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Member Profile: Axis Studios with Jeffrey Blyseth and Jay Popeski

Posted By Administration, 5 hours ago
Updated: 5 hours ago

How did you get started in advertising? What’s been your career road map?
Jay and I both started out as Graphic Designers. When we first met, Jay was working for Disney as a Flash Developer and I was doing freelance Graphic Design. He introduced me to Flash, and like him, I became captivated by the possibilities. We started sharing creative ideas and working together to learn and create personal projects.

It sort of snowballed from there. We started doing small web projects and then one day we sort of decided to form a company together and go after more work. So we did, and started going after Entertainment work. This was when every film and DVD release had a microsite. We were just exploding with creativity building highly interactive web projects, games, you name it.

Then one day, a colleague at Fox Home Entertainment asked us if we could also do display ads for a movie site and we thought, "OK, can’t be that different". That experience got us excited about display ads and digital advertising. It was sort of a natural progression from there as streaming services came online and the whole movie industry shifted. We really didn’t look back from there.

We still do web development, apps, and quite a bit of design, but we really feel now that digital advertising is what drives us and is in our DNA now. It’s been a long and enjoyable arc.


What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?

There are two that are intertwined. Work with people you like and people that drive and inspire you. We’ve found that they really go hand in hand. Negative energy doesn’t just hurt your life and wellbeing, it can also really hurt the work. And even if it doesn’t seem like the work is suffering, it can always be better with teams and people that are enjoying working together and everybody, and the work, gets a lift.


What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?

Jay and I are both motivated by this sentence: You can always get better. Creatively, it’s freeing, and as a digital agency, it keeps us always excited about what’s next, whether its technology, creativity, business structure, or whatever. We always want what’s next.

I don’t know about a personal motto, but Jay and I also share the idea that no matter how you might feel in a moment, day, or week, if you put out more positive energy than you think you have to the people around you, it always comes back like a tsunami. So you may feel like you just don’t have it one day, but you’ll have more if you give more.


What excites you most about this industry?

I guess similar to how an actor must feel in playing many different roles. With different projects we end up learning about different industries that we wouldn’t normally seek out, whether its automotive, travel, consumer goods, whatever. Always something new and different.


Where is advertising headed? What do the next five years look like?

I know so many people way smarter than me who can answer this so much better. I will say that five years ago, the industry looked much different, we’ve seen the AOR model lose favor, and then come back a bit, and maybe that will keep waving. We will see VR and AR become more and more ubiquitous as the barrier between technology and user experience gets thinner. And probably 50 things I can’t think of. But what will be the same as it always has been is that it is always about relationships: client to agency, creative to creative, creative to account, agency to vendor, and so on. Build strong and trusted relationships and then whatever changes, you can change right along with it.


What advice do you have for [male or female] ad professionals who are beginning their careers?

Really know what part of the industry you want to be in. Are you more tech-minded? Do you love working with the client? Do you love the creative? And then within those, what exactly do you love about it? Really define what your interest is, and how it interleaves with your innate skills.


Why you decided to join ThinkLA?

There is an aspect of what Think LA does that is this huge extension of mentorship, which we love on a much more personal and smaller scale. There is a giving back to an industry that has given us so much, too. And there’s usually something for everyone with all of their events.


What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?

Ad Jam, definitely. We partnered with ThinkLA one year to do all of the graphics for the event, which was awesome. Great partners. And then, of course, the event; it’s a really fun evening.


Jeffrey Blyseth and Jay Popeski are Founders of Axis Studios.

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How Two 50-Year-Olds Created A Visionary Digital Marketing Agency Clients Love

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Updated: Friday, February 14, 2020

Cast Iron L.A. recently opened its doors to the world, and one of the first things they did was join ThinkLA as active members.

In a challenging market and a space which often undervalues experience, two seasoned advertising professionals decided to put their skills to great use and create a digital marketing agency which challenges the norms and shows that, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena.

They are a minority-owned agency and operate with Luis Ramirez as Art Director and J. Barbush as Writer (they don’t like fancy titles). On the operations side, Lisette Valladares is CFO and Collette Johnson Ramirez is COO. Together, they bring a broader and more diverse perspective to the work they create.

Cast Iron's 
Instagram is relatively new and worth a follow. Their daily feed provides some of the most unique and uplifting agency content out there. All images are shot by them on iPhone and serve to inspire a community that extends beyond marketers.


How did Cast Iron get started?

After leaving my last agency, I connected with my old partner,
Luis Ramirez, and we started our new marketing agency, Cast Iron L.A.

