• Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021
Alkemy X expands VFX team with Nawsagare, Young
Brandon Young (l) and Abhijeet Nawsagare

Alkemy X has expanded its VFX team, bringing on Abhijeet Nawsagare as head of pipeline across all of its offices and Brandon Young as CG supervisor out of its Los Angeles office. Nawsagare unites a background in engineering with a passion for storytelling to cast an eye towards the future when creating, implementing and perfecting pipeline strategies for facilities and projects of all scopes and sizes. He has over 13 years of experience in the VFX industry, having spent three years with ILM as a part of the company’s pipeline team. Young has over 15 years of visual effects experience across television, film, advertising and gaming, working on series such as American Horror Story and The Walking Dead as well as effects-driven feature films including Thor and X-Men: First Class.

The hires come on the heels of a year of steady growth for the visual effects division, with work for such series as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fear the Walking Dead and Blindspot as well as features including In the Heights and the highly anticipated The Many Saints of Newark. Nawsagare and Young will join a lineup of VFX talent led by VFX supervisors Bilali Mack, Erin Nash, Jep Hill and Mike Kirylo.

“Viewers are hungrier than ever for fresh content. In meeting that need, we have seen massive growth in our VFX work. Abhijeet’s impressive background in pipeline development and optimization for such top companies as ILM, combined with Brandon’s episodic CG experience, will allow us to continue to embrace evolving technologies in the VFX industry,” noted Alkemy X president and CEO Justin Wineburgh.

Indian-born Nawsagare studied engineering in India, quickly adapting his technical background towards his creative inclinations when he made the move to the visual effects industry. Inspired by creative and technical challenges in his work, he has continually pursued opportunities that inspire problem-solving and call for him to adapt his skills into uncharted territory. Beginning his VFX career in India, he made his way to Vancouver in 2015 to work across optimizing pipeline solutions for larger-scale projects out of ScanlineFX before taking a role as sr. pipeline TD at ILM. Later stepping up to a sr. pipeline engineer role, Nawsagare was instrumental in a team working to architect and develop key pipeline elements to optimize the creation of VFX for the company’s notable IP, including the Star Wars franchise. He tackled the challenge of animation after three years with ILM, joining Atomic Cartoons, where he spent two years working across the company’s pipeline and R&D teams. Film credits include The Golden Compass, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Thor: Ragnarok.

Building on a lifelong passion for art and drawing, Young studied animation art and design at The Art Institutes before starting his visual effects career in gaming. He seamlessly transitioned his experience from game cinematics to VFX for select L.A. shops across film, television and advertising. He spent six years with Blur Studios working on a spectrum of projects, including in-game cinematics for titles including “Batman Arkman Knight,” “Elder Scrolls Online,” and “BioShock 2” as well as the opening sequence for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Prior to Alkemy X, Young worked as a freelance VFX artist in the Los Angeles area across a wide range of projects in entertainment and advertising.

  • Thursday, Jul. 1, 2021
David Leonardi promoted to chief creative officer for Hill Holliday Health
David Leonardi

Hill Holliday has promoted David Leonardi to chief creative officer of its health care practice, Hill Holliday Health.  He will be reporting into Icaro Doria, North American chief creative officer, Hill Holliday. This is one of Doria’s first executive moves, since joining Hill Holliday in January of 2021. Leonardi joined Hill Holliday Health as executive creative director in 2013 with over 15 years of experience on such consumer health brands as LIPITOR®, Prevacid®, SPIRIVA®, and LAP-BAND®.

“Over the past decade, our healthcare expertise has grown quietly yet tremendously, driving results for some of the biggest names in the industry,” said Doria. “David has been a huge part of that growth, I have full faith in his creative vision, his goals for further growth, and I look forward to working with him to create brave, ambitious, and culturally relevant ideas for our health clients going forward.”

Leonardi added, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Icaro--an amazing creative leader and person--to help him create the next chapter in Hill Holliday’s storied history. There’s an intangible quality and commitment with everyone here at Hill Holliday Health; our collective passion to help people is real. We use every ounce of that to create work that breaks through, builds client business and helps change—or even save—lives.” 

