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Equity Office Daily Brief: February 6, 2017

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Daily Brief

February 06, 2017




Higher Jobless Rate Suggests Economy Has Room to Run

The Wall Street Journal


Despite brisk hiring, the U.S. unemployment rate rose in January and wages grew modestly, evidence for the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve that the economy has room to grow before it risks overheating. The backdrop of a steady but unspectacular labor...


Office Landlords Leverage Co-Working Style Designs to Retain Tenants

National Real Estate Investor


Inspired by Millennials, the collaborative office design is now popular across most industries and age groups. Office building landlords are now outfitting lobbies with amenities and creating indoor and outdoor spaces where building occupants can work, socialize and meet with each other...


What Sets L.A.'s Digital Domain Apart

Los Angeles Magazine


The butterfly effect is hard at work: In the summer of 2015, a rat drags a slice of pizza down a flight of stairs into a New York City subway station, step by careful step. Somewhere in Los Angeles, a company...


Evite RSVPs to a Downtown Future

Los Angeles Downtown News


DTLA - Downtowners were abuzz last October when Warner Music Group announced it would relocate from Burbank to a renovated Ford Factory Building in the Arts District. However, it is not the only big-name business ditching other communities for a future...


Here's what shoppers can expect at the massive new IKEA in Burbank

Orange County Register


A tour through the new IKEA in Burbank is like a trip through a Swedish home furnishings “Land of Oz.” Only there’s a seemingly endless series of white arrows instead of a yellow brick road.   Exactly one week before the store welcomes...




Industrial Is Only Heading Up, Up, Up


The industrial market is unstoppable. According to the recent Allen Matkins UCLA Anderson Forecast, which provides a three-year outlook of the industry, the industrial market has the most positive outlook among real estate professionals. In other sectors, namely office and multifamily,...


Middle Market Digest: This Week in Southwest


It was a big week for transactions, with several notable deals closing throughout Southern California. Companies also seem to be continuing on their hiring spree. Here are the deals that you may have missed from the Southwest this week. BY THE NUMBERS TUSCON,...


Big Things Happening in the Tri-Cities?


The Tri-Cities markets have been on fire, with more and more investors eyeing opportunities in the market. Now, Avison Young is rolling out an expansion in the market. The brokerage firm has tapped Chris Baer and Brian Hennessey for the office....


Owen Fileti of LA Realty Partners on tech's real estate takeover

The Real Deal


Last year was one for the Westside commercial real estate books, with five properties trading hands for more than $400 million a piece. It was also, accordingly, a busy year for Owen Fileti, the senior executive director at L.A. Realty Partners who...



Higher Jobless Rate Suggests Economy Has Room to Run

The Wall Street Journal


Despite brisk hiring, the U.S. unemployment rate rose in January and wages grew modestly, evidence for the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve that the economy has room to grow before it risks overheating.

The backdrop of a steady but unspectacular labor market is likely to keep the Fed cautious about raising interest rates and could prevent the central bank from colliding with President Donald Trump as he aims for faster economic growth.

Employers added 227,000 jobs last month, the biggest gain since September, the Labor Department said Friday. Job growth over the past three months averaged 183,000, in line with the trend earlier in 2016.

Still, the jobless rate rose to 4.8% in January from 4.7% a month earlier, as more Americans came off the sidelines and actively looked for work, pushing up the count of unemployed. In one sense that is a positive development, suggesting increased optimism about the prospects of eventually finding work.

Fed officials have said they believe the economy is near full employment, meaning the jobless rate is low enough to start driving up wages and inflation. But Friday’s report suggests the broader economy has room to run a little hotter before it produces higher inflation pressures that the Fed policy makers would need to tamp down. That means the era of very low interest rates might not be at an end.

“We’re a good ways down the road toward full employment, but we’re not quite there yet,” said Richard Moody, chief economist of Regions Financial Corp.