It’s almost dreamlike to think that less than a year ago, I had left my agency and now was in a tiny craft with my partner. It was considerably smaller, we had to paddle, but ultimately, we were swift and in control. 


The anxiety I had previously felt from losing that big, safe vessel and all the people I cared about who remained on board, was swept away by the need to stay afloat. I was now a free spirit, a digital vagabond riding the laptop workplace waves on a small vessel. We were wet, dirty and exhausted. And yet, it was beautiful.


Luis and I had been partners on some of my favorite, award-winning campaigns. He taught me so many things about brands and the need to personally participate in the platforms we were recommending for our clients. 


A few years ago, when I took over social and he took over digital, we only partnered on a few projects. Then, he was let go. On his own lifeboat. People come and go all the time in this business, but his exit hit different. Yet, several years later, when I was cast off, he was there to rescue me. The universe put our pieces back together, an old client reached out, and from there, more clients, more work, and our new agency was born.


We struggled with what to call ourselves, as naming a business is harder than naming a child. After many rounds, careful considerations, we ultimately landed on Cast Iron LA. It was the perfect name for a marketing agency started by experienced 50-year-olds. Because like Cast Iron, we get better with age. 


So, out of the frying pan, as they say.

Yes. And there are less mixed-metaphoric parts of our origin story that don’t involve pans or ships. Without seed money, we started an LLC, and looked at everything through an efficiency lens. We needed an address but didn’t need to work there. We needed staff, but not everyone all the time. We didn’t want to create unnecessary expenses that ultimately got passed on to our client partners, without any benefit to them. Our decisions would be smart, efficient and scalable. In an early meeting, our accountant said, “Start off the way you want to end.” We live by those words.


We also needed an ethos. What was our path and purpose? We want to share our gifts with the community, so we donate to causes we believe in, and volunteer in the area. We both have mixed-race families and care deeply about issues involving diversity, inclusion, mental health, and women’s rights. As we staff, we give opportunity to all underserved people in advertising, including those of a certain age who have been vanquished by an industry that values youth over experience.


More broadly, we want to help and inspire people on a daily basis. One place that happens is our Instagram. Every day we post ideas and perspectives that add optimism to the world. We don’t brag about the veneered world of #agencylife. We simply present a fresh, humble and hope-filled start to everyone’s day. 


What’s the story behind the name?

Cast Iron represents the rebirth of old metal that’s been cast away. It was the brake pad that kept your family safe while driving. The metal bridge that provided a way to work. The girder of a demolished apartment building that fell out of architectural favor. All those metal scraps were collected and melted together in a process that made them stronger than before. That’s why Cast Iron is so versatile and will outlive everything else in your pantry. As kitchen fads come and go, this one will remain. It is strong, resilient, easy to work with, and gets consistent results. 
The Cast Iron process is a mineral transformation and ours is a digital one.


And guess what. There are thousands of us out there. The old, discarded brake pads, the bridges, the buildings. We are marketing metallurgy. Big, experienced thinkers on small ships that thrive on the open water. Now, our collective wake is shaking up the agency world. 


How is Cast Iron different from other agencies?


There are other big agency barriers we are out to break as well. I shoot every Instagram post, even though I’m a writer. And, at times, Luis, an art director, writes. Even at a small company, we didn’t want to be encumbered by self-righteous titles or dusty silos that slow the big agency ship.


Like many others, we got burned out by meandering processes that relied on the cog of the specialists to move forward, or having 25 people in a room, unable to make a decision or look up from their laptops to do it. Instead, we have chosen to be vocationally fluid, venturing into areas that traditionally seem outside the expertise a title may represent. 


Please describe the ethos of Cast Iron.


Our values are evident in everything we do. We needed a bank, so we chose one that had diversity and inclusivity. We did our homework, and believe it or not, Bank Of America topped that list. We needed to stand by our values, so we decided against entering a big pitch because of a little-known environmental concern we discovered. We go to Coffee Bean, because of how their employees stood up to a racist. We don’t go to Starbucks, for that very public moment of intolerance.


Zooming back into how we actually put food on the table, being multi-dimensional was the business way forward. Most big agencies struggle with scale, legacy leadership with fixed mindsets and processes that were made when people still smoked in their offices. Small agencies are more adaptable to change, but become highly specialized, and therefore rigid. Generally, there are two types of boutique agencies. A sector that specializes in the science, and another that specializes in the art. Our bootstrap background and growth mindset allow us to be both.