Hill Holliday Health has experienced impressive growth after launching its healthcare practice bringing on four new client companies and seven new brands in CNS, oncology, women’s healthcare, and ophthalmology.  Hill Holliday Health’s clients include J&J, Lundbeck, Regeneron, and Intra-Cellular Therapies.

  • Thursday, Jul. 1, 2021
Grant joins Avocados and Coconuts as creative director; King promoted to ECD
Michael Grant

Creative production agency Avocados and Coconuts has brought Michael Grant on board as creative director. Grant is best known for his wide-ranging work as a creative director and copywriter on TV, print, social, digital, and experiential projects for such brands as Pepsi, The North Face, Sun Valley, Trulia, Amazon, Muscle Milk, Google, and Square, among others. At Avocados and Coconuts, he will work closely with Amani King, who has been promoted to the role of executive creative director, and founder/executive producer Dalia Burde.

“Michael has long been our favorite writer to partner with when we’ve been lucky enough to book his freelance time, and he has contributed to many of our favorite projects,” said King. “We’ve always felt like he speaks our language, creatively, aesthetically, you could even say spiritually. He consistently expands our own view of the potential in a given project - and his creative insight honors the intelligence of the audience - which makes for the strongest work.”

Grant added, “Avocados and Coconuts makes beautiful films for companies that are doing important things in the world. Whether it’s renewable energy, improving working conditions in South America, or something simpler like the best cup of coffee or getting out into nature, the purpose and consciousness show in the work, and resonate with me personally.” 

Grant was most recently freelancing as an associate creative director and copywriter at various agencies and brands, including Godfrey Dadich, Huge, LinkedIn, Bonfire Labs, and Airbnb. Prior to that, he was associate creative director and sr. copywriter at Mekanism, where he worked on TV, web, and social campaigns. 

As a freelance writer, Grant has enjoyed stints at Autofuss, Google Brand Studio, Digitas, and B-Reel, working on a range of projects for Taco Bell, Ray-Ban, Intel, and others. Before that, he was on staff as a copywriter at West, where he led copy for a range of startups, and at Eleven, working on campaigns for Square, Sun Valley Tourism, Visa, and Coinstar.

Grant came into the ad industry through a non-traditional path. He worked for Warner Bros. Records as a guerrilla marketing rep while attending UC Berkeley, and after graduating he went full-on Hollywood as a stunt double for Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3. After filming wrapped, Grant’s foray into the ad world began at Evolution Bureau as a creative assistant, before transitioning to a copywriter role for clients, such as Nike Baseball, Tropicana, and adidas. 

Outside of work, Grant flexes his writing skills on personal book projects, with two titles currently in the works.

  • Tuesday, Jun. 29, 2021
Davianne Harris named chief client officer, head of DE&I at sparks & honey
Davianne Harris

sparks & honey, Omnicom’s (NYSE:OMC) cultural intelligence consultancy, has added Davianne Harris as chief client officer and head of the company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) practice. In this new dual role, Harris will be charged with overseeing the client strategy team, overseeing business transformation projects, and continuing to grow the consultancy’s DE&I practice. She will report directly to and work closely with founder and CEO Terry Young.

“There is a deep and genuine understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational to sparks & honey’s success, and the success of our clients moving forward. The only way to help clients and team members continue to grow is by dismantling systemic racism, so it made perfect sense to blend these roles,” said Young. “As a company, we have created a Diversity Operating System to authentically and purposefully implement work in this space, guiding our clients to do the same.”

Harris has spent the last 12 years building and leading strategy teams, tapping into the power of culture to drive impact for her clients, and partnering with global brands like Nike, Google, Vans, Coca-Cola, Target, Red Bull and Disney to future-proof their business and brand models. She joins sparks & honey from Oberland where she served as partner, head of strategy, a role she ascended into after just 10 months with the agency. In that role, she built out the strategy department, secured numerous new business wins for the agency, and led the launch of the agency’s DE&I program, OBER-CHANGE, designed to educate and drive action towards equity internally.

