Self-described techie “geeks,” like Aaron Harvey and Alex Lirtsman of the DUMBO-based firm Purple, Rock, Scissors, are really anything but. Though they’re dressed in the requisite hipster apparel—zip-up hooded sweatshirts, skinny jeans, sneakers—and toss around terms like “search engine optimization,” “conversion,” and “analytic platforms,” Harvey and Lirtsman probably have more in common with behemoth Madison Avenue advertising agencies than with their artistic Brooklyn neighbors. But that doesn’t mean they don’t fit in.
“We really saw this emerging scene here, and there was a lot of buzz, and a lot of excitement,” Harvey, 28, said about why PRPL set up shop on Jay Street when they expanded from Orlando, Florida six months ago. “That’s why we chose to come to Brooklyn and come to DUMBO, because it’s on fire right now from a tech perspective.”
As a digital marketing agency PRPL, which has just 15 employees, helps non-profit agencies and diamond jewelers alike figure out how to best position themselves to customers in a competitive online environment.
“We have a pretty big discovery process where we break down specific goals,” said Lirtsman, also 28, the company’s chief marketing officer and a Kensington, Brooklyn native. “We don’t try to come up with one end-all solution, but try to touch upon those goals and create a strategy.”
That strategy can be anything from ensuring a client’s Facebook presence leads to an online sale to meeting fundraising or volunteering goals. They use proven channels like e-mail programs, newsletters, and social media to execute their plan, and measure which one leads to the most “conversions;” or, in laymen’s terms, which one achieves the goal.
Then they perform tests and analyze data to determine, for example, whether a user is more likely to convert when offered free shipping on purchases over $25, or when shipping is a flat $1.99 site-wide. “We’re constantly optimizing,” Lirtsman added.
PRPL optimized its own presence when it opened up its three-person operation in shared office space in DUMBO last fall. With a growing New York-based clientele that includes companies like Vizio, Better Home and Gardens, and the Jewish news site JTA, Harvey, a partner in PRPL and its chief operating officer, is enjoying the new atmosphere.
“It’s more experiential work, that’s the fundamental difference,” Harvey, who is from Florida, said about the New York market. In Orlando, much of their work involved maintaining clean, well-coded sites, while here, he said, “clients want to blend interactive campaigns with print campaigns to go after 200 coveted advertisers.”
“And they want it done yesterday,” Lirtsman chimed in.
Harvey and Lirtsman are nothing if not passionate about their jobs. They met as suitemates freshman year at the University of Central Florida, and began working together a few years ago when their mutual pal Bobby Jones founded PRPL, then called Hydra Studio, in his garage in 2002.
PRPL has grown quickly, Harvey believes, because of its approach. “We come from an e-commerce mindset, and that allows us to make sure that everything we do…is tied into a business goal, tied to a track-able event, tied into a key performance indicator that we establish to begin with,” he said.
But they juggle an intersection of three realms—business, art, and technology—that is common to most industries these days. “You kind of have these three different forces,” Harvey said. “While in some cases they can feel isolated, they kind of have to come together and bash their heads.”
Much like the DUMBO-based techies themselves, who, while often in direct competition with one another, are also fiercely collaborative. In just the last year, the Digital DUMBO monthly meetup ballooned from a few dozen people to what Harvey estimated was around 500 in March. From the PRPL perspective, which Harvey admits is limited, the draw of DUMBO for techies is more than just relatively cheap rent.
“Everybody in our industry is trying to say, ‘This is digital Silicon Valley,’ and there are people saying, ‘No, these are art spaces,’” said Harvey. “It’s a really cool, competitive environment. It’s up for grabs, and digital is grabbing it.”
And Purple, Rock, Scissors, for one, has no intention of letting go.
Brooklyn Tech is a new series devoted to digital businesses in DUMBO and other parts of Brooklyn. Have a company in mind that we should profile? Run one? E-mail us info AT the brooklynbugle.com