Those with jobs still aren’t seeing the big wage gains that characterized more prosperous economic expansions of the past. The average hourly paycheck grew just 3 cents over the month—and 2.5% over the year—despite millions of workers receiving raises under minimum-wage laws across 19 states at the start of the year. It is better, however, than the 2% rates that prevailed earlier in the expansion.

Beyond the modest wage growth, Mr. Moody pointed out that nearly 6 million Americans are working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs. That is about a million more than economists usually expect at full employment, Mr. Moody said. The average workweek of 34.4 hours is also relatively low. “There’s more slack than that headline unemployment number suggests,” he said.

Stocks rose sharply in part on investors’ hopes that the report will keep the Fed cautious about proceeding with interest-rate increases that could slow growth and hiring. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 186.55 points higher.

The central bank has penciled in three quarter-percentage-point increases in interest rates for 2017, depending on how the economy performs. Friday’s number makes a move at bank officials’ next meeting in March less likely, with traders in futures markets placing a 91% probability on the Fed keeping rates steady next month. If the bank does act three times this year, it might have to pack the moves into the second half of the year.

A slower-moving Fed potentially would be good news for Mr. Trump, who has said he hopes to achieve faster economic growth of 4%. The jobs numbers could also give him leverage in pushing for an infrastructure-spending plan and other measures to try to achieve his growth goal, which is roughly double the average rate of economic expansion since the recession. The economy grew 1.9% in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier.

Mr. Trump, who met with corporate CEOs on Friday to shape his economic agenda, said he was “happy” with the jobs numbers, which he called “big league.”

“We’re bringing jobs back,” he told reporters.

The data Friday showed weak job growth in a sector at the center of Mr. Trump’s economic plans: manufacturing. Factories added just 5,000 jobs last month, despite other signs that the sector is experiencing higher demand.

Some economists have argued that Mr. Trump’s goal of lifting growth to 4% would be too rapid, given the economy’s current capacity, and could ultimately require an intervention by the Fed, which might have to raise interest rates more quickly to prevent excessive inflation.

“The more aggressive fiscal policy is, the more aggressive the Fed will be,” said Nomura economist Mark Doms, former chief economist at the Commerce Department.

Quicker action on interest rates would ultimately prevent the economy from achieving Mr. Trump’s economic target. “If you have the Fed hitting the brakes really hard, he’s not going to get as much bang as he had hoped” for his economic plans, said Mr. Doms. The latest jobs data, with a higher unemployment rate and modest growth in wages, “may head off the collision” between the central bank and the president in the near term, he said.

Businesses, for their part, appear to have gained confidence in recent months, in part due to Mr. Trump’s pledge to reduce regulations but also because of a broader sense of economic stability. The long labor-market expansion has delivered jobs to millions of Americans who are in turn spending their money at retailers, car dealerships and restaurants.

“I’m knocking on my desk, on wood, it’s gone very well,” said Dennis Archer Jr. of business at Central Kitchen and Bar, a downtown Detroit restaurant he opened in 2015. He is benefiting from urban redevelopment, a trend seen in many cities across the U.S. As companies have slowly returned to central Detroit, younger workers are moving in from the suburbs and looking for places to eat lunch and dinner.

Mr. Archer is planning to open another restaurant and a lounge this year, and he expects soon to hire staff to run them. “I think that 2017 is going to be just as strong, if not stronger, than 2016,” he said. “My optimism is high to very high.”

But his business’s expansion also represents a disappointing aspect of the recovery: Many of the jobs being created are on the lower-paying end. Much of last month’s employment growth was concentrated in fields such as retail, hospitality, restaurants and health care.

A measure of underemployment—taking into account the jobless, part-time workers who can’t find full-time jobs, and Americans too discouraged to hunt for jobs—rose to 9.4% from 9.2% last month. January also saw a big increase in reluctant part-time workers.

-Josh Mitchell

Office Landlords Leverage Co-Working Style Designs to Retain Tenants

National Real Estate Investor


Inspired by Millennials, the collaborative office design is now popular across most industries and age groups. Office building landlords are now outfitting lobbies with amenities and creating indoor and outdoor spaces where building occupants can work, socialize and meet with each other or clients.