Her passion sits at the intersection of cultural insights, brand creativity and building systemic equity, which she will now use to manage client relationships while driving forward all client-facing DE&I initiatives at sparks & honey. She’ll be working with all of sparks & honey’s clients across different workstreams such as: business transformation, research & development, merger & acquisition strategy, C-suite insights & services, culturally resonant marketing & communications, as well as DE&I strategy.

“The events of the past year have brought us to an inflection point. Organizational growth now requires an investment in social change, and that begins with staying ahead of the cultural curve. As chief client officer, I will be partnering with business leaders to address complex challenges and drive sustained relevance while maximizing opportunities for organic growth,” said Harris. “I am thrilled to also be spearheading the growth of sparks & honey’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practice through the development of innovative frameworks and AI models which are critical to delivering systemic change.”

Harris has made major strides in her career and as an advocate for women, BIPOC individuals and the creative class. While at Oberland, she co-authored its inaugural 2021 Purpose Forecast, a report on how brands can integrate impact into the DNA of their work beyond 2020, and the Purpose Tracker, a live roundup of brand campaigns taking a stand for causes greater than themselves. Prior to that, she worked at CASSANDRA, where she led brand strategy and client services a portfolio of Fortune 500 brands.

Harris is also a board member of Family Promise, a nonprofit tackling family homelessness, and an advisory board member of Creator Force, an organization working to expand and diversify the creative class by offering education, inspiration and access to careers in creative fields. Earlier this year, she also joined CHIEF, a private network built to help get women into leadership positions and keep them there.

  • Monday, Jun. 28, 2021
Ben Downing named Havas Media Group's global managing director, ethical media & strategic partnerships
Ben Downing

Havas Media Group (HMG) has appointed Ben Downing as global managing director, ethical media and strategic partnerships. Based in London, he will report to global chief strategy officer Greg James. In this new role, Downing will support all markets in delivering against Havas’ Ethical Media Manifesto by further developing the agency’s best practices and products driving ethical investment. 

Over the last three years, Havas Media Group has consistently focused on understanding the powerful role media plays in people’s lives to ensure that meaningful brands create the best Media Experience [Mx]. Experiences that span various ethical dimensions as purposeful and ethical media play a significant role in Meaningful Media and input into [Mx]. 

Downing will work to develop partnerships with media owners, platforms, industry bodies and civil society groups to further the understanding and championing of Meaningful Media and input into [Mx]. The Havas Group was the first to launch the carbon impact metric in France and the first global holding company to join the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN). Downing will lead the network’s relationship with CAN, acting as an advocate for the organization’s mission in the wider industry with dedicated responsibility to this important area of growth in business. 

Downing has been with the global media network for nearly eight years and most recently led the rollout of the Social Equity Marketplace and pioneered the re-monetization of “hard” news as global head of biddable. His background in product management and technology, combined with his recent experience in delivering complex multi-market execution for clients, will help the rubber meet the road in his new role. To further support the development of Meaningful Media, he will return to the University of Cambridge to undertake post-graduate study in sustainable business.

“This is a new role for the agency but formalizes accountability for something we have been working on for three years,” said James. “We have been ahead of the curve in our ethical media practices, and Ben has been a big proponent and leader of that progress within the agency. I’m proud of our progress, and Ben and our teams’ work toward it. I am excited to see where we can take our responsibilities next, as there is much more to do as a business, an industry, and beyond.” 

“Meaningful Media was transformative for biddable media. It allowed us to tackle the gap that had developed between technology and ethics,” said Downing. “I’m humbled by the opportunity to work in a wider remit to deliver real and lasting change for our agency, our advertisers, and the industry. Like most of us in the industry I’m showing up with an open heart and a clear understanding of our responsibility and opportunity for change.” 

Downing’s appointment follows Havas Group’s recent launch of its Meaningful Brands study 2021, which has revealed consumer expectations for brands acting for the good of society and planet at an all-time high.  73% of global respondents believe brands must act now for the good of society and the planet, and 64%– an increase of 10 points since 2019 – have entered their own age of action, preferring to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit. More than half (53%) of people will go even further, saying they are willing to pay more for a brand that takes a stand.

