Author Archives: the HIT board

DGC’s CFO Recognized as Management All Star

DiGennaro Communications CFO Michael Isaacson was among those recognized on March 16 with an Executive Management Award from SmartCEO, which lauded his leadership and management accomplishments.

Isaacson joined DGC in 2010, and as his profile attests, he has helped our company to double its revenue and headcount. He’s also a significant contributor to building the company’s robust culture through employee-engagement programs, including weekly happy hours, quarterly social outings, and holiday parties. The agency supports employee participation in philanthropy programs–several times a year, DGC devotes hours for staffers to read to elementary school students and to visit nursing homes to play bingo with residents.

DGC specializes in B2B communications on behalf of advertising, media, marketing, entertainment, and tech companies as well as for consumer-facing multinationals such as Ringling Bros / Feld Entertainment, Live Nation, and McDonald’s.

Isaacson (second from right) was accompanied by some colleagues to receive his award at the Hudson Mercantile in New York City.


Everyone at DGC extends their heartfelt congratulations to Mike Isaacson. We’re grateful for his tireless work to make DGC the agency it is today.



Another year, another SXSW. There was certainly a whirlwind of activity – and our DGC team always faces the same problem after industry conferences as big and exciting as this one: How to experience everything SXSW has to offer? The correct answer: It’s extremely difficult, so pat yourself on the back if you see at least one cool thing per day. Fortunately we saw many. Here are a few takeaways and insights that we’re bringing back to the office and sharing with our teams, clients and peers:

  1. Create Deeper Experiences with Fans

From Samsung, to the United Nations to National Geographic, many brands engaged with fans via cool, interactive experiences. The A&E network’s drama series, “The Bates Motel,” had an exact replica of its on-set hotel in Austin, and it was fully-functional, accommodating overnight guests. The promotion give fans a deeper experience with the show, based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” National Geographic’s fantastic activation promoting the hit series “Life Below Zero” was an immersive adventure that plunged fans into the icy, cold  conditions of Alaska. As the temperature dropped, fans were forced to connect clues, complete challenges and solve puzzles to escape back to the warm, south Texas sun. We also saw some of-the-moment brands team up to reach their fans. The Spotify House, for example, hosted daily SoulCycle classes with live DJs, free snacks and juice, and a full-on flash mob to accompany and motivate sweaty cyclists. This unique activation proved that music, fitness, and SXSW can go hand in hand.

  1. Consider all Brands as Tech Companies

Move over Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo. Today every brand considers itself a tech brand, which is part reality and partly an effort to get ahead of digital trends and appeal to the younger, more plugged in Millennial crowds that flock to Austin. For example, Equinox Fitness launched new data-driven spin technology so its members can track their workout progress and help determine future fitness strategies. The data that is gathered on the bike is also attached to member profiles on the Equinox app so users can keep track of their data.

  1. What’s Next?

SXSW wouldn’t be the festival it is today if it weren’t up to the minute. The buzziest app of the week leading up to the festival was the recently launched Meerkat, which enables users to live-stream video directly to Twitter. Twitter moved quickly to block the service, despite its popularity on March 13, before SXSW got fully underway. While live-streaming has been around for some time, it will be interesting to see how marketers engage with these platforms for future brand activation strategies.


Creating a ‘Love Culture’ that’s Built to Last

“The first rule of building a ‘love culture,’ is to love what you do.”

That’s how Roy Spence, Chairman/Founder of GSD&M and Founder of The Purpose Institute kicked off his discussion on “Right Brain Leadership” at SXSW Interactive this weekend.

Although the session’s panel descriptor was about the brain, Spence and his co-presenter Mac Brown (founder of Spur Leadership and Founding Pastor of Lake Hills Church in Austin) spent the bulk of their time talking about the heart.


They offered three rules for building what they call a “love culture” within your organization:

1)  Love what you do. Spence, who built GSD&M with four partners from the ground up over the past 45 years, encouraged audience members to “create an environment where people can play to their strengths.” He relayed a story from his childhood about his struggles with spelling. After numerous C grades, he scored an A- on a term paper when he was about 14 years old. His mother remarked that while he may not ever be a great speller, but she could see that he was a great writer. Her advice? Don’t waste your time trying to be average at something you’re bad at doing, but spend every second trying to great at what you’re good at doing.

