deitchman says.

DeFlorio adds: "There are struggles, but we've got partners in London and incredible support, so we don't feel alone."

As the writer EB White once cautioned: "No-one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky." But in a city famously inhospitable to outside agencies, a lot more than just luck is required. "You need backing, good partners and a fairly significant founding client," the DDB chairman and chief executive, Paul Hammersley, formerly of Lowe, New York, and a man who investigated starting a New York shop himself, says.

"The New York market is incredibly conservative and clients are risk-averse. Without a significant client, it's going to be a long, hard struggle; and I think there is a bit of resistance towards Johnny Foreigner," he adds.

Ty Montague, now the creative director at Wieden & Kennedy in New York, was at Bartle Bogle Hegarty when it first launched in the city. He agrees.

"New York does not take well to outsiders," he says. "It takes a while to get established and gain credibility. Mother is a fantastic brand, but you have to earn respect. No-one's interested in what it has done before. It took BBH five years to become the Agency of the Year."

Meanwhile, in a sparsely furnished loft above a tool shop in lower Manhattan, there are more pressing issues than the projected timescale for winning industry gongs. Mother New York is in the city to win business and grow.

The agency's first account was the National Basketball Association, thanks to DeFlorio, the global ad director at Nike for 11 years. The resulting TV campaign - a collection of humorous spots - was co-created and produced by Mother and the NBA.

Then came a first-look deal with Miramax. In February 2004, Chipotle, the burrito chain with a hip, irreverent image and an estimated $10 million marketing budget, chose Mother as its first ever agency. "Linus and I met them at Fallon and fell in love with the brand," Malmstrom says.

"This is how you do great work-you meet great, creative people and collaborate," Deitchman says, although he concedes it was almost a disaster. "We were ill-prepared and the DVD didn't work. But that's why they liked us-the chemistry worked instantly."

The closest thing to a potentially "significant" account is Milwaukee's Best from Miller Brewing, won in mid-May. Sales of the beer have been on the slide, and there's been no agency on the account since 1997.

While Malmstrom and Karlsson worked on the infamous Miller "dick" campaign, the client has stated this had nothing to do with choosing the partnership now.

New work is due to break in July, and there may be further Miller business.

As for future clients, Mother says there's a couple it's got its eye on.

Then there's the accounts it pitched and didn't win, such as Converse.

It claims to have declined accounts too. "We have said, 'no'. The very basis of everything is getting the right people together," Malmstrom says.

And Deitchman wants New York to embrace the same philosophy as London.

"Mother London's aim was to make money, have fun and do great work," he says.

While Mother New York may be having fun, and even making money, everyone's waiting for the great work. "They still need to put out their first campaign, and until then they don't really have anything to talk about," Hammersley says. "You can't count the NBA, because it's a co-production."

Montague adds: "New York is impatient. We were very aware at BBH that people wanted to see work, and we didn't have any."

"We want to do a brand communications company differently," Deitchman says. "I know every start-up says the same thing. If you look at what Mother has done in London with Monkey and Naked, we'll similarly develop different companies and adjuncts, which will help us win clients."

Some question whether Mother's UK-centric brand of ad humour travels, and whether "the Swedes" (famous for MTV's Jukka Brothers and the "Buddy Lee" viral campaign for Lee Jeans), can do other things. "We've done the BMW X3 campaign, and Brawny paper towels," Malmstrom counters. "We've a broad range of work. Throughout our careers we've been a bit misrepresented. Besides, we're hiring people with different talents."

Kevin Roddy, a creative director at Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, worked with Karlsson and Malmstrom at Fallon, and backs them up. "Linus and Paul are two of the most talented creatives I've ever met. They understand the business and know how advertising can solve problems. If anyone has a chance of doing anything, it's them."

And the other option - selling up and moving on if the business doesn't come? Mother discounts any buyout possibilities. "People have always been interested," Deitchman says. "But there's no reason to do it in New York. We've just started and it's an exciting time to be an independent agency."

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