Erin Jurew of Cadre on doing significant things with slender resources

Cadre is one of five shortlisted nominees for New Agency of the Year in the 2014 net Awards. We spoke to managing director Erin Jurew about some of their most significant work this year, and their rapid expansion.

Tell us about some work you're proud of.

Guy Carpenter & Co. helps insurance companies cover the risks they take on. The field is visually sterile and deeply technical – too technical for many of the CEOs that Carpenter wanted as strategic consulting clients.

The site we developed is visually interesting and accessible to the firm’s increasingly mobile prospects, winning “Best in Class” at the Interactive Media Awards. Most of all, it makes the value of Carpenter’s know-how plain to C-Suite prospects. Within weeks of launch, our clients were repurposing our work in their ad campaigns, collateral, and industry events around the world. was the first fully responsive site among the seven Marsh & McLennan companies, and the first built on the Adobe CQ platform, which enables MMC people anywhere to maintain content and share assets. Cadre is now helping other Marsh & McLennan companies make the most of the taxonomy and components we created for Carpenter: a big deal because the parent firm is aiming for more collaboration among its operating units.

People love to shop at Boolchand’s in the Caribbean, even though they can often buy the same camera or watch at home. It’s the place and the sense of discovery that make this company the region’s leading retailer. And it’s the Boolchand family’s story that makes it unique.
We infused the Boolchand’s brand with this story and reconceived the website as part of the traveler’s journey, placing rich imagery—of place and product—front-and-center. No one would confuse with Amazon or a hundred other online stores. It’s a place to explore, seek, and find items that are just a little more special because they were discovered and not simply sold. We’re proud of this work because it reflects what we believe about brands: That it’s not the thing that matters, it’s the story.

We were thrilled to help the New York City Economic Development Corporation launch a competition for the best ways to improve opportunities for low-wage workers. Urban entrepreneurs typically do more workforce development than big corporations, and we designed the New York City Business Innovation Challenge to capture their very best ideas and spread them citywide.

A digital slam. We created a brand identity for the contest and then turned our developers loose. Email blasts primed the pump for a website that served as the competition’s hub; motion graphics video informed and inspired our entrants; a Twitter campaign stirred up their competitive juices, while the Facebook page kept everyone up to date through each round of competition. The winning ideas are now being rolled out across NYC companies, helping business owners – and their workers – succeed as never before

Tell us your story. How did you get started?

We started as the marketing arm of a unique company that provided growth strategy consulting and capital to urban small businesses and nonprofits. We’d come from diverse backgrounds, at major agencies and start-ups, digital shops and design firms, to work in this crucible with urban business owners and social entrepreneurs.

Operating in this environment taught us how to solve the business challenge behind the marketing assignment, how to be truly media-agnostic, and how to do significant things with slender resources. Before long, our work started catching the attention of major corporations – and we decided to go out on our own as a full-service agency, bringing these unique skills with us.

What has happened over the last year?

We’ve moved three times. We’re the Bedouin of Lower Manhattan. It’s good because we keep needing more space for more business. It’s scary because we feel like we’re juggling bowling balls on a high wire. Why we like it this much is anyone’s guess.

Do you have any special philosophies that drive your working practices and company culture?

Minimizing philosophy. No kidding. We’re practical people. We don’t turn projects like creating a brand identity into a religion. Doing work that matters. Most brand impressions are fleeting or inconsequential. We try to build branded assets for our clients.

Things that matter. Or last. Or both.

Think, think, work. We think enormously hard about the problem before we pick up our tools. Like carpenters say, “Measure twice, cut once.”

What sets you apart from the rest?

Cohesion. That’s why we chose the name Cadre. We’re a small, tight, skilled team that accomplishes big things because everybody’s on the sharp end of the work. Clients are often surprised that strategy, design, message, and digital development are so seamless here. It’s not because we make them work together, it’s because we work together.

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Tanya Combrinck

Tanya is a writer covering art, design, and visual effects. She has 16 years of experience as a magazine journalist and has written for numerous publications including 3D World, 3D Artist, ImagineFX, Computer Arts, net magazine, and Creative Bloq. For Creative Bloq, she mostly writes about web design, including the hottest new tools, as well as 3D artwork and VFX.