2)   Hang out with people you love. “Love cultures are about people helping you, and you helping people,” said Spence. Brown added that part of loving people is accountability: “You have to operate alongside people with an established set of values. As a leader you have a greater responsibility to the group than the individual. You have to be willing to let someone go if you want to build a love culture. You have to do it for the health of everyone else. You love people when you hold them accountable.”

3) Love the impact you have on lives and communities. Brown said that any thriving organization has two things: Love and good deeds. Spence recited some of the purpose-based companies he and GSD&M have worked with over the years from Southwest Airlines to Whole Foods.

Their one common denominator? They’ve all cracked the code on creating environments where people can love what they do, be deliberate and intentional about their jobs and have license to literally change the world. To Spence and Brown, those are the ultimate markers of a “love culture.”

As the session came to a close, one woman asked Spence for his personal definition of a leader. He replied: “I’ve never called myself a leader, but I do know this…If you don’t have followers, you’re not a leader. Leaders build the ship, and they do so through love.”

Live at SXSW – Weekend Recap

The DGC team hit the ground running on Saturday morning at SXSWi with a quick stop at and an 11 a.m. deep-dive into how data will build high-performing humans. The panel featured New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz and Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, joined by Michael Gervais and Mashable’s Haile Owens. We were fascinated with the panel’s discussion on how data can make even the highest achieving athletes more powerful on and off the field. One nugget we took away from the session was data and tools are great, but don’t forget about your body’s biggest source of information: your brain.

cruz After a quick selfie with the man of the hour, our team dispersed to other sessions before gathering to prep for DGC’s first-ever #SXSWi happy hour. The team set up shop at the JW Marriott to entertain clients and friends of DGC over margaritas, chips and guacamole, and the best darn jalapeño cornbread Austin has to offer.



Day three saw us checking out some of the week’s best brand activations and experiences. We swung by Samsung’s Studio Experience, where our colleague, Sara Ajemian, made a DGC t-shirt in its design studio. While the A&E network offered up nightly stays at a faux Bates Motel to promote its series of the same name, neighboring station National Geographic took it to the extreme with a challenge to promote its new season of “Life Below Zero.” We dared to see if we had what it takes to Escape the Cold, as the promo was called, encouraged players to find clues to get out of the room in twenty minutes working with teams of 6. It was tough going – we didn’t find the key. Brands should take note for 2016 as this was an incredible way to bridge the gap between brand experience and user interaction. It tied to “life below zero” which is a show about people living in isolation in Alaska


Other panels we checked out:

– Argonaut, an agency that’s part of Project Worldwide, had two executives on a panel: Robbie Whiting, Creative Technologist, and Garrick Schmitt, digital advisor,  who spoke to a packed house about “Malevolent Marketing.” Recap the conversation on Twitter with #letsbeevil.

– Deep Focus CMO Jamie Gutfreund cracked the code on Millennials at the Pandora Lounge, encouraging marketers to be smart about their consumer and audience. She was later joined on stage by Nana Menya, AVP of Investment Strategy of GE, whose talk on the mindset of music was equally intriguing.

– DDB’s Global Business Director Marina Zuber discussed art, tigers and an #EndangeredSong with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and on-the-rise band Portugal the Man.

Stay tuned for more!

So Many Events, So Little Time: SXSWi 2015


From once a small, under-the-radar conference geared at early-adopter techies to now one of the digital media and marketing world’s most highly anticipated events, SXSW Interactive (#SXSWi) 2015 kicks off this week (March 13-17) in Austin, Texas.

With the entire media and tech community heading south to experience the best Austin has to offer (and we aren’t just talking about the conference sessions but also the live music, great restaurants and margaritas!), there’s plenty for everybody to enjoy. Whether you’re a 2015 conference attendee or tracking the action online, you can truly tailor your experience depending on your vantage point.

This year, SXSW Interactive includes more than 800 total sessions as well as dozens of competitions, exhibits, and networking events. This scale of programming means that identifying big-picture trends can be challenging but the DGC team will be on the ground to help report on all that is happening at SXSW via our blog and social channels. Here are just some of the events we’re looking forward to covering:

Jingle Punks, a custom-music agency, will be parked at 717 East 7th Street from March 14-17 in a fully functioning recording studio airstream trailer, which will be the shop’s temporary office, recording studio and meeting place during the festival. It will also be well stocked with whiskey.