  • Monday, Jun. 28, 2021
Eva Longoria, Sid Ganis join Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' board of trustees
Eva Longoria (left, photo by Jack Guy); and Sid Ganis (photo courtesy Academy Museum Foundation)

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has announced the election of actor, director, and producer Eva Longoria to its board of trustees. The museum also announced the appointment of motion picture executive and producer Sid Ganis as the museum’s first honorary trustee, a lifetime position. As the governing body of the Academy Museum, the board leads the museum toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies in addition to securing adequate resources to advance the museum’s mission.

Ted Sarandos, board chair and co-CEO of Netflix, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Eva Longoria to the board of trustees, where her dedication to inclusiveness, education, and philanthropy will contribute powerfully to our work in guiding the Academy Museum. Sid Ganis, a towering figure in our industry, has been critical to the entire process of making the Academy Museum a reality. We are proud to recognize his commitment by naming him a lifetime honorary trustee.” 

Academy Museum director and president Bill Kramer added, “I join Ted and the entire Academy Museum board of trustees in welcoming Eva and Sid. Both Eva and Sid deeply embody so many traits that will help us achieve our mission to advance the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema. Their knowledge of the film industry, commitment to philanthropy, and advocacy of diversity and inclusion will help the Academy Museum share with our visitors the many stories of moviemaking—the art, technology, artists, history, and social impact.”

Longoria and Ganis join existing board members Sarandos, chair; Miky Lee (Mie Kyung Lee), vice-chair; Kimberly Steward, secretary; Jim Gianopulos, treasurer; Patricia S. Bellinger, Jason Blum, Arnaud Boetsch, Olivier de Givenchy, Laura Dern, David Dolby, Sidonie Seydoux Dumas, Ray Halbritter, Tom Hanks, Dawn Hudson, Bill Kramer, Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Ryan Murphy, Isis Mussenden, Dominic Ng, Katherine Oliver, David Rubin, Regina K. Scully, Emma Thomas, Diane von Furstenberg, and Kevin Yeaman. 

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open to the public on September 30, 2021. 

Longoria has been leading the charge of diverse and female representation since her starring role in the hit ABC series Desperate Housewives (2004–2012). Through her production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, Longoria has become one of the most significant trailblazers in representation and recently renewed her overall deal with 20th Television. Founded in 2005, the company actively chooses purposeful projects that accurately represent the stories of the Latinx and other underrepresented communities. It was also recently announced that the company will partner with ViacomCBS’s Entertainment & Youth Group for their First Time Directors program highlighting BIPOC and women filmmakers to produce fifty films across the group’s portfolio of networks and streaming services. 

Longoria has directed countless hours of television and is currently preparing to direct three feature films: the biopic Flamin’ Hot for Searchlight; the workplace comedy 24/7 for Universal Pictures in which she will executive produce and star opposite Kerry Washington; and the female action comedy Spa Day for Sony Pictures. 

Committed to empowering Latinas everywhere, Longoria established the Eva Longoria Foundation (ELF) in 2012 to help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through educational programs, scholarships, mentorship, and entrepreneurship. She is a founding member of Time’s Up and cofounder of Latino Victory Fund, Momento Latino, and Poderistas.  

Ganis began his career in marketing and publicity at several studios, including 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Seven Arts, and Warner Bros. He eventually joined Lucasfilm, where he served as SVP and was responsible for marketing The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and the first two installments of the Indiana Jones trilogy. In 1986, Ganis joined Paramount Pictures and eventually would become president of the Motion Picture Group, where he helped launch Top Gun (1986) and Fatal Attraction (1987). As president, he oversaw the development and production of the worldwide hit Ghost (1980) and bought the underlying rights to Forrest Gump (1994), which would go on to become one of Paramount’s biggest hits—both financially and critically—of all time. After leaving Paramount in 1990, Ganis became president of marketing and distribution at Columbia Pictures. He was eventually made vice chairman of the studio. In 1996, he stepped down to produce films through his independent production company, Out of the Blue...Entertainment. 

