Q+A: Karen Auster, Auster Agency

As an experiential marketing agency, Auster Agency has provided both local and international clients with an array of services, from branding to event production. We sat down with the founder, Karen Auster, to hear more about the empowering and exciting work that they do.

Tell us a bit about Auster Agency and what makes it different from other marketing or event planning agencies.

We are a full-service experiential marketing agency. We create experiences to promote brands in real-time and provide all marketing and promotional support services for our clients. We concept, brand, design, produce, promote, as well as manage social media and digital campaigns. That’s one of the ways in which we are unique. We do everything in-house. We’ve been producing experiences for over 20 years, but with the changing tide in the marketplace and what marketing means in 2018, we provide all aspects of marketing, under one roof.

Could you talk about how you started Auster Agency and how you got here?

Once I had children, I decided I wanted to spend more time with my two greatest productions: my kids. A friend suggested that I produce a concert for her husband's newly formed kids band. That idea grew into a full-fledged event, Family Fest, located in a local park, and open to the entire community. From there, we created a series of concerts; the concerts became not just a great source of entertainment and fun but also grew into a forum for other marketing and sponsorship opportunities for local businesses. From there, Auster Agency took shape. The first year, we produced other concerts, then moved on to larger events like the Atlantic Antic.

In what ways has Auster Agency transformed over the past 20 years?

As an entrepreneur, staying nimble is crucial. We have wonderful clients and we pay close attention to their needs. We keep our fingers on the pulse of what people enjoy and create experiences that bring joy and love across every brand we represent. I travel around the world and explore how other cultures are experiencing public events and bring back new ideas to incorporate into our experiences. There are always new ways to touch an audience, and we are fortunate to get the opportunity to experiment with various interpretations of how a brand's messaging will be received in creative, fun ways.

You mentioned how it’s important for you to believe in the “message.” Could you tell us about a particular project that you’ve been invested in or loved producing?

15 or so years ago we were hired to create an event to showcase an idea of possibly building a park on the Brooklyn waterfront— Brooklyn Bridge Park. We called the event, “If You Build It, They Will Come.” It was public event and we invited the community to come to see the plan, even in the fledgling state, to gather feedback. Jump ahead to now, many years later, we were the team asked to launch the beautiful Domino Park in Williamsburg to the community. I loved producing both of these events, many years apart.

For me, traveling and exploring other cultures is one of my favorite ways to tap into what inspires me to produce unique experiences.

Karen Auster, Auster Agency

Where do you usually get your inspiration for these different projects?

I love to travel and as I mentioned, am fascinated with studying how people enjoy public space. Prior to the Domino Park launch, when we were creating the event, I was in Barcelona— Park Guell, specifically— and I observed musicians playing instruments throughout the park, I immediately thought that would be a great part of the programming. We called National Sawdust and worked with them to set up all sorts of fascinating musicians and instruments throughout the park.

For me, traveling and exploring other cultures is one of my favorite ways to tap into what inspires me to produce unique experiences.

What is your leadership philosophy and how does that reflect on the work culture of your all-female team?

We are a fast-paced and tight-knit team. On our team, I hope to serve as a mentor to each woman on our team. I have been fortunate and have had mentors, both male and female, that have assisted me on my journey. I want to pass that along and inspire others. I think it’s important to pay that forward. I also always encourage everyone to utilize their strength but also, to embrace their weaknesses. Myself included. I think that we’re all afraid of something and doing what you’re afraid of and embracing the uncomfortable is part of growing.

We also have team coaching which has enabled us to better communicate with one another. It's like “work therapy.” It provides a safe forum for us to all share how we are feeling so that we strive to have the best workplace. We continually ask one another “how can we do this better.” In a fast-paced field, being present and checking in with each other is important.

With your seven years in DUMBO, how has the neighborhood influenced Auster Agency?

We have grown with DUMBO. Years ago, people didn’t even know where DUMBO was. Now everyone loves to come to visit our office. DUMBO has a great vibe and the people that choose to work here, especially in this building, are fun and super interesting. And we love doing projects in and around our neighborhood. We launched 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, and it's fun to see the increasing number of tourists walking the waterfront.

What’s in store for the future of Auster Agency?

We’re doing projects all over the world now— not just in New York— up next, we have a new project in London.

People are craving authenticity. We want to create true experiences. Also, we are committed to giving back. “Doing good” is real. We’re producing a sustainable fashion exhibit at the Shops at Columbus Circle for young designers, with a focus on sustainable materials. We're excited that we get to promote sustainable fashion and educate the public on the new trends in fashion. We have also recently launched Well Being experiences, a series of exercise/conversations about health and wellness. Well Being is centered around real advice about do’s and don’ts to live your best life, complete with leading experts, mediation and yoga gurus and of course, delicious foods.

Finally, what are your favorite spots in Dumbo?

I love all of Brooklyn Bridge Park but Jane’s Carousel is my favorite— the story (did you know, a guy bought the carousel for his wife— how sweet), the restoration and the design of the building where it is housed. The entire project is beautiful. I’ve recently been enjoying Dumbo House as well— what a view!

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Brooklyn Bridge Park - 99 Plymouth Street 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Jane's Carousel