2021 Mid Year Report Card Survey Response

Nicole Michels McDonagh
Group Creative Director
Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP)




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?

We can all agree that there is nuance in shoots and editing that’s lost working remotely. Relationship building. Trust building. All impact the craft and ultimate output.

Truly, there’s not much that emerged that I would want to keep. Except we did gain a greater understanding of how important flexibility is as a core value in our business. I can’t imagine any agency on the planet going back to exactly how things were done before.

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?

BSSP is committed to furthering the conversation around racial equity in our business and in society. My partner and fellow Group Creative Director, Sinan Dagli, and I discuss this topic on a weekly basis in some form and I love his point of view: This call is omnipresent in the topics we cover in our work highlighting the racial and social discrimination in our society, working with black and Latinx filmmakers and musicians to create work for our clients across the board, representation on screen from the LGBTQIA+ community, and promoting conversation and training with our partners at Courageous Conversations internally at BSSP.

his call for equity, racial and social justice is our duty as makers. To quote Nina Simone “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” -- We want to make sure the stories and the experiences of the artists of our times have a platform to be heard.

What’s the biggest takeaway or lessons learned from work (please identify the project) you were involved in that was or is in the running for current awards season consideration (i.e., Emmys, Cannes Lions, etc.)?

We recently won a Bronze Clio for a social initiative we started called Fauci Art. We had the idea inside the “virtual walls” and three days later it was out into the world. And then, artists all around the globe were contributing and the movement took on a momentum of its own. It reminded me of the power of being nimble. And I love that being an independent agency gives us that freedom. It’s best for the work and for our ability to take breakthrough action for our clients.

While 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 2021 and beyond.

Any time that there’s been a period of deprivation in our history or culture, a time of excess and explosions of creativity follow. Or even blossom out of it. It’s cliché, but the notion that necessity breeds invention has never been truer. Look at all the unknown creators that turned to Tik Tok and other platforms as an outlet so they wouldn’t go crazy stuck in their basement for 10 months. My prediction is that we are going to see whatever the “next Tik Tok” platform is going to be within the next year. As well as a return to true craft across filmmaking, music, art and advertising, too.

After all this deprivation, perhaps our attention spans will grow longer for things worthy of holding our attention. Beautifully written long copy ad, anyone?

What are your goals, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company, division, studio or network in 2021?

One of our BSSP values is embracing confluence. Bringing the familiar together in unfamiliar way. Great things come from fusion. I think our push for this year is to help our clients find new and interesting ways to bring data and innovation together with disruptive ideas that are elevated by incredible storytelling and craft.

What trends, developments or issues would you point to thus far in 2021 as being most significant, perhaps carrying implications for the rest of the year and beyond?

The “Covid year” put us in touch with our shared humanity. Seeing people’s kids, and dogs, and not-so-perfect totally un-Instagram lives on daily Zooms helped us connect on a deeper level, ironically, even if we couldn’t physically connect at all. I hope that layer of understanding last and begins to apply itself not only to our working relationships but continues to deepen our empathy of others, period. Radical empathy is going to be required to move us past divisions and start propelling us as a culture to a place of greater equity and understanding.

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?

In this dumpster fire of a year, we needed some comic relief. Full stop. Our clients at Noosa Yoghurt agreed and we partnered with the ridiculously talented (equal weight on ridiculous and talent) Matty Benedetto — founder and inventor-in-chief of Unnecessary Inventions. During the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, we dropped seven totally unnecessary ways to help people enjoy Noosa even more. Before we knew it, we had 250 million impressions and probably about as many of those smiling face emojis with the laugh-so-hard-you’re-crying eyes. The work dropped just after the Super Bowl and still captured attention, over-shadowing Super Bowl content with about 100X the budget.

In terms of meshing advertising and entertainment, I think there’s much to be excited about. My longtime friend, Jae Goodman, was chair of the Entertainment jury at Cannes this year and told me it was the most impressive work he’d ever seen. With all the woes of our industry and figuring out if we’ll ever come back to the office again, Creativity is apparently as fired up as ever.

At one point in my career I spent six years living in Asia, so I’m always fascinated with the work that performs well at Cannes from markets like South Korea, Japan, Thailand, etc. This year’s Entertainment Grand Prix winner was an idea out of Taiwan that was stunning for its sheer simplicity and emotional insight. The client was a realty company. (Yes, you read that right.) The data point was simple: Marriage in Taiwan (and therefore home sales to newly married couples) was declining in young adults. The leading realty company in Taiwan firmly believed the are “not just selling houses, but selling hope” and created a beautiful short film entitled In Love We Trust aimed at restoring people’s belief in marriage. It started a huge cultural conversation in Thailand. It wasn’t fancy or big budget. It’s not particularly “cutting edge.” But your heart would have to be made of stone to not respond to it. And the fact that it touched jurors from all around the world, not just Taiwan, speaks to how well the creators tapped into our universal fears and hopes in a raw, honest way through impeccable storytelling.

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