GSD&M, new to the DGC roster and based in Austin, has its Co-Founder, Chairman Roy Spence on a panel about Right Brain Leadership on Sunday, March 14.  Spence now leads The Purpose Institute as CEO. The Purpose Institute helps leaders and organizations discover, articulate and align all stakeholders around a genuine and authentic purpose at the heart of the entity.

Later the same day, join Robbie Whiting who leads creative technology and production at Argonaut (a full service ad agency and a division of Project Worldwide) for a panel that asks—what if marketers wanted to be evil? How hard could it be in the age of the “always on consumer?”

By Monday, GSD&M is back in the spotlight for a panel called,  “Cultures of Advocacy: People, Product and Change” and on Tuesday, when the shop’s director of decision sciences, Jonathan Hart challenges the status quo of daily web content.

Also on Tuesday, Live Nation’s President Russell Wallach will be part of a discussion on how music is used to drive social change.

Other cool events on our radar include:

  • Mapmyfitness with Robin Thurston, Under Armour Connected Fitness SVP Digital & Connected Fitness
  • MTV Worlds “Love & Sex,” the network’s provocative new transmedia series
  • IBMis doing a lot with its event agency George P. Johnson:
    • IBM Trade Show Booth at Convention Center: A 20×30 booth featuring the Urban Art Cloud, Watson enablement and a Softlayer (IBM owned cloud service) server challenge
    • IBM Lounge @ Hilton (Room 406) featuring BlueMix synchronized light show and make your own mix activity with IBM ear bud give aways. Additional Eggbot/stress ball activity using IBM technology. Charging stations, soft seating, beverages and snacks
    • Three IBM surround events at the Radisson Town Lake all taking place Monday March 16: (6 PM event open to non-badge holders)

To keep abreast of these and other happenings, follow @DiGennaro and our colleagues who will be in Austin: @SamDiGennaro, @ErinDonahue, @Mary_Liz, @SaraHogan

DGC Plays Host to Rue La La and NY1 for NY Fashion Week

NY1 was in DGC’s Manhattan office doing a story about our client, Rue La La. The online fashion retailer was all over Fashion Week, looking for trends. The company’s Fashion Director, Jackie Nasser, said that what’s on the runway can be simplified into four personal every day and inspirational styles for women.

  • Turtlenecks
  • 70s
  • Lipstick red
  • Fabulous outerwear


To get a fuller description of each, go to the Rue La La site. A subscription is free.

Attention Aspiring Musicians: GreenLight Media & Marketing & Hyundai Have You Covered

If you were among the millions of viewers who watched the 57th annual Grammy Awards last night, you undoubtedly saw the :30 version of this spot from Hyundai and GreenLight Media and Marketing featuring Mark Ronson and Ziggy Marley. In voiceovers, the musicians each talked about the inspiration they derive from creative collaboration as Ronson arrives in a black Hyundai sedan to meet Marley at a recording studio.

The highly stylized ads are in support of the car maker’s partnership with The Recording Academy® and the third annual Grammy Amplifier program, an online music initiative to mentor emerging artists. Full-length versions of the work that tell deeper stories of artist and mentor collaboration can be viewed here.

GreenLight worked with Hyundai to conceive and create the program, in which Ronson will serve as the official ambassador alongside this year’s curators, including The Band Perry, Ziggy Marley and Allen Stone.

They will vet talent through online submissions and select three winners, who will be awarded one of the following prizes:

  • A studio recording session with a Grammy-winning producer
  • Filming and starring in their own music videos with an acclaimed director
  • An opening spot for a noted musician at a music festival.

Artists began entering submissions on January 27th at The last day to do so is February 20th.

Super Bowl XLIV Preview: The Biggest Event of the Year

This year, the high holy day of American sports falls on Feb. 1, with kick off set for 6:30 p.m., ET as the Seattle Seahawks face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.

An estimated television audience of 112 million will include a significant number of non-sports fans who are most interested in the commercials, for which NBC sold air time at a record $4.5 million per 30-second spot.

