After forming a partnership two years ago, Laspata DeCaro and DCC (Digital Color Concepts) have spawned a “separate division” aimed at offering a comprehensive, one-stop-shop for fashion brands and retailers. The new entity, “Btwn 5th & 6th,” provides “an amalgam of each company’s respective capabilities,” noted Charles DeCaro, creative director at Laspata DeCaro.
Laspata DeCaro, whose partners include DeCaro, Rocco Laspata, Don Terwilliger and Stephen Pandolfi, is renown in the fashion industry as a full-service advertising and branding agency that offers creative development, photography and art direction as well as brand identity, packaging, web design, video direction and production, and media buying, among other services.
“In addition to the fashion, beauty and accessories sectors, we’ve enjoyed the challenge of branding for a diverse roster of categories including music, publishing, film, TV, residential and home furnishings,” DeCaro told WWD.
For its part, DCC is a fully integrated graphics company specializing in “retouching, large format, offset, digital printing, finishing and installation,” DeCaro noted, adding that for more than three decades “DCC has been providing high-quality products to the luxury brand market from direct-mail brochures to diverse large-format installations.”
Here, DeCaro discusses Btwn 5th & 6th, its offerings and how the COVID-19 is redefining how brands and retailers engage in marketing.
WWD: What was the intent behind forming Btwn 5th & 6th?
Charles DeCaro: At the risk of sounding cliché, the premise is simple: A “One Stop Shop.” Developing the business plan was a work in progress for the better part of two years. And during our sheltering in place, we had the luxury of time to further define and fine-tune the Btwn 5th & 6th paradigm with our DCC partners.
Although the genesis of the concept was born well in advance of masks and disposable gloves being the “It” accessories, the timing of the introduction of Btwn 5th & 6th has taken on a residual unanticipated relevance.
Both Laspata DeCaro and DCC are mutually respected within the industry for the caliber of work they produce. Unlike a cookie-cutter production factory churning out the expected, Btwn 5th & 6th with its allied ensemble of dedicated professionals, will deliver inspired, thought-provoking content. The creative process will be streamlined. The cost savings will be beneficial. The quality of work and the integrity of a respective brand message will not be compromised.
Btwn 5th and 6th is made up of a vertically integrated team of professionals who collaborates to deliver insightful ideas and provocative work to clients. It is committed to providing the highest standard of excellence in the field of creative image making and activation.
It’s important to note that both companies have had a solid working relationship for more than 20 years, so the alliance of combining the services of Laspata DeCaro and DCC into Btwn 5th & 6th was seamless. With this partnership, Btwn 5th and 6th has the ability to provide the finest level of quality marketing from inception through completion.
WWD: How will clients benefit? And how is the new firm structured to meet the demands of your clients?
C.D.: The main objective of Btwn 5th & 6th is providing cost efficiency, less bureaucracy and more agility in delivering a client’s brand message without compromising the quality and integrity of the brand. It’s all in house, and one group can do it all. Saving precious time and money are the fundamental benefits for clients.
Whether it’s creating original content or repurposing existing assets with a fresh point of view, the culture of Btwn 5th & 6th is positioned to simplify the creative process. With all services housed under one roof, Btwn 5th & 6th presents a convenient alternative for clients and eliminates the need of visiting multiple vendors. This alone relieves huge amounts of time and Uber rides in expediting activation.
Staying on budget is vital to clients — always has been — but more now than ever. Since all services are provided under the Btwn 5th & 6th umbrella, we as a company are able to avoid multiple mark-ups at each stage of the production. Btwn 5th & 6th helps clients streamline and simplify the process while leveraging expenses.
With so many brands forced to furlough or disband their in-house marketing teams, Btwn 5th & 6th provides services that may now be missing in the marketing equation. Clients are able to choose from a menu of services designed to suit their requirements — be it for a project or something more comprehensive.
WWD: In the context of the current pandemic, what should brands and retailers be focusing on in regard to branding, messaging and advertising?
C.D.: We’re all experiencing reality overload right now. We turn on the TV and news of a water main break or self-deprecating insurance commercials are a welcome diversion from the 24/7 pandemic coverage.
We believe an emotional narrative with elements of fantasy and escape is what will resonate with the consumer. The song “Happy Days Are Here Again” was popularized during The Great Depression. Perhaps as marketers, our communications strategy is in part inspired by the tenet: past is prologue.
Brands must also impart substantive messaging. To be perfectly transparent, for the most part, fashion advertising has become too forgettable. A blur of mediocrity. It’s time for advertisers to dream again. To create memorable imagery with a visual narrative that provokes thought. As an agency, we have always believed in the power of storytelling.
In the short term, until social-distancing mandates are relaxed, all iterations of technology will play an important role in the communications strategy. We as marketers must find innovative ways to convey a brand’s message in the absence of hopping on a plane (with carbon footprint guilt) to an exotic location with excess baggage.
Some may say that “desperate times call for desperate measures,” but on the flip side, challenging times challenge the imagination and inspires new ways of “coloring outside the lines.”
WWD: How do you see the impact of COVID-19 impacting the future of fashion, beauty and luxury segments?
C.D.: Our crystal balls are all somewhat cloudy these days. Barring a vaccine or proven therapeutic, until things start to open and the arsenal of scenarios as to what that means presents itself, it’s virtually impossible to gauge how the world will respond to this new abnormal.
We see the fashion, beauty and luxury segments not as a mutually exclusive sector but as part of a global community facing the same challenges and uncertainty. We’re all reading the same bad novel. When will the simple task of opening mail no longer require the hand sterilization technique a doctor performs in advance of open-heart surgery? When will we feel comfortable going to a Broadway show or a movie theatre or a restaurant — or a fashion show?
We’re of the cautiously optimistic mind-set that once we awaken from this nightmare, although our priorities will undoubtedly be altered, we’ll embrace what we took for granted. We’ll go to the theatre and see a movie. (Just hearing the word Netflix may give us palpitations.) We’ll eat in public again. (How much more Keto banana bread can we bake?) And we’ll shop!
Look, this may have taught us a lesson in more ways than one. Life is short — buy the bag already.
When the world begins emerging from lockdown, the fashion sector is going to be faced with promoting what is historically the two busiest seasons back to back: fall and holiday.
And while many events are being canceled or postponed, marketing communications — whether it be print, digital, out of home, on-site, point of sale, direct mail, social, etc. — will be needed to fill that void and serve as a counterbalance to a spring season that went MIA.
And as a new business model “for the present,” Btwn 5th & 6th is structured to deliver a client’s scope of work on time, on budget, and on-brand.