2021 Mid Year Report Card Survey Response

Gabe Hajiani
Head of Creation and Content




What’s the impact of the pandemic on you, your company, your approach to doing business in the future? What practices emerged that you will continue even as restrictions are loosening?

The pandemic was a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent the way we work at DNA. After a year of working remotely, we have demonstrated the ability to deliver exemplary work, win awards and make a profit for the agency, all without an office space. Pre-pandemic, we saw the office as the primary place where work got done. Post-pandemic, we see getting work done at the office secondary to it becoming a place for human connection and hub for unstructured collaboration.

For us, returning to the office is more than a return to work policy or a plan to get people back to their desks. We call it “Reinventing the Way We Work” because we believe the office of the future is fundamentally different post pandemic. In embracing a hybrid work model, we view the office as a place designed for human moments with our co-workers and distributed work for individual work time or more structured collaboration. What is a place designed for human moments? It is a place that fosters community, stimulates creativity and encourages connections between co-workers.

How has the call for equity, racial and social justice affected, honed or influenced your sense of responsibility as a company in terms of the content you create and/or your commitment to opening up opportunities for filmmaking talent from underrepresented backgrounds?

The call for equity, racial and social justice has refocused DNA. We realized though we often talked about inclusivity and fancied our agency as diverse, it was not well represented in our staff, our work, or our partners. Upon even more self-reflection and examination, we found that we fell pretty much in line with the industry as a whole: predominantly white staff servicing predominantly white clients.

Our changes started from the top. Our CEO, Alan Brown, and our President, Chris Witherspoon, laid down the gauntlet to everyone, “If we don’t live and breathe our values every day, they aren’t really values.” As an agency, we couldn’t just say, “We need to do better.” We needed to change our behavior right away if we wanted to positively impact our agency and industry.

This meant changing the way we recruit, interview, and hire along with who we work with — including clients, partners, and vendors. It meant intentionally providing access to talent from underrepresented backgrounds through mentorships, internships, virtual forums, our bidding process, and jobs. It meant looking at the content we make with a completely different lens.

We realize there is no finish line to becoming better, but it’s a journey we’re committed to taking.

What work (advertising, 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?

There was a time when some people, established within the entertainment industry, stated that digital video would be the death of cinema. Really?!

This type of statement speaks volumes when we think in terms of providing access to underrepresented talent. Chloé Zhao, the director of the film “Nomadland” was unproven within the traditional entertainment network and, like many working outside the traditional system, did not have the same access or backing. What she and he partner did have was the freedom to write, shoot and produce a documentary, posing as a movie, about van life, while living in a van.

I don’t think that digital is the death of cinema, but if that were the case, is it the birth of something more? Freedom to think, work and create differently.

Side note, Zhao’s next film is “Eternals,” a two-hundred-million-dollar Marvel movie with Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie, with her partner Joshua James Richards, operating the camera.

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