Office landlords are capitalizing on a concept originally conceived by co-working operators like WeWork, according to JLL National Research Director Julia Georgules. “The bottom line for employers occupying creative office space is they want to attract talent,” she says. But for landlords, enhancing common areas is becoming important to sustaining occupancy levels.

A 2016 Workplace Innovation Survey, administered by architecture and planning firm Gensler, revealed that the most innovative workers are twice as likely to have a choice about where and when they work and are twice as likely to use amenities such as cafeterias, coffee shops, outdoor spaces, gyms, restaurants and childcare facilities, according to Gensler architect Maria Martinico. She notes that landlords are improving office building lobbies with soft seating, wine and coffee bars and trying to create environments that provide an experience.

For example, owners of two suburban San Diego projects, which are located in neighborhoods with few nearby retail amenities, created on-site spaces that provide occupants with a unique experience. Cruzan utilized an Airstream trailer as a coffee bar, and Locale Advisors created an outdoor area configured to resemble a tree house.

The most desirable office buildings, however, are in located in areas that offer access to off-site retail amenities as well, according to Georgules. She cites Assembly Row, a transit-oriented, mixed-used development located on the waterfront in Somerville, Mass. That contains 1.6 million sq. ft. of build-to-suit office and lab space. The project’s office component offers shared indoor and outdoor spaces with amenities for the exclusive use of occupants, but is also surrounded by 500,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Similarly, The Ratkovich Co. has created a lobby hangout at its newly renovated 750,000–sq.-ft. office tower at The Bloc—so called because it occupies an entire city block—in downtown Los Angeles. Located within a short walk or transit stop from a plethora of new residential projects, this $421-million, 1.8-million-sq.-ft. mixed-use development transformed an old Macy’s-anchored mall into an open-air retail center.

The office tower’s new lobby features soft seating that extends onto a balcony that connects to the retail component. The management office doubles as a gathering space for building occupants, with a kitchen and seating area that includes a restaurant-style booths and bar that offers a keg of beer and coffee. A rooftop garden lounge, which is under construction, will provide occupants with an alternative work and meeting space, as well as a gathering space for socializing or hosting events. Gensler is also putting a rooftop lounge atop the mezzanine level.

When relocating to new areas, many companies look for locations with an office-residential space balance in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that provide affordable rents, nearby retail amenities and mass transit, says Tim Lee, vice president of corporate development and legal affairs with Los Angeles-based private real estate investment firm the Olive Hill Group. He added that the housing affordability factor is why so many firms from San Francisco are opening offices in downtown Seattle and Los Angeles.

-Patricia Kirk

What Sets L.A.'s Digital Domain Apart

Los Angeles Magazine


The butterfly effect is hard at work: In the summer of 2015, a rat drags a slice of pizza down a flight of stairs into a New York City subway station, step by careful step. Somewhere in Los Angeles, a company profits. This is not gentle wings begetting hurricanes. The rat and the pizza and the subway may have been in New York, but their images—the very soul of what became the popular #PizzaRat meme—floats in the IP heaven of L.A.’s Jukin Media, right beside Chewbacca Mom, a guy getting kicked in the head by a train conductor, and other collective memories as valuable as they are shareable.


Jukin scours YouTube for feel-good clips—cat videos, baby ducks eating soup, the dramatic but minor physical calamities that have populated America’s Funniest Home Videos for a generation. Then for a fee of hundreds or thousands of dollars split between the people who filmed them and the company, Jukin licenses the material to build viral videos that it pushes to morning-TV talk shows and publishing outfits like Hearst. “We’re looking for a particular piece of content, these magic moments that people are creating,” founder Jonathan Skogmo tells me. Jukin groups thematically similar clips on its YouTube channels (its “verticals”) and puts them together as TV shows that are aired internationally. The company focuses on universal content because it’s the most likely to go viral—and to be repackageable. From licensing to talk shows or commercial producers and selling to international cable distributors, Jukin squeezes every possible dollar from each clip. “How many ways can we skin that cat video?” Skogmo says, a summation that sounds to me like something he says often, which is fine and right for a decent bit of branding.

