- Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017
- NEW YORK
Though not unprecedented—with Wieden+Kennedy turning the trick many moons ago—it’s rare for SHOOT to select the same shop as Agency of the Year twice in a row. But we felt compelled to do so in light of the body of work again turned out by McCann New York. And reinforcing our choice was the dramatically different nature of that work from one year to the next as embodied in two signature pieces.
McCann NY was Agency of the Year in 2016 in part for Lockheed Martin’s “Field Trip To Mars,” which necessitated the creation of cutting-edge VR technology to take kids via school bus on a tour of the Red Planet.
Fast forward to this year and in sharp contrast a marquee piece helping McCann to again earn Agency of the Year distinction comes in the form of an art that dates back centuries—a sculpture. The subject depicted in the sculpture: a young, defiant girl staring down Wall Street’s famed “Charging Bull.” Artist Kristen Visbal crafted the statue of a four-foot tall lass in a windblown dress, standing in the path of the famous 11-foot-tall bull, an iconic symbol of commerce. “Fearless Girl” was installed in lower Manhattan to highlight the dearth of women on corporate boards.
Created for client State Street Global Advisors, “Fearless Girl’ became popular worldwide, bringing attention to gender equality and the need for female leadership in a simple, forceful way. Industry accolades included four Cannes International Festival of Creativity Grand Prix honors—in Titanium, Outdoor, PR and Glass.
Assorted creative stalwarts praised the work. For instance, Javier Campopiano, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi NY, told SHOOT in our Mid-year 2017 Survey that “it’s refreshing to see that one of the most prominent ideas in any award show is a simple sculpture of a little girl. Amid all the noise about technology, an idea executed in one of the oldest mediums in the history of human kind got all the world talking. To me, that’s a really good sign for an industry that is supposed to be about ideas, regardless of the technology we use to bring them to life.”
Yet while wildly different, “Field Trip To Mars” and “Fearless Girl” stand on some distinct common ground, both providing a tangible experience which resonates with people, observed Devika Bulchandani, president of McCann New York.
Another shared bond is that the work is for clients you wouldn’t have previously associated with groundbreaking creative. Last year, with tongue partially in cheek, Rob Reilly, global chief creative chairman, McCann Worldgroup, observed, “I doubt there was anyone at SHOOT going into 2016 thinking, ‘I can’t wait to see what they do with Lockheed Martin.’”
The same could easily be said of State Street Global Advisors in 2017.
Another key similarity between both clients—by no coincidence, pointed out Sean Bryan, co-chief creative officer of McCann NY—is that “State Street and Lockheed Martin were each brave and visionary enough to get behind a good idea.”
Furthermore, it was client initiative that sparked the creative. An original client brief for State Street Global Advisors, said Tom Murphy, co-chief creative officer, McCann NY, didn’t call for changing the world but rather was looking to help encourage gender diversity on corporate boards, setting up a fund and issuing a call to action for that purpose. This could have led to a digital banner or a print ad in The Wall Street Journal but the McCann orientation, noted Murphy, is always to see if there’s “room to create an icon and a movement. We strive to seek out the opportunities that exist for every single client.”
Opportunity also abounds within McCann itself, said Bulchandani who speaks with a voice of experience. Recently she was named president of McCann NY, after having held various leadership roles at the agency, including managing director of the NY office, managing director of global strategy, and president of McCann XBC. The timing of “Fearless Girl” thus brings a smile to Bulchandani. Describing the campaign which champions women in leadership as one of the “best ideas of the year” or according to some, the decade, she related, “To have at this time a woman in leadership here [at McCann] is somehow a bit poetic and beautiful.”
And it’s not isolated poetry, according to such key McCann NY contributors as Christine Lane, executive producer, Innovation, Kathy Love, executive integrated producer, and Deb Archambault, sr. producer, who all cited a widespread sense of inclusion at the agency. “There’s a balance of women and men, a shared voice across management. Everyone here has a voice and is heard,” noted Archambault.
Love added, “The culture here is that it doesn’t matter where ideas and contributions come from. It’s a very open creative environment.”
Lane noted that the agency has gone “outside the industry to bring in new talent from different backgrounds to execute new and exciting work.” That infusion of new diverse talent has been a positive dynamic in the production department. In turn, said Lane, “We are not only hiring new people with different backgrounds but are also nurturing producers who have been at McCann for a long time, giving them the opportunity to take on new challenges. We’re all learning from each other, fueling an eagerness to work on all kinds of projects.”
