Wednesday, July 18, 2018
  • Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017
Love, Unity Among Prevalent Themes In Emmy-Nominated Spots
Ad Council's "Love Cam" from R/GA
Insights from creatives at R/GA, 72andSunny, mcgarrybowen and JohnXHannes
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Akin to last year’s primetime Emmy-winning “Love Has No Labels” for the Ad Council out of R/GA, the current field of nominated spots selected by TV Academy voters is largely marked by an inspiring sense of unity and purpose, underscoring the value placed on coming together and accentuating the positive during an era where divisiveness and alienation seem to be the dominant currency.

Front and center is R/GA’s ongoing “Love Has No Labels” campaign which yielded two pieces--”Love Cam” and “We Are America.” Each earned an Emmy nomination last week.

Rocky Morton of MJZ directed Ad Council’s “We Are America,” a three-and-a-half minute video which introduces us to a diverse mix of folks, underscoring that the country is blessed by a full spectrum of age, talents, sexual orientation, race, religion and gender. Featured in the piece is mega WWE wrestling star John Cena.

Floyd Russ from Tool of North America directed “Love Cam,” a piece which puts a twist on the traditional sports stadium jumbotron “kiss cam” by replacing it with an unbiased camera depicting positive expressions of love, unity, diversity and acceptance across race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability and age.

Chris Northam and Eric Jannon of R/GA served as group creative directors on the “Love Has No Labels” fare. They acknowledged that the task of “what comes next?” was a bit daunting after the signature “Labels” X-ray piece won the Emmy and became a global phenomenon with its message of inclusiveness. 

For Northam, the only way to move forward from that success was to stay true to the same underlying strategy, combating prejudice by “normalizing different kinds of love” through positive messaging, departing from other public service spots which too often resort to shock tactics and finger pointing. “We decided to just continue with an overwhelming celebration of different forms of love and unity.”

Like the original “Love Has No Labels” with different skeletal figures emerging from behind an X-ray machine, revealing who they were in real life and eliciting spontaneous reactions from an audience, “Love Cam” too was a live stunt. “You never know exactly what you’re going to get,” said Jannon. Set at Camping World Stadium--the NFL Pro Bowl venue in Orlando, Fla.--“Love Cam” saw R/GA tap into NFL Films and stadium crews to shoot audience members and project them onto the jumbotron screen. Another crew captured what Jannon described as the “beautiful moments” of fan reactions.

Northam said R/GA gravitated towards director Russ for the “authenticity, believability and honesty in his work” as well as the director’s ability to attain “a cinematic quality...This was a real event in a stadium but we also wanted it to be beautiful, a combination of reality and beauty.”

And beauty can sometimes evolve from ugly situations. Northam noted that filming of the Ad Council piece took place not long after the June 2016 terrorist attack/hate crime at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in which Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people, wounding 58 others. Appearing in “Love Cam” was a lesbian couple who is seen kissing--they were survivors of the onslaught at Pulse.

Both the original “Love Has No Labels” and “Love Cam” debuted on Valentine’s Day (in 2016 and 2017, respectively).

Departing from the live stunt genre was the much more scripted “We Are America,” also for the Ad Council, in which Cena defines patriotism as love of country, and in the case of the U.S., love of all Americans. Cena, who looks like he’s right out of an army recruitment film, initially asks us to describe the typical American. He then rattles off facts about the many different ethnicities, religions and orientations that make up our country as he walks through “any town” USA where a diversity of people is seen--from women to the disabled, Asian, gay, transgender, Muslim and so on. Cena again asks for a description of the so-called typical American, having given us food for thought as to what that person really looks like.

R/GA gravitated towards MJZ director Morton for “We Are America.” Northam cited Morton’s prowess spanning drama, comedy and testimonials, assessing that he was the ideal filmmaker to do justice to “powerful words by a powerful personality,” all the while juggling logistics which coordinated the appearance of extras in the background who corresponded to the different people just as Cena was talking about them during the course of his lengthy walk.