Skogmo came up with the idea for Jukin in 2005, when he was working at a TV show called Country Fried Home Videos. Going through piles of mailed VHS tapes in search of what wasn’t quite yet known as “content,” he realized that it might be easier to mine such things online. After discovering a trove of crotch hits and the like at a young site named YouTube, Skogmo was inspired to launch a business in his apartment in 2009 that eventually became Jukin, located these days in a neighborhood near Culver City—less than a mile from the Beats HQ and a five-minute walk to Maker Studios, an online child of Hollywood that manufactures shows and stars mostly for, yes, YouTube. YouTube, meanwhile, has its own production machine a few miles west, next to a 12-acre complex Google bought in Playa Vista to enlarge its already-noteworthy footprint in Silicon Beach, that loose brand we’ve stamped onto L.A.’s emergent tech sector.

Locally grown success stories include Hulu, Dollar Shave Club (sold to Unilever for $1 billion last year), automotive dealmaker TrueCar, gaming enterprises Activision and Riot Games, the twin-turbo hookup engines Tinder and Grindr, LegalZoom, Jessica Alba’s Honest Company, buzzy virtual reality projects, and less headline-sexy but more business-sexy entities like the online security firm TeleSign.


The billions of dollars in play and the cultural sway of tech have attracted the entertainment industry. Disney bought Maker Studios for north of half a billion dollars in 2014. Lionsgate, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks are looking at YouTube and its stars for future projects. Comedians like Reggie Watts are using VR to digitize the stand-up stage. In all sorts of ways the boundaries between L.A. industries are blurring. Video game studios borrow elements of filmmaking for their releases; Hollywood makes movies out of said games, borrowing back its techniques as we all hurtle toward a media singularity.

That glowing point on the horizon? It’s probably Venice’s Snapchat, which will reportedly go public sometime this spring as the more grown-up-sounding Snap Inc., a possibly $25 billion debut from a company that represents the stylishness, moving images, and fleeting newness that are in the region’s blood. At a more fundamental level, Snapchat is like other members of the L.A. tech sector in that it embodies content, commerce, and communication—what entrepreneur-financier Mark Suster refers to as the “three things you do on the internet. We buy stuff. We want to be entertained…and we want to reach out and touch other humans.” Suster is a general partner at Upfront Ventures, the biggest and oldest venture capital firm in the city. What really unites these companies is how they’re converting information into experience. That’s very Hollywood. That’s very L.A. Can you see it? It’s a log line on a movie poster: “Information IS Experience.” Starring everybody with a smartphone.


Suster sees the potential. He sees how tech and Hollywood will merge. “You have to accept that the future of the internet is a video platform,” he says. “That’s why the rise of video on Facebook. That’s why Twitter is investing so much in video. That’s why the rise of Snapchat. If you accept video is the future of the internet, then you have to accept that Los Angeles is going to be one of the core centers of the internet in the future, and I think that’s why Silicon Valley VC has spent so much time in Los Angeles.”


Like that rat, the history of the internet belongs in part to L.A. The first internet transmission was sent from UCLA to Stanford in 1969, and the companies that hatched the semiconductor industry, Fairchild and Intel, began with a Caltech grad named Gordon Moore. But those two corporations began in Northern California, putting the silicon in Silicon Valley.


Bill Gross is the creator of Idealab, a business devoted to starting start-ups. Gross points to the essential distinction between Up There and Down Here: Silicon Valley was founded on the infrastructure of the internet—the semiconductors, the routers, the hardware. L.A. has its history of aerospace and science resources, but it wasn’t responsible for making tech’s stuff. Gross, like Moore, came up at Caltech; he sold a couple of businesses in the ’80s and ’90s, including one that allowed search engines to monetize clicks, which Yahoo bought for $1.6 billion and which is part of the model that generates 90 percent of the revenues for Yahoo and other search giants like Google. Idealab has given life to 150 companies, 90 of which have survived; the first was Citysearch, a Yelp precursor Gross drummed up while trying to vet barbershops on a wedding trip to New York. It’s managed to hang on since 1995.