Ron Howard, Lee Clow
These projects go well beyond—and on their own merits emerged out of the giant shadow cast by—”Fearless Girl” in 2017. One even garnered plaudits from Oscar-winning (A Beautiful Mind) filmmaker Ron Howard, and creative legend Lee Clow, chairman of TBWA. The latter, along with other industry leaders, judged this year’s competition for the Super Clio, a special creative award honoring the best 2017 Super Bowl commercial. Clow described as “perfect” the eventual winner: McCann NY’s :45 promoting National Geographic’s limited series Genius, the inaugural season delving into the life of Albert Einstein. Portraying Einstein in the series as a young man was Johnny Flynn, with the older adult Einstein portrayed by Geoffrey Rush. Directed by Ivan Zacharias of Smuggler, the Super Bowl :45 featured Rush as Einstein playing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on the violin in a nod to the singer’s Big Game halftime show. The spot appeared on air right after Lady Gaga’s halftime performance, which culminated with her rendition of “Bad Romance.” In the promo, Rush in character also stuck out his tongue to the camera, adding to a refreshing departure from the promo norm.
“To get that kind of praise from Lee Clow meant a lot,” said McCann’s Reilly who also served on the Super Clio judging panel. Also meaningful was the assessment of Howard, whose Imagine Entertainment was one of the producers on the Genius series. Howard additionally directed the pilot episode of the Einstein saga.
Howard and his Imagine partner, producer Brian Grazer, had worked with National Geographic prior to Genius, having collaborated on the limited series Mars. During a keynote conversation at Variety’s MASSIVE Entertainment Marketing Summit, which SHOOT covered, Howard said that Nat Geo’s attributes and its profile—defined by authenticity, history, fascination, mystery, science, adventure, immersion and an incredible visual sense—dovetailed with those of Genius. Howard noted that he knew they had found the right home for Genius when he saw Nat Geo’s marketing materials for the show. Howard affirmed that the marketing—including the Super Clio winning spot—perfectly reflected “the aesthetic” of the series.
“It just shows you what can be done when you have no time but still have the creative people and inspiration,” said Reilly. “Eric Silver [chief creative officer, McCann North America] and his team jumped on the opportunity. Within a few days, he came up with the concept and we had it shot within a week. Nathy Aviram [McCann NY’s chief production officer] and Eric are among the best in the world. The client was willing to not change the concept one percent because we had no time. The client also went along with our push for a :45 instead of a :30. We got an amazing director. Lady Gaga gave her approval. We edited it in a day. There was also some good fortune. Ivan Zacharias lives in Prague and was there at the time so we could shoot there. He knows the crews there so well. We had originally selected a different Lady Gaga song but it didn’t have the hook that ‘Bad Romance’ had. As it turned out, she ends up playing ‘Bad Romance’ as the last song in her Super Bowl halftime set. Right after she drops her microphone, we cut to our spot and a quiet moment of Rush playing the same song on the violin. The work of our media department to get that slot right after the halftime show is kind of my favorite part of what we did.”
The Super Clio winner was also the first spot for which Aviram served as an in-the-trenches producer for McCann. The elements coming together for that commercial and its marketplace success, he observed, mark what he described as a further strengthening of broadcast TV for the agency this year. He also cited efforts with top-drawer directors akin to Zacharias on Nat Geo such as Nespresso starring George Clooney and Cigna’s continuing “TV Doctors” fare (both helmed by Grant Heslov of Untitled), U.S. Postal Services’ new Xmas holiday spot “Biggest Gift” (directed by Hungry Man’s Bryan Buckley), Verizon’s Halloween-themed comedically scary commercial featuring Gaten Matarazzo of Stranger Things (directed by Henry-Alex Rubin of Smuggler), various New York Lottery spots including the touching rescue dogs ad (directed by Derek Cianfrance via RadicalMedia), and the humorous “UFO,” “Medieval” (both helmed by Tom Kuntz of MJZ) and “Bodega Cat” (directed by Jake Scott of RSA Films), and a Lysol “Protect Like A Mother” :60 (directed by Tom Routson of Framestore). In the Lysol ad—atypical for the product category—human moms are replaced with animal counterparts who fiercely yet caringly protect children from everything ranging from the rain to being bullied to a potential traffic accident at a crosswalk.
Aviram noted that this batch of ambitious work underscores McCann’s penchant for and need to connect with high-caliber directors, production companies, VFX studios, music/sound shops and other outside vendors. Those connections and working relationships remain essential to McCann’s success, he affirmed.