Northam and Jannon said they were both gratified by last year’s Emmy win and this year’s pair of nominations, crediting the resolve and sense of purpose of the people at R/GA, the agency’s production partners and perhaps most of all, the Ad Council for its deep trust in the collaborative process and its many collaborators. 

While Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD, AICP Show and the like are important, said Northam, “being recognized outside the confines of Madison Avenue is incredibly thrilling. It means we’re doing work that’s resonating with the public and finding a place in our culture. Shows like Better Call Saul are being recognized by the Television Academy and so are “select nominated commercials which interrupt that show and others.”

Jannon observed that the feedback he’s received for the Ad Council campaign is that “we need more messages of love.” Northam noted, though, that in a sense “it’s unfortunate that these films are so needed. The ultimate achievement would be that at some point we don’t need to do these films because we have become a tolerant, inclusive society.” Both Jannon and Northam can take some personal solace that their work, as affirmed by the TV Academy recognition, is at least helping to get us a little closer to that lofty goal. 

The sense of déjà vu from last year’s spot Emmy derby to the current competition isn’t confined to the R/GA fare. Also nominated this year is 72andSunny’s “Year in Search 2016” short for Google. This marks the second consecutive year that the Google year-in-review piece from 72andSunny has garnered a nomination.

Doing justice to 2016 entails weighing Google search data, taking stock of the year as reflected by content on the Internet, trying to discern a pattern or theme. “It felt like a heavy year at first. After the presidential election, it was painfully clear that we were more divided as a nation than ever,” said Matthew Curry, group creative director, 72andSunny. “Despite all of that, ultimately we found a lot of people searching for ways to help others and society at large. For example, after the shootings in Orlando [at the Pulse nightclub], people sought out how they could help, volunteering to donate blood. People were searching for ways to come together and driving it all was love. Ultimately most of us are seeking to do good.”

The Google piece had a sense of love and community that was evident in the Ad Council messages from R/GA. But unlike most work, observed Curry, the Google year in review is in a constant “beta state.” He explained, “We may have a theme or pattern identified, and then an event can change everything. It’s a Herculean effort to try to reflect the entire year. We have to start thinking about it in maybe September at which point we’re just nine months into the year. A lot can still happen. We have to be nimble, stay on the balls of our feet up to the moment we ship the spot. One new development can change the edit, the entire pacing of the film. Plus there are licensing considerations. Every single clip requires that we have to get clearance from a network, a person, whoever or whatever created that clip. We may not hear about clearance for several weeks only to finally learn we can’t use something. So you swap out a clip, and the entire rhythm of the edit is impacted. All the while we have to properly reflect the culture. We don’t have a director. We don’t have a script. We have to roll with the punches.”

Fortunately, said Curry, 72andSunny benefits from having a nimble in-house studio, Hecho en 72, which brought the year in review project to fruition. The Hecho en 72 team operates out of what Curry describes as “a war room,” filling its walls with images that reflect various aspects of the year in question. For 2016, editors were continually piecing different elements together, grappling with what music best accompanies those visuals, and of course chronicling the people who made a lasting impact. The latter arena includes an in memoriam section which this past year included Muhammad Ali, Prince and David Bowie. “We’re simply trying to find the meaning of the year gone by--but it’s not that simple to do,” related Curry. “In ways, we’re creating a time capsule. It will be interesting to look back years from now on each Google year in review to see how we’ve progressed over time.”

With the Google/72andSunny look back on the year again earning an Emmy nomination, Curry noted, “As an agency we constantly push for work and ideas that impact culture.  To be considered for an award outside of the ad industry feels like our concept has gone further, reaching more people, serving as a bit of validation that we are somehow managing to impact culture in a meaningful way.”

Marianne Besch, managing director/executive creative director of mcgarrybowen, San Francisco, has seen her passion project--”Why I March,” a Gathering For Justice PSA which promoted the historic Women’s March--go on to earn an Emmy nomination.