The L.A. tech sector was a lonely place for a while. E-commerce platforms like Ticketmaster launched, and the video gaming industry exploded during those early days, but then something came on the scene that promised to put L.A.’s finest products into your pocket. “The iPhone, which was apps and entertainment. Those both activated core talent in L.A.,” says Gross. Since then, “mobile” has become an essential part of modern life. “When you have 3 billion people spending 300 minutes a day doing something, what are we going to do? How they spend their time with that device, with that system—that’s what L.A. minds are good at figuring out,” he says. “That’s what the entertainment industry and these technical industries are great at figuring out.”


You see it in Maker Studios, which produces and distributes short personality-driven clips that owe as much to the self-focus of reality television as to the interactivity of social media. It’s what the kids are watching. (It’s what the kids are being.) Yahoo, Facebook, and Google have set up L.A. outposts not because they ran out of room Up There (though real estate is cheaper a few hundred miles below San Francisco) but because they want to tap into the talent Down Here.


That is what Suster has seen coming our way in his nearly 20 years as an entrepreneur and, since joining Upfront in 2007, an investor. Silver haired and sharp featured, he is as composed and businesslike as you’d expect a partner in a firm managing a billion dollars from its Santa Monica offices to be. So it’s delightful to hear him go off on how much he hates the “Silicon Beach” appellation. “It’s just dumb,” he says. “We don’t need a moniker. We’re Los Angeles. We’re the second-largest city in the country.”


One can get lost in all the places that have riffed on Silicon Valley: New York has Silicon Alley; Portland, the Silicon Forest; Phoenix, the Silicon Desert; San Jose and Austin both claim Silicon Gulch, while Philadelphia lays claim to Silicon Valley Forge and Virginia fans itself on the digital veranda of Silicon Plantation. Suster thinks “Silicon Beach” is not only a cliché but a misnomer. Where is everybody? “I’d say disproportionately they’re in Santa Monica right now and maybe a little bit in Venice, but you have a huge community of start-ups in Culver City,” he tells me. “Playa Vista is where everybody’s going once they acquire scale. You have a huge, growing community in downtown Los Angeles, and they’re building the commercial real estate to support that.” Tech is all over the city, “but in the early stage there’s probably a little more activity in Santa Monica than anywhere else.”




Indeed, the start-ups do gather along the shore before washing inland—hundreds of companies, from Gigmor, a “LinkedIn for musicians” in Santa Monica, south to “Uber for trucking” Cargomatic near the Venice fishing pier, then running out southeast along Abbot Kinney and down Lincoln, picking up again in clusters in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa, Redondo. Everything: video sites, data storage, record keeping, wine disruptors, marketing solutions, commerce sites, agile software, fixed-gear bicycles, bespoke pornography, mobility, and a bunch of other potential LinkedIns and Ubers for fields not yet dominated. The wave curves northeast from Santa Monica along Sunset Boulevard, spilling down Wilshire and along the 101 into the San Fernando Valley, pooling in the ancient industrial spaces of downtown and perpetually renewing in the technological reservoir of Pasadena. Eleven hundred start-ups—1,600 companies total when you consider investors, consultants, incubators, and accelerators.


The geographic spread of L.A.’s tech sector means less communication among the various nodes than you might observe Up There, but this may be better for the culture: It prevents a certain insular mind-set that can run rampant in the Bay Area. To be fair, it’s pretty geographically spread out Up There, too, but Up There is a monoculture. Business, civics, nightlife, and cost of living orbit the massively powerful tech industry. Tech employees (coders, marketers, and others) sort of work for one ur-corp. Everybody pays well, offers ridiculous benefits, and installs free cafés on odd-numbered floors. Up There people carry different badges and step off at different BART stops, but they’re always going to work at Tech.