This need, he continued, is not diminished by the growth in recent years of the agency’s in-house production department, McCann Craft Worldwide. The accelerated development of this operation, said Aviram, started with a need based on what clients were requesting. Once clients started doing more online content—which entails tighter budgets—this translated into McCann initially asking production companies for favors. “They got tired of doing favors for us. We got tired of asking for them,” said Aviram. This led to McCann doing this variety of production for itself.
All the while, Aviram noted that he remains “protective of our production company partners and directors.” In fact, he sought out production house EPs for feedback on their feelings about an expanded in-house agency unit for online and social fare. “To a person they didn’t consider it competition. They understood the realities of the marketplace and that this was something we had to take on.”
Some of the standout broadcast work for McCann NY this year emerged when VR projects didn’t come to fruition, according to Aviram who explained that VR companies had contacted a couple of clients directly but in their pitches were unrealistic about budgets when it came to delivering the high caliber work normally associated with these brands. “We had to educate clients on what good VR costs,” related Aviram. “So we wound up scrapping the suggested VR in those two examples and wound up doing some strong broadcast work that was better suited to the creative and the branding that was needed.”
Aviram added that in the case of the universally lauded “Field Trip To Mars,” VR was tailor-made for the idea. “You have to remember that VR itself is not an idea. You don’t go into something trying to do a VR project. The idea has to come first. You can’t force VR. It has to be right for the idea, helping to advance the story and creating a relevant experience for the user.”
While McCann didn’t have as high-profile a VR experience in 2017 as last year’s “Field Trip To Mars,” the agency was still active in the arena with a prime example being for client Chick-fil-A and its longstanding cow mascots who are continually looking to save their hides by encouraging us to eat chicken rather than beef. A Cowz VR ad campaign included teaser videos, a cryptic website and the distribution of free Chick-fil-A branded cardboard VR glasses. The teaser campaign was highlighted by two :30s that ran during the Grammy Awards telecast, driving consumers to the CowzVR site, where a 360° video takes them on adventures like sky-diving, scuba diving and auto racing, all as cows surprise them with their “Eat Mor Chikin” signs.
The production mosaic at McCann consists of increasingly varied fare with broadcast commercials holding steady. In 2017, McCann NY turned out some 350 TV commercials—about the same as the prior year—while Internet deliverables and experiential projects more than doubled.
The production department has 50 producers—40 on staff at McCann NY, and 10 with m:united, the shop focused on the Microsoft account. In recent years, further reflecting the expanded nature of the production operation, has been the development of the Innovation department run by Lane.
With stalwarts such as Lane, Love, Archambault and head of integrated production Aaron Kovan, the department is marked, stressed Aviram, by producers coming together with each other, as well as with creatives, strategists and others throughout the agency. “Field Trip To Mars” teamed four agency producers; “Fearless Girl” had three producers helping to bring that project—which also included promotional videos and marketing vehicles—to fruition. When Aviram started at McCann some four years ago, the production department had a staff of 32. In building that department, Aviram said he’s sought out professionals who were not only talented but good-natured. The latter, he said, is just as important as the former in that the esprit de corps at McCann is integral to creating great work and making that experience as enjoyable and gratifying as possible.
Opening doors and weeding out the field were also part of the work from McCann in 2017 that fostered opportunity. The creatively inspired U.S. Army “White Hats” initiative helped our military to discover truly talented hackers who are sorely needed to fight cyber wars, protecting our power grid and infrastructure, accessing information and keeping our data secure. In a U.S. Army TV spot, what looks like prop type on a computer screen is to the trained eye a coded message, throwing the gauntlet of a hacking challenge to savvy talent at large. Some 700,000 hackers tried to decode the sophisticated message, which was revised daily to negate sharing of info on social media among those looking to solve the puzzle. A select field was able to meet the challenge—and 30% of the talented folks in that group contacted the Army’s cyber operation, a response level significantly higher than that generated by traditional recruiting.
Tangible opportunity also marked m:united/McCann’s follow-up to its “Make What’s Next” campaign for Microsoft. Having helped to change perceptions last year about women inventors and their contributions in order to encourage girls and young women to pursue a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, Microsoft in 2017 looked to secure patents for great ideas originated by women. “These aren’t incidental inventions,” said McCann NY co-CCO Bryan. “The [‘Make What’s Next’] breakthroughs came in such areas as fighting disease and helping the blind to read. We’re helping young women to see the difference they could make if they stayed in STEM. With work like this and ‘Fearless Girl,’ we show what our brands believe in and connect with people in powerful ways.”
