Monday, August 19, 2019

2019 Mid Year Report Card - Karuna Venter

  1. What trends, developments or issues would you point to thus far in 2019 as being most significant, perhaps carrying implications for the rest of the year and beyond?
  2. What work (advertising or entertainment)--your own or others--struck a responsive chord with you and/or was the most effective creatively and/or strategically so far this year? Does any work stand out to you in terms of meshing advertising and entertainment?
  3. What’s the biggest takeaway or lessons learned from work (please identify the project) you were involved in this year that was or is in the running for current awards season consideration (i.e., Emmys, Cannes Lions)?
  4. Though gazing into the crystal ball is a tricky proposition, we nonetheless ask you for any forecast you have relative to content creation and/or the creative and/or business climate for the second half of 2019 and beyond.
  5. What do recent honors on the awards show circuit (Producers Guild Awards, DGA Awards, Cannes Lions, AICP Show, Emmy nominations) tell us in terms of themes and trends in the industry at large?
  6. What efforts are you making to increase diversity and inclusion in terms of women and ethnic minority filmmakers? How do you go about mentoring new talent?
Karuna Venter
Managing Partner/Owner
Chapeau Studios

1) For me and my half-full water glass, 2019 has been characterized by an embrace of disruption as a means of creation rather than allowing it to be a form of destruction. Nothing is easy right now, and we are finding ways to keep moving forward despite it all. Creators and distributors alike are taking on the huge culture gap in the US, embracing this opportunity to speak truth-to-power rather than “playing nice” and avoiding conflict. Brands are getting wise to the early hysteria around “likes” and “views”, and technology giants are allowing themselves to get humble around the ways in which they need to discipline their growth. Are we getting close to our next destination? I’m holding out hope, but this year has also shown us that it’s going to continue to be a bumpy ride. The axiom that change is the only constant has real resonance now.

2) In advertising, the work that’s been most engaging for me this year is work that acknowledges the messy anxiety of 2019’s cultural moment and faces it head-on. The Super Bowl spot that Chapeau did with Preacher & Arts + Sciences for SimpliSafe acknowledged a growing worry around waning control of our privacy and diffused it (at least temporarily!) with humor. A widely-discussed Gillette campaign forced us into conversation about topics like toxic masculinity that are both uncomfortable and pervasive. Nike has brought women’s sports, the Black Lives Matter movement, and fashion together in poignant ways that propel ongoing discussions about gender and racial inequities. The most popular show of the first half of the year, Game of Thrones, reinforces this narrative moment so clearly: it shows us that even though nothing is easy, that doesn’t make it not worth doing.

4) As viewers are inundated with exponentially more content (much of it “free”), the quality of a brand’s message and its mastery of the medium in which it is consumed matter equally to its success.

New leaders in our field will emerge by embracing the need to create content that engages and inspires audiences and consumers differently across distribution mediums & technology platforms. “Playing it safe” isn’t the money move anymore, because mobile and digital media (streaming platforms, gaming, and social media) have permanently disrupted both the mechanisms by which brands have traditionally reached audiences, and the tools creators have traditionally used to create brand messages.

To get ahead of the curve, brands need to be braver about trusting and investing in innovative methods of engagement, and creators need to be braver about collaboration. Advertisers will need to invest in tailoring content to out-of-home & new digital mediums to successfully reach consumers, and creators who know how to adapt their vision to scale with the changing experiences, goals, & expectations of their audiences will be in high demand.

5) Without question, this is an exciting time for brands and creators who embrace the value and work of centering voices and stories that have traditionally been marginalized. A woman-owned &-operated creative studio, Chapeau celebrates diversity on the daily, so we are delighted that films like “Parasite” and “Atlantique” are being celebrated this year. In advertising, director Kim Gehrig killed it this season with her “Dream Crazier” spot; the AICP gave notable honors to her as well as the work of several other women directors. I hope advertisers take notice of these successes and respond by supporting more inclusive stories about women, told by women, for women. We are the world’s primary consumers, after all!

6) One of the first things Lauren (Mayer-Beug, Chapeau’s creative director) and I bonded over was the shared experience of repeatedly being the only woman in a room dominated by men. Too often in this business, marginalized voices simply aren’t heard over the inevitable din of a challenging working session; Lauren and I have both experienced our own voices going unheard in those rooms, and as a result are purposeful about making Chapeau a space both to listen and to practice mutual self-advocacy. We do this by proactively cultivating a working culture that invites creative people to find their unique perspectives, express new ideas, and to feel safe & normal about asking for help (which includes asking leadership to support their development).

True diversity is tricky in advertising, because it has been the practice of this field to reward the status-quo with the benefits of being the cultural “norm”. I’m personally committed to finding ways to center and turn up the volume on voices, stories, and talent that have traditionally been marginalized, and/or are new to the businesses of advertising & entertainment. Chapeau hires for people who are actively curious and have flexible mindsets, and we find these qualities (sometimes more than other measures of skill) seem to attract “diversity” to us.

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