Directed by Nanette Burstein of Hungry Man, the piece features celebs (Garcelle Beauvais, Jennifer Esposito, Zoey Deutch, Chelsea Handler,  Gugu Mbathu-Raw, Frida Pinto, Melissa Rauch, Sarah Rue, Jean Smart, Milana Vayntrub) and others who explain what drives them to participate in the then upcoming Women’s March (which took place in 370 locations worldwide in January 21, 2017). The PSA was created to help boost attendance at the various marches which were designed to sense a message of solidarity and unity about women’s rights to society at large and more specifically, the then brand new Trump administration.

Besch and Teresa Herd, VP/global creative director for Intel, took the initiative to support the Women’s March, assembling a team of contributors who brought the PSA to fruition. Besch said of director Burstein, “She is so intuitive when it comes to getting the right performance, when to ask the right questions, when to have a reflective pause, to wait for a heartfelt response. She gets people engaged and brings out their passion--not in a heavy-handed way but in a way that expresses true emotion. She has a true gift. Her documentary work is astounding.”

Besch first met Burstein at a Hungry Man Xmas party in Los Angeles back in December. Besch pitched the idea of a Women’s March PSA to the director who immediately embraced it. An all-female crew was brought together, with Hungry Man offering full support.

From her experience on “Why I March” at mcgarrybowen, Besch said she learned that “if people care enough about something, they stand up and want to participate. We can all be united on something like the Women’s March, one of the biggest organized marches ever. The way that everybody came together made me feel like we can do anything. In the case of the march, this came at a time when our voices needed to be heard.”

The fact that the TV Academy heard that message loud and clear, continued Besch, is especially gratifying. “In advertising, you try to get a message out to the world. You try to get people to think about something differently--whether it be a cause or a brand. Maybe it’s something they hadn’t thought about before. To do ‘Why I March’ for a cause so important and to have it recognized with an Emmy nomination is wonderful.”

Whereas “Why I March,” “Year in Search 2016,” “Love Cam” and “We Are America” share a common bond spanning love, sense of purpose and unity, the remaining Emmy nominated spot this year, Squarespace’s “Calling” from New York-based creative collective JohnXHannes took a different path--one of humor, which is also sorely needed in today’s challenging times.

Miles Jay of Smuggler directed the Squarespace commercial which aired during this year’s Super Bowl. In the ad, actor Malkovich is in his fashion design studio talking on the phone to someone who has already claimed the domain name This raises the question of who is being John Malkovich as the famous thespian tries to convince the other Malkovich to give him back his “rightful” domain name.

JohnXHannes founders and executive creative directors John McKelvey and Hannes Ciatti shared some backstory on the Malkovich piece. Ciatti related, “Squarespace was one of our first big clients as a creative business and we built their new global brand platform ‘Make You Next Move’--part of this was a partnership with John Malkovich to launch his fashion label in Paris. After we learned how invested John was as a real fashion designer, we wanted to tell an authentic story for him. We had several meetings with him in New Orleans. One of the stories that came out of our interview sessions was that someone took his domain and was selling under his name. When we heard this we thought this is literally too brilliant. Squarespace just started selling domains that year. So we wrote two scripts and convinced Squarespace to consider another Super Bowl ad to tell everyone to ‘Get Your Domain Before It’s Gone.’”

McKelvey recalled, “We had just left jobs to launch our startup creative endeavor and wanted to make our first work as good as we could. To get closer to talent, production and to integrate brand partnerships with entertainment in better, more modern ways was our goal. It was a great start working with John Malkovich, and a little serendipity in creating a campaign all about entrepreneurs taking their first step. We created Squarespace’s new global creative platform: ‘Make Your Next Move,’ a platform for entrepreneurs to pursue their passions. It was an absolute privilege working with John Malkovich.”

