Undercurrent.com (Josh Spear & Aaron Dignan)
By Jamie Granoff
"Don't say the words 'social media,'" warns Aaron Dignan. He and his partner Josh Spear prefer the term "digital strategy" when describing what their company Undercurrent does. Fair enough. Their breadth goes far beyond telling their high-profile clients like Pepsi and GE to join Twitter. Ford is launching their new Fiesta model this year, and they wanted to reach out to a younger audience. Undercurrent worked with Ford to give 100 YouTube aficionados a free Fiesta for a few months to see what adventures they got into. The videos of "agents" doing everything from eloping to wrestling alligators, all while driving their Fiestas, got 6.5 million views and Ford's racked up over 6,000 pre-orders.
But it's not always easy to convince slow-moving suits to be daring in the digital world. For the most part, says the 30-year-old Dignan, peeling an orange on the floor of their sleek SoHo office, companies will be like, "OK, we've got our corporate Facebook page, we've got this shit unlocked." But the Undercurrent crew (many of whom could easily be cast in Noah Baumbach's latest film) are "fighting for what's right," as Dignan puts it, and having fun in the process. "We mix play into our serious work, and that creativity is actually what the companies sort of pay us for."
In 2007, Dignan and Spear founded Undercurrent in Boulder with their third partner Rob Schuham, who is still based there. In New York, they can connect with other local Internet innovators, like their good friends at Foursquare. "We were experimenting with [Foursquare] right off the bat, figuring out how clients could benefit. There's a lot more going on than just Twitter and Facebook," says Dignan. Spear, who travels the world for speaking engagements as well as to research the future of digital media, agrees. "Last week I was with a very high-powered person in a political position and he asked, 'What do you think the Internet's going to hold in the next fifteen years?' And my answer was, 'I don't know, but you ain't seen nothing yet.'" WHITNEY SPANER