Engineers provide the programming backbone of businesses that live on Web and mobile. Despite the “Silicon” spin-offs around the country, Silicon Valley has been their Hollywood—the primary driver and the place with the most sex appeal. The Bay Area flaunts its abundance; in case of failure, there are always other places in town to go, and they generally pay better than Down Here.


The irony is that many of the engineers receive their training in L.A. “We graduate more engineers than anywhere else in the country,” says Suster, “and we have more top-25 engineering universities in our greater vicinity than anywhere else in the country.” Local companies want to hire local engineers, but some founders tell me that they are frustrated by the northward suck of talent to better-paying, more prestigious jobs Up There.

Watch what’ll happen, though: The more businesses that originate in L.A., the safer the bet to stay in L.A. as their growing numbers make fertile ground for more businesses to form, and so on. It’s predicted to become a self-reinforcing system fed not just by the city’s engineers but by film schools at USC and UCLA that pump out a generation of filmmakers and producers who grew up on the Web (really, on the mobile Web) and who mint the new coin of the realm: video clips, the value of which is entirely determined by their shareability.


By most accounts L.A.’s tech sector will remain much smaller than the north’s. In a February 2016 CityLab report, urban studies theorist Richard Florida ranked the L.A.-Long Beach-Santa Ana area fifth in terms of venture capital investment, at nearly $1.7 billion. San Francisco (which Florida distinguishes from Silicon Valley) tops the list with almost $8.5 billion, followed by Silicon Valley’s $4.9 billion. Taken together, the Up There sphere commands 40 percent of the venture capital in the United States; Los Angeles has 5 percent of the pie. It may be no less comforting to read that while New York, D.C., Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Raleigh-Durham, and Austin tend to show up on the various lists ranking America’s top tech cities, L.A. appears only some of the time.


The relative lack of funding in L.A. tech does have an upside. “I think companies here have to be much wiser,” Idealab’s Bill Gross says. “When you start out with a little bit less capital, you’re scrappier, you’re more inventive, and you’re forced to respond to your audience better…because you have to pay attention to them.” Fewer resources restrict the profligate spending that has made Up There worthy of both admiration and parody.

Anton Reut, chief operating officer of El Segundo e-commerce site Onestop Internet, puts it another way: “L.A. is about revenue. That’s what the entrepreneurs drive to. That’s what they think about. In San Francisco it’s the opposite.… Revenue comes later.” Twelve years old—ancient by tech standards—Onestop was a small dot-com that found a niche handling online sales for clothing lines too busy to deal with the internet. You have Onestop to thank in part for the spread of high-end denim and the Von Dutch brand (think trucker hats and Ashton Kutcher).


It was among the first to connect L.A. trendsetting to a consumer audience. “The DNA of this market was ad-tech and e-commerce,” says Brian Garrett of Crosscut Ventures. Garrett points to things like “pre-bubble highfliers” (big spenders who imagined Web 1.0 would last forever) and “click arbitrage” (middlemen for online ad sales) as a way of explaining L.A.’s fiscal conservatism. “We’ve bred a culture here that’s avoided raising capital just to raise capital.”


Jim Andelman of Rincon Venture Partners says that after the dot-com crash, the cloud made it easier for new businesses to get off the ground. Companies like Twilio and Amazon Web Services take care of IT infrastructure so you don’t have to worry about where to put servers and an army of programmers. “It has to a large degree democratized start-ups. Back when I started 15 years ago, it was a scarce skill set,” he says. Now “the value shifts to satisfying customer needs.”

