Digital marketing start-up is studio of ‘storytellers’

MILFORD >> Stephen Barrante and Ben Miller have brought a slice of Silicon Valley and a touch of Norwalk’s artsy SoNo district to downtown by choosing it as the location for their digital marketing start-up Atomic Kid Studios.

The pair, who know video games and all things digital as comfortably as most people turn on a television, are hired by companies to create promotional videos, brand video games, drone shots, logos, animation and anything digital, which these days includes a complicated back- door web of connections to the consumer.

“Our culture as a company is of children of the ’80s and pop culture nerds,” Barrante said.

Barrante, a city resident, started a freelance consulting business in 2012, and Miller, a Stratford resident who had his own company, Pollen Digital, joined forces a year ago to open the studio at 1 Schooner Lane. The two first met working in the industry years ago and became fast friends.

“We were fully capable of taking on the big jobs. When Ben and I merged, it solidified that,” Barrante said.

Barrante said that as marketing agencies were pulling back on video development, he saw a niche for that and his timing was right because now the technology is catching up with the tools for production, he said.

The business partners say they have such a steady stream of work and diverse client base, they’re ready to hire and expand.

Client Tori Pugliese Beebe, global public relations director of SteelSeries Global, a video game peripherals brand, said she’s “a big fan” of the company’s work.

“They have this amazing way of morphing your ideas into something even better or something you hadn’t thought about,” she said. “What’s also really critical for me is the type of versatility that Atomic Kid offers. They can execute content for quick-video productions, larger-scale video shoots and even graphic design work — if you want birds-eye drone footage of your event, snap, they can do it.”

Most of all, Barrante and Miller say, they’re storytellers. Although the end product is usually state-of-the-art digital, their work with clients starts with the most basic interview approach, by asking clients, “What’s the story you want to tell?”

The modern, sleek space Barrante, 40, and Miller, 34, share, reflects that ’80s kid atmosphere.

In the main area of their space, designed to creatively inspire them, is Nintendo, foosball, blueprints from the sets of “Star Wars” movies — and a pinball machine is soon to come.

There’s a cozy sitting area with a couch and big-screen television to review work with clients, and rather than a conference room, they meet with clients at a high wooden table in the center of it all.

Barrante is a huge “Back to the Future” fan and the name of their company comes from a marquee in the movie advertising “The Atomic Kid,” a Mickey Rooney science fiction/comedy flick from the 1950s.

Barrante’s office, awash in state of the art production equipment, includes poster of his favorite movie “The Fifth Element” with Bruce Willis; a Bobblehead collection, a “Star Wars” X-Wing he made out of Legos in his 30s.

Miller, who says, “Gaming is my passion,” has a huge poster over the black leather couch in his office of characters from “Final Fantasy,” his favorite video game, and a silhouette mural on a side wall done by his daughter, 16, of characters from the game.

The throw pillow on his couch is stitched with the words, “We’re all Mad Here.” Miller keeps the news running all day on a big screen television. He also has a smart device named, Alexa, who will turn on the lights upon voice command, play the Beatles or any other tune, and give him the weather and the answer to just about any other question, including, “How old is Donald Trump?”.

“We consider ourselves big kids,” Barrante said.

Each has a stock of fine scotch and other liquor in their offices because they have the tradition of having a drink when a new client signs.

Barrante is married to an interior designer, and Miller is married with two children, the daughter and a son, 4.

The men say they work well as partners because they have a similar work ethic, including: “You check your ego at the door. Pay attention to quality, detail,” Barrante said.

Miller said, “We build each other up and there is a culture of positivity.”