Relative to the production and the selection of the director, Ciatti said, “Our creative model is based on less talking and more making--getting closer to production and not having our production partners that we value, pitch last minute on projects. We want to go on a journey with them to get to better work and both sides being invested in the outcome. We partnered up early for this project and several other Squarespace projects with Smuggler--we have a good relationship with the owners Patrick [Milling Smith] and Brian [Carmody]. They recommended Miles as an up-and-coming young director they wanted to invest in. The piece started off as a beautiful sincere and true story about John’s fashion journey in Paris. Miles’ reel consists of beautiful filmmaking and he was very eager and worked incredibly hard on this. The ‘Calling John Malkovich’ film came out of a true story of John’s and we attached the comedy Super Bowl piece to the long format film shot in Paris.”

McKelvey described the Emmy nomination as being “a great honor--the first for JohnXHannes New York and we are grateful for the recognition for everyone else that worked on it. Filmmaking is a collaboration that requires everyone’s best effort to be special.”

Ciatti added, “The Emmys are a huge honor. Not only does my mom know about them but it also shows how our creative industry is evolving. The lines between entertainment and commercials have blurred, with brands now understanding the need of giving consumers more. A major reason why we started JohnXHannes is to further explore these new ways of creative thinking in the entertainment space, and to form mutually beneficial partnerships between cultural influencers and brands. John Malkovich as a fashion designer and Squarespace are one example. To be nominated for an Emmy award in the first year of JohnXHannes’ existence is a good sign that we’re heading in the right direction.”

This is the 10th installment of a 15-part series of feature stories that explores the field of Emmy contenders spanning such disciplines as directing, cinematography, producing, editing, music, animation, visual effects and production design. The series will then be followed up by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies on September 9 and 10, and the primetime Emmy Awards live telecast on September 17.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Ad Council/Love Has No Labels Agency R/GA Nick Law, vice chairman, global chief creative officer; Chris Northam, Eric Jannon, group executive creative directors; Chris Joakim, Mike Donaghey, creative directors; Alberto Portas, Alfredo Adan, creatives; Daniel Diez, EVP, global chief marketing officer; Cindy Pound, executive production director; Jeff Skutnik, executive producer; Kat Friis, executive production director, content studio; Ashlye Vaughan, sr. content producer; Dylan Viner, group director, strategy; Dave Surgan, strategy director; Amy McEwan, strategist. Production Tool of North America Floyd Russ, director; Gregory Wilson, DP; Elyciphus Siler, line producer; Sarah Di Leo, Nancy Hacohen, exec producers.  Editorial Cut+Run Robert Ryang, editor; Dan Gutterman, assistant editor; Ivannah Flores, producer; Lauren Hertzberg, exec producer. Color The Mill NY Damien Van Der Cruyssen, colorist; Natalie Westerfield, color producer. VFX Cut+Run Joseph Grosso, lead artist; Matt Dolven, 2nd lead; Ivannah Flores, Wendy Garner, post producers. Audio Nylon Studios Rob Ballingal, sound mixer; Halle Petro, producer; Christina Carlo, exec producer.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Ad Council Agency R/GA Nick Law, global chief creative officer; Eric Jannon, Chris Northam, group executive creative directors; Thomas Darlow, Rene Van Wonderen, Lucia Orlandi, associate creative directors; Bethany Kennedy, sr. visual designer; Ria McIlwraith, designer; Tessa Ndiaye, experience designer; Emily Uram, jr. art director; Lukas Pearson, jr. copywriter; Cindy Pound, executive production director; Jeff Skutnik, executive campaign producer; Lucas Dennison, digital producer; Kat Friis, executive production director, content; Leanne Diamond, post producer; Ashlye Vaughan, sr. content producer. Production MJZ Rocky Morton, director; Emma Wilcockson, exec producer; Larry Shure, line producer; David Lanzeberg, DP. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Dan de Winter, editor. Original Music Human Phillip Glass, composer. Music Supervision wool and tusk Audio Post Nylon Studios David Robertson, mixer. Postproduction Nice Shoes Chris Ryan, colorist; Jason Farber, Flame artist.


Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Google Agency 72andSunny Matt Murphy, executive creative director; Matthew Curry, group creative director; Adam Szajgin, creative director/writer; Nuno Ferreira, creative director/designer; Aron Fried, sr. writer; Jessica Lasher, Natalie Seitz, designers; Reilly Baker, writer; Bryan Smith, director of strategy; Carl Mueller, strategy director; Angelo Mazzamuto, group film director; Helena Yueh, film producer; Adrian Womack, film production coordinator; Thomas Dawson, sr. interactive producer; Melissa Harris, sr. art producer. LICENSING Matthew Holskin, principal licensing manager; Natalie Tjandra, licensing coordinator. Editorial & Finishing Hecho en 72 Aaron Leichter, film editor; Patrick Nugent, lead assistant editor; Ted Stanley, Gary Burns, additional assistant editors; Chris O'neill, lead motion graphics animator; Billy Koak, Emnet Mulugeta, additional motion graphic artists; Stefan Smith, Paul Heagney, Christopher Moore, Max Harris, Dave Levine, Flame operators; Noah Duesterberg-Chavez, VFX assistant; Ben Looram, VFX supervisor; Lauren Coffin, Shelby Wong, VFX producers; Nathan Rotmensz, executive producer; Ryan Curtis, post producer; David Yoon, post coordinator. Audio Mix Jeff Fuller, audio engineer; Jesse Herrera, assistant audio engineer; Whitney Fromholtz, audio producer.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Gathering For Justice Inc.  Agency  Intel and mcgarrybowen, San Francisco Teresa Herd, VP/global creative director, Intel; Marianne Besch, managing director, executive creative director, mcgarrybowen; Katelyn Andree, MacKenzie Dunsmoor, Amber Justic, Laura Lapham, creatives; Stacy Kay, executive producer; Jerry Krenach, managing director, global music. Production Hungry Man Nanette Burstein, director; Kevin Byrne, managing partner/exec producer; Julie Kopitsky, head of production, NY/producer; Amy Vincent, DP. Editorial Union Editorial Sloane Klevin, editor; Caryn Maclean, exec producer; Lauren Hafner Addison, producer. Audio Sonic Union Brian Goodheart, mixer; Justine Cortale, studio director. Color The Mill LA Thatcher Peterson, exec producer, color; Diane Valera, producer. Music Track “Don’t Forget To Breathe” Daniel Nigro, composer; Heavy Duty Projects, artist/produced by. Performers/Celebrity Talent Garcelle Beauvais, Jennifer Esposito, Zoey Deutch, Chelsea Handler, Gugu Mbathu-Raw, Frida Pinto, Melissa Rauch, Sarah Rue, Jean Smart, Milana Vayntrub.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Squarespace Agency JohnXHannes New York John McKelvey, Hannes Ciatti, executive creative directors; Kristine Ling, executive producer; Conor Hagan, sr. art director; Matt McCarron, sr. copywriter. Production Smuggler Miles Jay, director; Allison Kunzman, Patrick Milling-Smith, Brian Carmody, exec producers; Chayse Irvin, DP; Carly Reddin, production designer; Jurgen Doering, stylist. Production Services Premiere Heure, Paris. Catherine Guillot, Parisian producer; Alex Orlovsky, U.S. line producer. Editorial NO6 Chan Hatcher, editor; Kenneth Larkin, Randy Baublis, assistant editors; Carr Schilling, managing director; Malia Rose, Michelle Dorsch, producers. VFX NO7 Verdi Sevenhuysen, VFX artist. Audio Post Formosa John Bolen, mixer; Lauren Cascio, exec producer. Color Company 3 Tom Poole, colorist; Clare Movshon, producer.