Being true to the brand is a mantra which helped to make 2017 special for McCann and its clients, said North American CCO Silver. “The most important thing to us at McCann is to have a wide range of work. We don’t want to be known for one thing. We don’t ever want to have a ‘house style.’
“Every brief,” continued Silver, “starts as tabula rasa. We try not to specify ‘deliverables’ per se and let the best work emanate from the DNA of the brand.”
Regarding his biggest lesson learned from 2017, Silver related, “Surround yourself with smart people from varied disciplines and foster dialogue daily. From my first day at McCann, I wanted every employee to know they are a creative. At first, this might have been met with skepticism.
But we now have a pretty good track record of great work that was born out of true collaboration. Everyone has a voice. And every voice matters. We truly admire and respect one another.”
New York co-CCO Murphy echoed that sentiment. “There aren’t people here being super possessive or territorial,” he said. “We are on a shared journey at McCann. We own the work together.”
In addition to this unity, Silver cited the value of experimentation in developing work as impactful as “Fearless Girl” and the Nat Geo marketing for Genius. “We love experimenting,” affirmed Silver. “I could type a ten-page dissertation on this but the short answer is: Thoughtful experimentation. If we are trying new things that are in service of a client’s problem and we have a gut feeling it will be talked about in culture, that’s usually enough.”
Life is just a box of chocolates
During the Rockefeller Center Xmas tree lighting ceremony in Manhattan on Nov. 30, Godiva held a launch event for its “giving box,” which was designed by McCann. The clever crafting of the box brands Godiva with generosity during the holiday season.
Upon opening Godiva’s signature gold box, two boxes of chocolates are revealed—one to keep, the other to give to another person. That gift box in turns opens to show two more boxes, and so on until you are left with a tiny box with two chocolates, one of which you can give to a friend, acquaintance or even a stranger.
The special box is being made available this holiday season at 20 stores across the U.S. where it will be given away to customers, amplifying the generosity theme.
This holiday sentiment of caring is a year-’round proposition at McCann, explained NY co-CCO Bryan. “There’s a sense of heart in our work. We have a saying that’s up on a poster here at the office. It reads, ‘Outhink, Outwork, Outcare.’ I think in 2017 we especially lived up to that motto. We care about what we’re making and what it represents—whether it’s ‘Fearless Girl’ or keeping girls focused on STEM for Microsoft. Brand values and their ties to issues near and dear to people’s hearts make what we do worthwhile. I think that’s in large part why the work resonates with viewers.”
That’s the added dimension, noted Bulchandani, that translates into well-rounded success. “Our creative leaders are pretty unique in how obsessed they are with the impact of what they do. They’re not obsessed with creativity. They’re obsessed with the impact of creativity. Creativity for creativity’s sake is not what we’re about. Everyone talks about creativity. But we’re not obsessed with awards. We’re obsessed with how will our work land in and affect our culture, impact our client’s business and help us move forward commercially and as a society. It’s a confluence of commercial success, creativity and societal interest.”
Bulchandani continues that “four simple words” are what’s behind the golden age of creativity at McCann: “Rob Reilly, Eric Silver.” They have been catalysts for the creative renaissance at the agency. “As leaders they understand and value the power of creativity and they use that power responsibly—for business impact and cultural impact, helping our brands and hopefully society as well. Rob and Eric have coupled creative prowess with intense humanity. That core element of humanity is how they galvanize the 697 people at this agency to share a common mission. When SHOOT honors us with Agency of the Year, I feel it’s like saying we have the IT department of the year, the strategy department of the year, the production department of the year and so on. To be Agency of the Year, all the departments and all those 697 people have to be firing on all cylinders towards a common goal.”
In the big picture, global creative chairman Reilly related, “There are a lot of great agencies. We’re not in competition with any of them. The competition is to make sure brands see the value of marketing, advertising and communication. The more of us who do breakthrough work which clearly moves the needle for clients, the better off we all are. I want every agency to do awesome work. I root for everybody to do well so that we as an industry continue to prove our value to clients and brands. The creation of wildly successful work needs to continue. Agencies have to keep pushing ahead in terms of film, production, storytelling, experiential, and product marketing. We’re evolving as our clients are evolving.”