Ganis has advised leading US entertainment and technology companies including Dolby Laboratories, Nokia, and The Void and has also served on the boards of Marvel Entertainment, FIND (Film Independent) and, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and San Francisco’s SF FILM. 

Ganis joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in January 1968 and served as president of the organization for four consecutive terms (2005–2009). He also served as VP of the Academy’s board of governors. A longtime supporter of the Academy Museum, Ganis served as chair of the board of governors’ Museum Committee (2018–2021) and has been integral to securing the future of the Academy Museum. 

  • Friday, Jun. 25, 2021
Tarik Cox, James Adamé join Doner
Tarik Cox

Advertising agency Doner has brought on Tarik Cox as SVP, brand leader, and James Adamé as EVP, director of design. In his new role, Cox will work with the Johnson & Johnson account team. Adamé will establish an innovative design center and help enhance the Detroit office’s production capabilities.

Cox has developed integrated marketing plans and campaigns for brands including Nike, Ford Motor Company and American Express. He also helped lead marketing efforts for professional sports teams including the Golden State Warriors, FC Cincinnati and the Detroit Lions and has deep international experience working across the U.S. and Canada.

An innovation-driven designer, Adamé has 20+ years of developing world-class experiences in advertising and design. Past experiences include work for Chevrolet, Bank of America, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack Daniels & Brown-Forman brands, and Major League Baseball. Most recently, he served as global design director at Commonwealth, leading a network of designers on General Motors and other brands worldwide.

  • Thursday, Jun. 24, 2021
IPG names Mat Baxter CEO of Huge
Mat Baxter

Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) has appointed Mat Baxter as global CEO of Huge. Baxter will lead an organization of more than 1,200 people across a dozen markets and build on Huge’s strength as a global experience agency, rooted in user-centric digital design that delivers unified brand experiences across a range of emerging media channels. 

In a related move, Raj Singhal, who has been serving as acting global CEO of Huge since 2020, having joined the agency as global CFO in 2013 and taken on additional responsibilities as its COO in 2017, will be moving into a senior leadership role at a global network within IPG. Singhal’s promotion will be announced in the coming weeks.

Since March of 2021, Baxter has served as chairman of IPG’s Initiative; prior to that role, he led the media company for five years as global CEO. In that time, Initiative was appointed as global media agency for leading brands like Amazon, LEGO, Converse, and Carlsberg, and won many industry accolades. An industry vet, Baxter was a co-founder of Naked Communications and also previously served as CEO of UM Australia. He has served as a board member for the International Advertising Association (IAA), Media Federation of Australia (MFA), and as chairman of the Cannes Young Lions Competition.

The new global CEO appointment comes after Huge posted very strong performance during the first half of 2021, with outstanding organic growth and strong recognition for its work at the world’s top creative award shows. Huge continued to build out its network-wide capabilities with the expansion of its APAC presence into the Tokyo market; the network launched a new, matrixed global commerce practice; and it bolstered its global leadership with the recent appointment of Kali Beyah as the agency’s Chief Talent Officer. 

Said Philippe Krakowsky, CEO of IPG, “Mat is an exceptionally talented strategist, a business builder and a strong leader. At Initiative, he redefined the role media can play for marketers, helping clients drive growth by bringing disruptive and creative ideas to where they can take their brands. His focus on how media and creativity are converging, and how culture is a key ingredient in moving business at the speed required for success in today’s world. These new approaches led to Initiative becoming one of our fastest-growing businesses, and the top media agency network in terms of global new business momentum last year. At Huge, Mat will ensure the agency continues to foster innovation and creativity, with an inclusive culture, that adds to its reputation as one of the world’s leading experience design and marketing companies.