We use our experience to simplify the relationship between brands and agencies by offering direct contact between the creatives and the client. Bloat is our enemy, silos are our battles, so we are building creative teams that can create the work, manage the work and pitch it all to the client. That is our distinction. That is our disruption.


How do you create disruption in the market?


Our renegade past continues to guide our bespoke future. Not so long ago, we were the digital pioneers of the mid-90’s. The disrupters who started when the Internet was born. We were the weird ones, the risk-takers, the misfits. We wore rainbow sandals and sprinted on Razors towards a future most agency leaders didn’t understand. They thought we were a fad. And they made that known. Sometimes expressed, but more often implied. We were never as good as the “traditional” creatives who did tv and print. Digital wasn’t creative. Then, social wasn’t creative. I guess, only a big, immeasurable, expensive TV campaign was creative. Sometimes, we felt like imposters. 


And more often than not, we were quietly treated as such. If you were in digital in the 90’s, you know what we mean.


But the digital misfits of the world are now driving the dynamism of the new agency economy because we know how to adapt. We fit, while others retrofit. The big agency ships are not so sturdy anymore. The water beneath them is churning and their course is obstructed by the collective swell of the small boats around them–nimble crafts that can move about quickly. Together, the misfits are looking for a new way. A better way. A way unburdened by the traditional agency model or the wide berth it requires.


There’s a lot to consider in your new environment. How do you navigate?


Uncharted waters require a new path forward. A course correction for some, but simply a new heading for those of us beginning the voyage. All around us are the strategists, the photographers, the virtual assistants, all moored together. We saw the horizon, the storms up ahead. We jumped ship or were pushed off because our payload was too expensive to carry. Dropping weight doesn’t change the trajectory of a ship, though. It merely continues its slow progress until the next time it needs to do it.


The new agency world doesn’t look like Newport Harbor, it looks like Spring Break in Havasu. Experienced people hitching their small boats together to offer better services for less money. It is an attractive and efficient way for brands to stay afloat, as budgets get cut, workload increases, and their agencies can’t figure a way to adapt. 


Read the trades. Right now, many agencies struggle to find efficiency and rely on historic relationships and bygone models to keep the lights on. Most holding companies are too large or simply don’t know how to adapt to the new changes, so they pad hours, add unnecessary fees, throw the interns on it, or absorb specialty boutiques which become more overhead and more removed from the work. 


What does it look like moving forward?


As we grow, our goal is to find multi-disciplinary creatives who can work beyond their specialty, directly with the client. This helps simplify the relationship between brand managers and agencies by offering direct, efficient connections between experienced, business-minded creatives and in-house marketing departments. The phone game between those doing the work and those pitching the work is inefficient and outdated, so we’d rather not be on that call. 


That happens when you have the right talent and are not bogged down by process, size or ulterior motives. We do what’s right for the client, not what’s right for our careers. We are early adopters of the new agency model and are glad to share these waters with so many other castoffs. 

Without them, we would be lost. We would not exist.


What has changed in your purpose from then to now?


We’ve had our Lions, Clios, Pencils, Shortys, Webbys, etc. They’re distant relics of our past lives. With age, our priorities have changed. At 50, we don’t care about our books, we care about our client’s books. We don’t want to get rich, we want to make our clients rich. We’re less interested in heading to Cannes on the client’s dime, as we are about heading to get our daughters from school. For us, work and life do not live on opposite ends of a continuum. They live together.


As we self-actualize during our midlife, we realize what got us here today is positivity, purpose, listening and a sense of business acumen. That same law of attraction brings us worthy people and outstanding clients. And it will continue to keep us on this rewarding journey. That philosophy has allowed us to catch, rather than pitch.


We are a small digital marketing agency, with clients in small business, medium business and big, international business. We help them efficiently navigate new waters with flexibility and experience at the helm. 2020 is the year brands should hitch their ship to ours and go with us to the places the big vessels can no longer reach. 


We speak the unfettered truth. We invite potential partners to join us on a journey that will feed their spirit, purpose and bottom line.



Tags:  #castiron #agency #members #digital #marketing 

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Member Profile: Kat Jones, Founder, Motiv PR

Posted By Don Lupo, Thursday, December 12, 2019
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2019

How did you get started in advertising/marketing/PR? What's been your career road map? 

I had a good sense early on that communications and marketing was the path I wanted to take. I graduated with a degree in communications and during my time in college I had a couple internships and jobs that focused on marketing and promotions. Where it really got my foot in the door was during my first job out of college at Marvel.