DogVacay is the start-up you wish you’d thought of. As adorable as it is lucrative, it’s a pet-sitting service that finds and vets sitters. Its Santa Monica offices are, not surprisingly, full of employees’ dogs. They wander around the high-ceilinged, open-plan space with the same brisk but unhurried purpose of the 80 or so humans at computers or in meetings in the Chow Chow Room. These dogs have places to go, though knee-high swinging doors foil their attempts to wander too widely. “Our product is not just a mobile app or a Web site,” says Aaron Hirschhorn, founder and CEO. “It’s end to end,” meaning the branding, the customer service, the entire operation is in-house. So it is that DogVacay controls and mediates the relationships between dog owners and dog sitters and, most likely, dogs, using Twitter and Snapchat to post pics and GIFs and links to DogVacay blog posts about taking pets glamping. (Most of the terms in the preceding sentence did not exist, say, five years ago.)


In a similar way Onestop handles branding for companies on social and has a studio to shoot Insta-gram-worthy pics. “It’s not just, here’s five views of a shoe,” says Reut.


Everything is becoming interactive. Even doorbells. James Siminoff made finding out who’s at the front door an experience with Ring, a wireless doorbell that connects to your smartphone. “These doorbells are really information-gathering devices that function obviously as your old doorbell did, but they’re also much more, with motion detection and the cloud services,” he says. “They allow you to really see, monitor, and be actionable about what’s happening in your neighborhood, and that can help reduce crime in the neighborhood if you have enough of them there.”


Ring doesn’t want to be a noisemaker and Onestop doesn’t want to be a catalog and DogVacay doesn’t want to be a kennel. Their business strategies are ascendant in tech and in media generally. Ventures like Dollar Shave Club (grooming), Honest (beauty products), and Thrive Market (groceries) want to build communities; social media interaction lets them understand their customers well enough to suggest they may even know them a little bit. They require a different relationship with customers—not as money spenders but as audience members and participants.

Nobody gets this better than an outfit that was in Silicon Beach before the “Silicon” arrived. At advertising giant Deutsch, which moved into Playa Vista in 1998, the place is littered with artifacts of successful campaigns for Taco Bell and Volkswagen—like that time when all the guys named Ronald McDonald ate tacos or when that Darth Vader kid used the Force to fire up the Jetta. Walking through the offices—open plan, of course, with a dog or three lolling on the poured-concrete floor—kindles an “Oh yeah” feeling of light nostalgia for moments in our shared consumer lives. It’s all pleasant, which suggests Deutsch is doing its job.


I sit in the glass-walled office of Mike Sheldon, who opened Deutsch’s L.A. office in the late ’90s. He’s looking neater than usual (he says) in a crisp button-up. Chief technology officer Pam Scheideler, a former head of production at Google Creative Lab, is casually dressed. Both are breezy and fluent as they pull data points out of I don’t know where. We talk about how companies must keep growing to stay afloat. With the DogVacays of the world handling their own branding, Deutsch, too, has to adapt to keep up. Not merely with TV ads but also events; also gamified Web sites; also, when Deutsch’s 48,000-square-foot production space, Steelhead, opens, music videos or commercials or whatever anyone with a need wants to use it for. Deutsch puts together the whole brand for a musician, say, tweets and all.


“The bar now is shareability,” says Sheldon.




“What people are looking for is engagement,” Scheideler adds. “And brands love engagement because it’s longer interaction, it builds loyalty, it pushes them. Again, there’s a lot of marketing science, and the more people engaged with the brands, the more likely they are to feel affinity for that.”


“Because it’s a constant interaction rather than ‘I need to buy a car at five or ten years’??” I ask.


“And we care so much more about brand behavior,” says Sheldon. “Particularly if you’re younger, you care about how they treat the environment and people and how they give back and how they source.”


“Those Gen Zers—they really care,” says Scheideler. “They care so much.” We nod, knowing, but not really.


Gen Zers helped make Snapchat the success that it is. If the company’s public debut goes as planned, it will produce billionaires and millionaires who, if other successful IPOs are any indication, will go off to birth their own projects in the area with hopes of mimicking Snapchat’s story. A social network, news service, fashion-forward camera company, and above all an Experience, the company arose only in 2011, offering users the ability to send photos and videos designed to evaporate—the very antithesis of the internet’s desire to hoard everything forever. Founder Evan Spiegel’s simple concept turned out to have surprising depth and nuance in the way it enabled users to communicate. Snapchat has also gone on to create a potentially sophisticated form of many-eyed, crowd-sourced news in its Live Stories. In this way the app has transformed from being a notorious teen peep show to being a notorious teen peep show with content. Even the NFL Channel has a Snapchat presence.