“During his tenure at Huge, Raj has helped the agency evolve into a stronger network and a more mature business, with a winning culture at the company built on inclusion, teamwork and growth,” continued Krakowsky. “As acting CEO, Raj has also been laser-focused on being a true client partner, and under his watch, the agency has recently won clients like Coppertone, Tata Consulting, Nikko Asset Management, Sub-Zero, and Wakefern, while strengthening relationships with clients such as Google, Stellantis, P&G, and Realtor.com. We appreciate his contributions at Huge over the years, and were pleased when we asked him to move to another part of IPG and take on a major new global role within our organization, he was enthusiastic about doing so. He has strengthened Huge during his time there, and we look forward to leveraging Raj’s deep operational experience to contribute to IPG’s continued success.”

  • Sunday, Jun. 20, 2021
Hayden5 adds Ben Nelson, Melissa Balan
Melissa Balan

Full-service production and post company Hayden5 has added Ben Nelson as director of Cloud Cuts™ and live operations and Melissa Balan as director of postproduction. Balan will work out of Hayden5’s recently launched Los Angeles outpost, with Nelson joining the company’s NYC headquarters. Bringing a combined 18 years of industry experience, they will work closely with co-founders Todd Wiseman Jr and Milos Silber to enhance Hayden5’s post offerings within the company’s larger mission to define the future of production, with proprietary software and solutions, such as Cloud Cuts™, Crew+™, and ProducerAI™. (Cloud Cuts™ enables real-time editing, lightning-fast media delivery, and cloud storage,)

Balan brings nearly 10 years of experience as both a producer and director of post for short and long-form content, spanning commercials, documentaries, branded and scripted content. She most recently served as associate director of postproduction at Condé Nast, where she led the creation of unscripted editorial video content for the company’s various brands, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Wired, Architectural Digest, Glamour, Allure, and GQ. A graduate of NYU’s Film & Television Production program, Balan got her feet wet as an editor before transitioning to post management, joining as post supervisor at CH Media when she relocated from NYC to Los Angeles. There, she rose through the ranks to director of postproduction, overseeing all aspects of post for the company’s award-winning digital properties, including CollegeHumor. Along the way, she grew the post team from seven to 20 people to keep up with the company’s rapid scaling.

Nelson is an experienced post professional with an extensive history working in film and digital media. He joins Hayden5 from Complex Networks, most recently, in the role of manager of post & studio operations, where he created the systems, processes, and resources for the post and studio teams to maximize efficiency. Prior to that, he was postproduction manager at Complex, overseeing the post process across seven channels. Skilled in a variety of post tools, and armed with a degree in Film & Television Production from NYU, Nelson launched his career as an assistant editor, notably at Hayden5, where he worked on the company’s first feature Knucklehead. From there, he continued his work as a freelance editor, creating content for brands like Samsung, Facebook, and Pernod Ricard. He later joined the team at Seriously.TV, a startup comedy channel, prior to its launch in April 2016, and also served as technical director for multiple live shows. Key career highlights include the 2016 Election Night livestream on YouTube, as well as live event content for ComplexCon, Complex Network’s immersive two-day convention.

  • Friday, Jun. 18, 2021
Matt Silliman named SVP, head of production at Trade School
Matt Silliman

Trade School, an integrated content shop and full-service production studio that counts The Home Depot, FedEx and Shark/Ninja among its clients, has appointed Matt Silliman as its first head of production. He also serves as SVP and will report to Sanders Hearne, executive director, creative & production.

Silliman joins Trade School from Wunderman Thompson, where he was head of delivery and production. Having started his career in broadcast before going digital, Silliman has led integrated production at shops such as Moxie, BBDO, Huge and 22squared (Trade School’s sibling under parent company Guided By Good—an employee-owned, independent group of companies). Over the course of his 20+ year career, he’s worked with clients including TikTok, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, REI, Airheads Candy, Jeep and Brooks Running Shoes. As a DJ, Silliman aka Starboy recently rekindled his love of performance--he streams house music, break-beats and drum and bass sets for audiences across the country.

At Trade School, Silliman will be responsible for building the shop’s internal content production team who handle everything from stage craft and building large sets, to shooting, postproduction, animation, editorial, motion graphics and 3D work.

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