Client New York Lottery Agency McCann New York Eric Silver, North American chief creative officer; Sean Bryan, Tom Murphy, chief creative officers, New York; Mat Bisher, Dan Donovan, executive creative directors; Jason Ashlock, creative director, writer; Dominick Baccollo, creative director, art director; Nathy Aviram, chief production officer; Chance Basset, VP, sr. producer; Eric Johnson, SVP, executive music producer; Dan Gross, music producer; Laura Frank, VP, strategy director. Production RSA Jake Scott, director; David Mitchel, producer; Tracie Norfleet, exec producer; Peter Deming, DP. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Carlos Arias, editor; Maria Lee, assistant editor; Eve Kornblum, exec producer; Taylor Colbert, producer. VFX a52 Patrick Murphy, VFX supervisor; Andrew Romatz, CG lead; Steven Wolff, Stefan Gaillot, Richard Hirst, Matt Sousa, Kevin Stokes, 2D VFX artists; Gabe Sanchez, 2D VFX assistant; Andrew Romatz, Tom Briggs, Jun Kim, Michael Cardenas, Joseph Chiechi, 3D artists; Michael Steinmann producer; Andrew Rosenberger, production coordinator; Patrick Nugent, Kim Christensen, exec producers; Linda Carlson, Jennifer Sofio Hall, managing directors. Music Song: “How Sweet It Is” Julia Stone, artist. Audio Post Heard City Phil Loeb, engineer. Telecine Company 3 Tim Masick, colorist.
Client National Geographic/Genius Music/sound: JSM Music, New York Music supervision Joel Simon, chief creative officer Song: “Bad Romance” written by Lady Gaga and RedOne. Audio Post: Soundsquare, Prague Karel Havlicek, mixer Agency: McCann New York Production: Smuggler, bicoastal/international Ivan Zacharias, director
Client Nespresso Agency McCann New York Eric Silver, North American chief creative officer; Tom Murphy, Sean Bryan, co-chief creative officers; Larry Platt, executive creative director; Danny Rodriguez, group creative director; Nic Howell, creative director/art director; Geoff Bentz, creative director/writer; Nathy Aviram, chief production officer; Kathy Love, executive producer; Laura Frank, Anna Andreis, strategy. Production Untitled Grant Heslov, director; Phedon Papamichael, DP. Editorial Big Sky Chris Franklin, editor. Visual Effects Framestore NY Sarah Hiddlestone, exec producer; Murray Butler, executive creative director; Martin Lazaro, VFX supervisor; Nick Fraser, sr. producer; Nathan Diehl, Mohamed Echkouna, Sean Curran, Stefania Cancemi, Will Frazier, Nico Cappuccio, 3D team; Karch Coon, Sang Kim, Raul Ortego, Steve Drew, Matt Pascuzzi, Corrina Wilson, Elaina Brillantes, 2D team; Callum McKevenuy, design/matte painting. Color Company 3 Tim Masick, colorist. Music Mel Torme’s “Comin’ Home Baby” Audio Post Sound Lounge Tom Jucarone, engineer.
Client Lysol Agency McCann New York Tom Murphy, Sean Bryan, co-chief creative officers; John Mescall, global executive creative director; Priti Kapoor, executive creative director; Erin Wendel, Lauren McCrindle, creative directors; Susan Young, copywriter; Daniel Colburn, copywriter; Jesse Yowell, art director; Nathy Aviram, chief production officer; Christine Lane, executive producer, innovation; Winslow Dennis, executive producer; Andrea Kaye, executive art producer; Matthew Arrow, sr. producer-innovation; Phoebe Chao, producer-innovation; Eric Johnson, executive music director; Dan Gross, music producer; Erica Yahr, executive strategy director; Sarah Watson, global strategy director; Amanda Shapiro, strategy director. Production & VFX Framestore Tom Routson, director. Editorial Cut+Run Jon Grover, editorial.
Client United States Postal Service (USPS) Agency McCann New York Tom Murphy, chief creative officer; Chris Mitton, Nir Refuah, executive creative directors; EJ Lee, Joey Monteverde, creative directors; Nathy Aviram, chief production officer; Donna McCraken, Sara Ward, sr. producers; Anna Andreis, strategy director; Jacklyn Baillergeon, Collin Peters, strategists. Production Hungry Man Bryan Buckley, director. Editorial Big Sky Chris Franklin, editor; Ryan Sears, VFX supervisor. Audio Post Sonic Union Paul Weiss, mixer. Color/Finishing Nice Shoes Chris Ryan, colorist.