And unlike other social media companies, Snapchat released an actual product with its Spectacles, stylish glasses that film and upload ten-second clips of whatever the user’s looking at to his or her feed. Besides being universally celebrated since they came out in November—in sharp contrast to the dramatic misfire that was the nerdcentric Google Glass—Spectacles push us farther down the path to becoming walking, talking content. Everything information. Everything shareable.


And we’re back to YouTube. There’s content that ends up on YouTube (that’s the stuff Jukin devours) and content made for YouTube. Maker Studios is the latter. So is Defy Media, which, with its youth-focused channels, is a lot like any TV network. By using social media, says Defy Media CTO Chris Poe, you “cast a wider net and get more people watching your programming. It’s a more comprehensive play.… Developing the brand is the focus.”


Which has led to a proliferation of digital outlets. Santa Monica-based Whipclip loves TV and converts traditional broadcasts into easily digestible online form. Whipclip contracts with networks and uses its tech to break down episodes into shareable clips, which are sent to the news media for reviews and anywhere else people want to share. Whipclip then produces its own content around that content. Jeremy Reed, Whipclip’s head of programming, says, “The idea is, if you’re interested in TV and you want to be part of that large fandom conversation, that’s who we are. We want to create content around that.” So they make shows for people who love shows. Other companies have their own specializations. Tastemade is an online outlet for foodies. Machinima is for gamers and related geekdom. Mitú is, says cofounder and president Beatriz Acevedo, rolling out “content that is an authentic reflection of who Latino youth in America are.” On and on, an entertainment culture based on Hollywood but aimed at direct interaction with audiences, using better analytics. How will it improve upon the network model, even as cable TV’s mounds of unwatched channels push it toward obsolescence? “We guide our development process by analyzing all the insights that we get from every single piece of content that we publish,” says Acevedo. “What do people share most and why?”


Consider the range of content coming out of L.A.’s media hothouses: on the one hand, Jukin Media’s “Goat Makes Weird Noises”; on the other, Surgerytheater’s “How to Perform an Aortic Root Replacement.” Born from Hollywood, these “multichannel networks” combine data, user control, monetization, and a democratized form of entertainment that can be as basic as someone opening a package. YouTube has thousands of these unboxing videos, their creators doing a product striptease as they luxuriate in the unveiling. It’s a glimpse of a person having an intimate relationship with a brand. It’s consumer voyeurism.


One especially popular kind of unboxing video involves Loot Crate. Loot Crate is a purveyor of “mystery boxes,” surprises from the worlds of comics and gaming shipped monthly from its Lincoln Heights headquarters to 650,000 subscribers in 35 countries. When you break down what’s in the boxes—special collectibles, making-ofs, a magazine explaining the monthly haul—it seems interesting, but not necessarily the kind of interesting that landed the entity at the top of Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing companies last year. The secret of Loot Crate’s corporate value is in the look on those YouTubed faces. What specific thing is in the boxes doesn’t ultimately matter; the product is the experience. And we’re back to content, back to storytelling, back to Los Angeles. “If you only have 16 waking hours, you’re only gonna spend it with companies and content that produce compelling stuff,” says cofounder Chris Davis. “Things that are commoditized and transactional are fading. Things that invest in the experience will win.”

-Brandon Reynolds

Evite RSVPs to a Downtown Future

Los Angeles Downtown News


DTLA - Downtowners were abuzz last October when Warner Music Group announced it would relocate from Burbank to a renovated Ford Factory Building in the Arts District. However, it is not the only big-name business ditching other communities for a future in Downtown Los Angeles.

Last month, the electronic invitation and party planning company Evite formally opened an 18,800-square-foo

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