Making A Stink In The U.S. Market
Jeff Baron
Managing director Jeff Baron reflects on the ongoing evolution of Stink Films, the Traktor coup, and "The End of the F***ing World"
  • CULVER CITY, Calif.
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When Jeff Baron opened Stink Films’ U.S. office as its managing director at the start of 2015, his goals included attaining a higher stateside profile for the international shop as well as diversifying its reputation in visual narrative storytelling to also encompass comedy. He’s done just that over the years with varied director signings as well as extending the reach of the company’s established roster in the U.K. and elsewhere to the U.S. market.

Putting a major punctuation mark on that original company calling for a strong U.S. identity and making comedy inroads was Stink recently growing its relationship with Swedish directing collective Traktor to now include representation in the U.S. and U.K. This means that Traktor has comprehensive global representation and management via Stink’s nine-office network. The directing group had previously been handled in the U.S. and U.K. by Rattling Stick.

Traktor first connected with Stink last October for extensive representation internationally. The move proved fruitful as Traktor went on to work on a number of major campaigns across the world from China to France. For example, Traktor directed the “Worst Song in the World” for French retail chain Monoprix out of Paris agency Rosapark, winning that country’s coveted Strategies Grand Prix. “Worst Song in the World” earned inclusion into SHOOT’s “The Best Work You May Never See” gallery earlier this year.

Traktor enjoyed its international collaborations with Stink, so much so that the directorial team broadened the relationship to the American and British ad markets. Traktor issued a statement which read, “We like the idea of being under one global roof as we move forward into the oscillating future of advertising, traditional or not.”

Traktor adds considerable heft to the Stink roster, bringing to it a body of stellar work over the years, which includes being just a couple of months removed from winning the Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix for the third time and their first Titanium Lion. Traktor’s latest Cannes Film Grand Prix came for Procter & Gamble/Tide detergent’s “It’s A Tide Ad”--from Saatchi & Saatchi NY. “It’s A Tide Ad” has also been nominated for this year’s primetime commercial Emmy Award. 

“The Traktor signing is really impactful,” assessed Baron. “Their work is iconic and they give us an interesting anchor to more of a biting comedic presence.”

Consisting of directors Sam Larsson, Pontus Löwenhielm, Patrik von Krusenstjerna, Ole Sanders, Mats Lindberg and producer Richard Ulfvengren, Traktor has amassed credits spanning such brands as Heineken, FedEx, Diesel, Fox Sports, Boots, Nike, Adidas, Miller Lite, Volvo, MTV, Levi’s and Virgin (Atlantic, Trains, Holiday, Media and Mobile), as well as music videos for artists including Basement Jaxx, Fatboy Slim, Madonna, The Prodigy and The Flaming Lips.

Jonathan Entwistle
Bringing its international talent to bear has also helped to build Stink in the American ad market--a prime example being director Jonathan Entwistle who’s long been handled by Stink Films in London dating back to when he got out of film school. He’s one of the longest rostered directors at the company, with a new chapter having recently begun as Stink began representing him in the U.S. as well. This marked Entwistle’s first U.S. ad roost and it comes at a time when he’s gained recognition in this market due to the success of the Netflix original series The End of The F***ing World, his TV adaptation of Chuck Forsman’s serialized graphic comic book novel. 

The dark comedy-drama introduces us to James (Alex Lawther), a 17-year-old who thinks he’s a psychopath, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a rebellious classmate who sees in James a chance to escape from her mundane, hypocritical home life. Their adventure together as well as their relationship take a series of different turns, making for a wild ride and an offbeat teen romance.

The critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated series--commissioned by Netflix and U.K.’s Channel 4--was recently picked up by Netflix for a second season.

Entwistle’s notable Stink work spans music videos, commercials and branded content. Among the music clips is Seafret’s “Oceans” starring Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. In it, Williams plays a bullied teen who finds solace in her childhood dressing box but a homemade superhero outfit carries some amazing side effects. Made on a shoestring budget, “Oceans” generated some 45 million hits on YouTube. 

Meanwhile, Entwistle’s spotmaking credits span such brands as Netflix, Nike, Paypal and GEOX. The client-direct Netflix spot, “500 Hours,” centers on a guy looking to impress a lovely lass who’s a big fan of Orange Is the New Black. We see him binge watching the show in preparation for their next meeting. The spot breaks out into a musical, paying tribute to the “binge for love” mantra.

According to Baron, Entwistle has recently secured a couple of U.S. ad assignments, and contributes to a growing comedy cache at Stink along with the likes of Traktor, Joachim Back, Keith McCarthy and Rhys Thomas. The latter is known for his work on Saturday Night Live and Documentary Now! His “British Movie” mock trailer for SNL helped earn him inclusion in SHOOT’s New Directors Showcase back in 2012. Thomas helmed a Pringles’ spot featuring Bill Hader, which debuted this past February on the Super Bowl for Grey NY. This marked Pringles’ first Super Bowl ad.

Among the other noted additions fortifying the Stink lineup are directors Lauren Caris Cohan, Ben Briand, an Aussie who’s now moving to L.A., Arthur Jafa, Tom Green and Salomon Ligthelm. Baron also cited the support of his team, including EPs Fran McGivern and Melinda Nugent, head of production Nick Fuller and a sales team consisting of Gisela Limberg, Chris Brown and Sevasti Buford. 

And integral to the success of the U.S. operation is the backing of Stink founder and president Daniel Bergmann and global CEO James Morris. That broader based support includes the alluded to network of nine offices--Beijing, Berlin, L.A. London, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Sao Paulo and Shanghai. These offices, said Baron, “work together to form a uniform platform on which to deliver top creative content with elite talent around the world. The group leadership conducts weekly conference calls to discuss our slate of work, we have separate calls to asses internal (and external) talent needs as our business grows and we support one another in a production service capacity. We provide knowledge and expertise to one another around the globe when pitching on projects that shoot outside our respective markets.  Our presence on four continents gives us access to a lot of local production know-how.”

There’s also the cross-pollination between Stink Films and its digital counterpart Stink Studios. Baron explained, “When a brief requires creative development, a digital extension and film content, we endeavor to work with Studios on such projects.  Whether its through a client directly or through an agency that is looking to deliver a 360 campaign for a client.  Recent examples include Polaroid Fishbowl (content/website), Facebook for Creators (content campaign), Adidas Speedfactory (content), Vespertine (website/content/branding). We are awaiting the launch of another project for a leading tech company and we’re in development on a branding and content campaign for a major luggage brand.”

In the big picture, Baron observed that Stink Films’ U.S. operation is “not done evolving.” He cited as an example the company’s aspirations in the entertainment space and its desire “to stay on top of the ever changing landscape that is advertising and entertainment.”

Baron related, “Longform content is an area of intended expansion for us, but we always want to be strategic as well as work with material that is exciting to us. Though I can’t speak specifically about the projects we are considering at the moment, I’m certainly proud of and inspired by the creative community within Stink, who are actively involved in all manner of entertainment projects. Having recently produced Eliot Rausch’s Birth Pangs, co-produced Jovan’s Motion Poems and previously indie films Lilting and King Jack, we are looking forward to developing future projects that will include rostered talent like Jonathan Entwistle, Nicolas Winding Refn and Rhys Thomas to name a few. The stage is set.”


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