The dictionary definition of “alter ego” is as follows: “A person’s secondary or alternative personality; an intimate and trusted friend.”
For Heather Roymans and Justin Kanner, partners and directors at Silver Spring, Md.-based Image Factory DC, then IFDC and, as of Monday, AlterEgo, the term perfectly explained their relationship to each other and to their clients.
“When we started this four years ago, we were two creatives playing business people who served as each other’s alter egos,” said Kanner.
Roymans and Kanner ended up agency owners by saying yes to an opportunity they might not have created for themselves.
In 2011, Roymans was let go from Discovery Communications Inc. where she had worked as creative director for 16 years. Fairly quickly, she was recruited to be creative director at Image Factory DC. The agency had been doing a lot of post-production work for Discovery, which at that time was headquartered in Silver Spring but is in the process of permanently relocating to New York City.
After three months, the agency’s owner asked Roymans to run the company.
“I had always been on the client side of this client-vendor relationship. I still had quite a bit to learn about being on the post side,” Roymans said. “Collaboration is important to me so I was looking for a partner rather than being the full leader or full owner on my own.”
That’s where Kanner came in. He had started at Image Factory DC about six months earlier, and he had worked in post-production his entire life because his father ran his own post house.
“Justin was a rising star at the company. He quickly was becoming one of the most requested editors in town and he knew how to solve all of the problems in the shop —he was the go-to person,” said Roymans. Kanner became Roymans’ go-to person as well and for the next year and a half or so, they ran Image Factory DC together.
By then, the owner was ready to exit the business altogether and approached Roymans and Kanner with an offer: Would they want to buy Image Factory DC?
After spending some time hashing it out at local bar Sidebar (now Ethiopian restaurant Balagger), Roymans and Kanner decided to take the plunge. And even though it would take them four years to get the company exactly where they wanted it, the name was AlterEgo from the start.
“We always wanted the name to be AlterEgo,” said Roymans. “But first, we had to create our own company. With the change in leadership and the constant ongoing changes in the landscape, changing too much right away would not have been the right move. We didn’t want to be too disruptive especially as we were getting our footing as business managers. But we’ve always liked the name Alter Ego because it better reflects who we are. We are not a factory, we make custom work for our clients.”
The pair spent the next four years evolving Image Factory DC into an agency that did much more than cut trailers and do post-production. Now, as AlterEgo, the company is a “premiere creative content shop specializing in live-action production, sizzle and trailer editing and main-title design,” according to its new branding. As a team, AlterEgo is “creating the best work while having the best time” for an array of clients including Discovery and its expanding portfolio of networks, Nat Geo, OWN, PBS and non-entertainment brands such as Claritin, Audi, Toyota, Subaru and many more.
“As we’ve progressed through this four years, we have seen changes in our values, in our work, in our staff and in our clients. As we reached our four-year anniversary, we decided there was no other time but now to make the change to AlterEgo,” said Roymans.
As part of the rebrand, which included changing the name and the logo, Roymans hired Washington, D.C.-based branding consultancy Noetic, under the leadership of Nancie McDonnell Ruder, to help define the new company’s brand identity.
“We worked with Nancie on our creative brief, our brand pillars and our creative values,” said Roymans, “and then we wrote our brand story and developed our logo in-house under the leadership of our art director, Fabian Tejada.”
Besides a new name and new logo, the changes also include a new palette, and all of that is being updated online and across the company’s social platforms, including on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And Roymans and Kanner also refurbished AlterEgo’s offices in order to better reflect their new premium identity.
“Now it’s an inspired place that looks clean and high end. It was all about upping the level at which we work and being more luxury, refined and clean,” said Kanner.
It took Roymans and Kanner four years from the time they acquired Image Factory DC to fully evolve it into the agency they truly envisioned. On Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, they are unveiling that vision to the world.
“We finally feel like this is the company we always intended to start,” said Kanner. “We are in this because we love it and it’s not just for the money. The ceiling of one project is the floor of the next one. And we want that not just for us but for our staff, our clients and our friends in the industry.”