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Firstborn, the friendly New York digital agency with a “no-diva” policy

Pic­ture this: you’ve got a brand new job as a busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er at a dig­i­tal agency and you’re rear­ing to go. But while you’re keen to start dri­ving those online adver­tis­ing sales, you feel just a bit like the new kid arriv­ing at school, wor­ried about eat­ing lunch on your own. If you land­ed your job at New York dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing agency First­born, that feel­ing won’t last long as the firm goes out of its way to wel­come newcomers.

Fam­i­ly warmth 

Found­ed by Michael Fer­d­man (now its CEO) back in 1997, First­born has chalked up an impres­sive list of clients over the years, amongst them super­star celebri­ties like Madon­na, for whom it made a dig­i­tal ver­sion of her album “Music”. Cur­rent­ly, the ros­ter includes big names like Under Armour, Moun­tain Dew and Aflac, and a few weeks back it cre­at­ed a con­tent-dri­ven web­site for A‑list fash­ion design­er Tory Burch (the site streamed the New York Fash­ion Week event).

Fer­d­man decid­ed to sell the com­pa­ny to Dentsu in 2011, and moved it and its 90 staff to the majes­tic AT&T build­ing in low­er Man­hat­tan, where it shares stu­dio space with its New York dig­i­tal neigh­bor, 360i.

The wel­com­ing atmos­phere is evi­dent from what the agency’s pres­i­dent, Dan LaCivi­ta, describes as the firm’s “fam­i­ly pho­tos” adorn­ing the walls, most of them buoy­ant­ly hap­py snaps of employ­ees enjoy­ing year­ly hol­i­day par­ties at Peter Luger Steak­house or skat­ing on ice.

No divas 

Describ­ing the wel­com­ing approach to new­com­ers, LaCivi­ta says:

“If you’re a new­ly hired design­er, your cre­ative direc­tor will hand-write you a post­card and send it in the mail. And on that post­card is a web­site that’s inte­grat­ed with Google Maps that’s sort of like a ‘Wel­come to New York City’ map. And we include our favorite First­born spots, so that peo­ple already feel includ­ed with­in the cul­ture when they get here.”

Egos are to be left at the door in this agency. As LaCivi­ta puts it:

“There’s a no-diva pol­i­cy here. It’s obvi­ous with­in the first week, and there’s absolute­ly no room for it here. The peo­ple who’ve been most suc­cess­ful here have a lit­tle bit of that entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it in them. Even though we’ve been around for 17 years, it’s very much a self-starter place. There’s an incred­i­ble amount of sup­port, and very lit­tle hand-holding.”

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