Here at DGC, we revel in all of it: The game, the parties, the commercials, the half-time show, the real-time marketing moments, social media, the second screen, the entire omni-channel experience and, of course, the PR opportunities that abound.

DGC staffers want all of our clients to win, but some have taken sides regarding the two teams that will actually play the game. Click on the video to find who they’re rooting for and why.

DGC Rountable: 4th Annual Scavenger Hunt

The DGC Roundtable is moderated by our fall intern, Jamie Kurke.

Each fall, the DGC team hosts their annual scavenger hunt. The team breaks out into teams and treks out for an afternoon running around in the Flatiron District to complete clues ranging from the mundane (Grab an AM New York) to the bizarre (Eat a chocolate turkey.) Our winning team, “The Cluesters” won a free pizza party, and the team with the best spirit, “Team Flashypants,” won a free coffee break. To see all the photos, please check our Facebook page.

With all the fun that was had, not to mention the post-Hunt happy hour, we asked our team to share highlights from our fourth annual hunt as this week’s DGC Roundtable:

Pat Wentling, Senior Account Executive:

This year’s hunt brought some of our most “interesting” challenges yet. By far the most intriguing of them was taking a picture with a parking attendant (with bonus points for a minivan) and the attendant actually pulled up a random mini-van. We were a little concerned that it was someone’s vehicle, but we were more concerned about winning (we came in last place.) After the car arrived we provided a nice “thank you” and went about our way. We also spent more time looking for a chocolate turkey than anything else. I don’t think I’ve been to that many CVS/Duane Reade’s in such a short span and left empty handed.  By the end, I couldn’t wait to eat that turkey.

Lexi Hewitt, Account Coordinator:

For me the funniest aspect of the scavenger hunt was how many people shut us down when we asked if we could get a picture of one of us walking their dogs.  No one trusted us! When someone finally did let us take a picture, they still wouldn’t let go of the leash.  I thought that would have been one of the easier tasks, but it was the hardest.

Kathy Sampey, Vice President:

My favorite part of the scavenger hunt (also) was trying to find a dog to walk, which was on every team’s list. Usually, there are a million dogs sauntering down the block at any given time in this area, but when we were out scavenging, there was nary a canine in sight. Finally, in Union Square Park, a woman with a gentle-looking curly haired dog handed me the leash, and the poor dog thought she was being given away. When she realized she wasn’t, she jumped up to give me a kiss.



Jamie Kurke, Intern:10390272_944231045604570_7163020465331039479_n

For me, the best part of the scavenger hunt was just seeing the reactions from everyone we interacted with. To set the scene for you, my team was decked out in ’80s workout gear, complete with matching fluorescent pink sweatshirts. Among the most enthused to help us out were the Sleepy’s employees who couldn’t wait to have us take a picture sprawled out on a mattress and the two NYPD officers who graciously agreed to put their dinners on hold to do ‘The Mystical’ in a photo with us. Others, like the Petco employee who was trying to catch a hamster for us, were less than amused by our garb and requests, but those interactions were equally as entertaining. In the end, my team may not have won, but the experience of it all made every second of scrambling around the city worth it– and we did get recognition for being the most spirited!


‘Perspectives’ on Work/Life Balance from DiGennaro’s CEO

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Shakespeare wrote.

As CEO of the 35-person NY based agency, with outposts/partnerships in Los Angeles, London, Mumbai and Sydney — DiGennaro still manages a healthy balance between her work and her personal life. Sam founded her namesake PR firm, DiGennaro Communications (DGC), in 2006.

Sam DiGennaro on Perspectives “I just haven’t given up the things I love,” DiGennaro said of about her personal life in a seaside interview at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this past June. She told Katie Kempner, EVP/Chief Communications Officer at Cripsin Porter + Bogusky, and host of Perspectives with Katie Kempner. “I have sacred rituals and I don’t let anything get in the way of them. It keeps me centered and calm as the work week unfolds.”

DiGennaro talked about how she encourages a supportive, collegial atmosphere at her agency in which employees can spread their wings and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.

Perspectives with Katie Kempner in an inspirational online series featuring conversations with women in business and how they balance business with their personal lives given today’s “always-on” mentality.

You can check out the full interview here.


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