The Ego Profile: Vitro NY Rocks
“We kind of like black,” Liron Reznik, CCO of Vitro, begins. This is an understatement. Every wall and beanbag in Vitro’s SoHo office is black. Both Reznik and Director of Communications Matt Van Hoven are entirely clad in black. For an agency that “architects solutions that really pop,” this lack-of-color scheme makes sense. Their work is the driving emblem here, and Vitro is style-savvy enough to know that black is a cool kid choice. It also works well with their skull and cross-bone motif. I ask about the scattering of items on the office’s main-room table. “You can call them knick-knacks,” replies Reznik, “But they’re actually mascots and karma.” He introduces me to a statue of Karl Lagerfeld, who serves as Vitro’s good-luck Buddha figure. Karl stands next to a translucent skull filled with vodka, a gift from a client.
Vitro is an office of creative badassery. “The credo is on the wall,” Reznik points out. “We’re not hiding it.” The glass wall of the conference room reads, “Brand Generosity. World Domination. 21st Century Rock n’ Roll.” Vitro believes that brands need to add value to people’s lives. Vitro will say no to business if it doesn’t fit their ideals. Reznik recognizes they’re lucky in this regard. “One of the best things about being small [in the beginning] was being able to say no, because you have less mouths to feed.” Though Vitro now employs over 100 people, they have retained their intimate feel and integrity.
Vitro New York is the company formerly known as Skinny. Jonas Hallberg and Reznik started Skinny four years ago in the hopes of creating a progressive place to work, both in the projects they would choose to do and the culture they would infuse. “We had this idea of, what if we can create a place that is a bit like a family,” Reznik reminisces, “It’s kind of cliché, but that’s what we wanted to do. At the same time, the family’s a bit sick and likes black and is fun to be in!” Reznik often punctuates his speech with joyous handclaps. Imagine it as you read.
Skinny found its humble beginnings with business from Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile carrier. “They took us on a wild journey because it started with a project that ended up taking three years,” Reznik said. With Vodafone as long-standing foundation, Skinny could then build their repertoire and office. Still, they wanted to play in the bigger leagues. The desire to connect with more clients led Skinny to Vitro, a more established company based out of San Diego. After extensive discussion, on January 1, 2012, two decided to become one.
“Vitro is this great craft brand,” says Reznik. “We were kind of insurgent, best kept secret, in some respects. We like fashion, so let’s say [Vitro]’s like a Burberry that just needed this Christopher Bailey to come in.” Reznik notes that the companies complement each other when they differ, and they agree on the most important thing: the work has to have creative heart, and it needs to produce results. That’s where the domination and rock n’ roll aspects emerge. “We want our clients to dominate,” Reznik elaborates, “and we’re not shy to say we’re ambitious and want to be successful. 21st century rock n’ roll is this idea about the attitude we want to have, which is all about from the heart, from the gut—really trying to go for it.”
“It” is broad perspective, it is genuine engagement, it is results. Vitro is now bicoastal, and the New York office alone houses people from more than seven countries (Reznik is from Israel while Van Hoven reps Minnesota). Reznik made sure that top talent could find their way to Skinny at the start. “We said, if someone’s good, we’re going to pay for the visa. We’re going to have a company where [citizenship] isn’t a factor.” The resulting global reach is evident in their work.
Vitro recently finished a “Monaco-inspired” campaign for Aldo shoes, in which users play games of luck to potentially win a lifetime supply of shoes or, at the very least, 15 percent off their next purchase. Aldo wanted to expose customers to the full range of their Fall/Winter collection while simultaneously pushing them towards the store. Any traditional advertising (billboard, banner ad) would only meet half of their goal. So, Vitro put together their interactive, festive catalogue, an exercise in retail gamification and thus customer engagement (average time on the site? 3.5 minutes).
Reznik is frank about Vitro’s approach: “We’re just trying to do things that are actually interesting for people.” When it came to branding Lexus’ new hybrid to appeal to a new generation of drivers, Vitro (in keeping with their office aesthetic) decided to showcase the “Darker Side of Green.”
“The world of hybrids was all this daylight goodness,” Reznik recounts. “We said, ‘This car’s a bit bad. It’s got a bit of a dark side. What if we established a different world for the hybrid to live in and invited you in?’” This sexy take on the hippie-tastic world of hybrids led to an interactive film called “Dark Ride.” Norman Reedus stars in the car chase choose-your-own-adventure video in which the viewer virtually sits shotgun, controls the camera, and adjusts the car’s radio channels (prompting Reedus to hum along). The coolest part? The new Lexus hybrid hadn’t even been built yet. The car in the film was a CGI.
The second prong of Vitro’s Lexus campaign occurred later in the car’s development. At this point, they had access to a hybrid for a short window of time. To take full advantage, they enlisted comedian Whitney Cummings to host “Darkcasting,” an in-car talk show. Vitro seems to specialize in employing stars right before their careers take off. Or perhaps they launch them…
Either way, “Darkcasting” and “Dark Ride” resulted in the highest number of hand raisers (test-drive volunteers) ever in Lexus’ history. The car is on the path—the numbers haven’t been officially released—to become 2011’s highest selling hybrid.
Vitro labels themselves “serial problem solvers.” Their mission is simple and direct. Answer client questions, do work they can all believe in, and have fun. Vitro knows good work drives business, and they’re in the business of benefiting all involved. Reznik’s co-CCO, Jonas Hallberg, is wont to exclaim, “Rock it!” several times throughout the workday. His—and Vitro’s overarching—enthusiasm are evident in the work they produce. The office may be black, but the ideas that come out of it are vibrant.