Marvel wasn’t what it is today. It was 2007, and they had only recently unveiled the studio and were working on the first Iron Man film. There was this constant feeling that we knew we were all a part of something special... something that was going to be great.

On a daily basis, we were operating within what felt like a small “ma and pa” organization while simultaneously being surrounded by beloved and well-known properties, and everyone had to pull up their bootstraps and just get it done, no matter how high up in the organization you were. Everyone got their hands dirty. The atmosphere was creative and constructive chaos that, although crazy at times, allowed for me to dip my toes into a variety of areas and really get a feel for what I was passionate about and what route I wanted to take. I latched on to entertainment marketing early on and slowly honed into a communications and PR focus.

That was where I felt the most comfortable yet the most challenged at the same time. Communications and PR made absolute sense to me while making me understand how quickly it can change and evolve, and I wanted to be at the tip of it all.

After being at Marvel for nearly four years in a variety of marketing, promotions and PR roles, I felt it was time to expand into a new area that I had been extremely curious about: digital media and online content. I headed over to Machinima, which at the time was this bright shiny object known as one of the first “MCNs” (multi-channel networks). Over the next four years, I grew within this wild west of a company and ended up overseeing all communications and PR for Machinima.

Around that time, esports and live streaming was starting to gain significant traction. I had been working in entertainment gaming-related content but was very interested in an industry in which its tournaments were selling out Madison Square Garden. I transitioned over to a company called Azubu, which was a live streaming platform focused solely on esports. That was an extreme learning curve for me, but one that I took it in stride, traveling globally to develop and execute PR strategies across multiple regions, including Korea, Brazil, the UK and more.

After a couple years there I jumped ship to Defy Media, starting out focusing on PR for their consumer brands (Smosh, Smosh Games, Clevver, ScreenJunkies, etc), and eventually overseeing PR for the company as a whole. It was around early 2018 when I really began contemplating and eventually mapping out what it would look like to start my own PR firm. My passion, understanding and experience for all things digital media, online content, games, gaming and geek-related culture and technology really made me realize it was time to get outside of my comfort zone and start my own thing.

At the end of 2018, I launched Motiv PR, and it has been one of the best career decisions I have ever made. I now run Motiv PR, which primarily focuses on communications and PR across digital media, gaming and technology, but we also offer social media management, influencer marketing, event marketing and more. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients on some super exciting and entertaining projects that I’m deeply passionate about, and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me.

What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
As I’ve grown in my career, two of the most valuable lessons that have become staples in my life are:
• Vocalize what you want and communicate with whoever you need to about it. Never be afraid to talk openly and honestly about it, but be realistic and ensure it’s not too above and beyond or outside the scope of what you’re working towards. Everyone is too busy working on themselves and their own lives, and they’re rarely going to go out of their way to ensure you get what you deserve. So do not be afraid to push for it.
• Work very hard and be nice to people.

What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I made a promise to myself early on in my career that if I woke up consistently every day unhappy with my job, I’d make a change then and there. No one is going to hand opportunities to me. Complaining about my current situation won’t change it. Only I have the power to do that, so what keeps me motivated is always knowing it’s me who is in control of my own destiny, and I can make decisions and take actions that point me in the direction I want to go. I’m not at the fate of anyone else, and as long as I do what I love, treat people well, work REALLY hard and understand where I need to go next in life, that’s my sense of constant motivation.

What excites you most about this industry?
Where do I even begin. Being involved in digital media and emerging technologies is a constant reminder that NOTHING is stagnant, everything is constantly changing, and as long as you’re open to not only change, but being a part of what helps the change move in the right direction, it’s an extremely exciting area to be in. Especially for PR, because it’s the role of a PR person to explore and share narratives, and due to digital media, the many ways in which a narrative can be developed, shared and expanded are constantly changing. I also absolutely love the people who work in this field. So many whip-smart forward-thinking game-changing people who are ready for anything, or are the ones paving the way. I love surrounding myself with people who challenge me in every way and make me want to be better and do better, and this industry provides just that.

What were some factors which influenced your decision to become a ThinkLA member?
I had learned about ThinkLA a few years ago from a good friend and colleague of mine, Myra Marayag, and after doing some research I realized how amazing this organization is. So many opportunities to meet creative and thrilling people across the industry and continually grow as a professional. No matter how far you go in your career, you always have to be open to learn and grow, and being a part of ThinkLA helps me do just that -- exposing me to new conversations, ideas and points of view on a regular basis.

Where is advertising/marketing/PR headed? What do the next five years look like? 
We’re really in for something special to take place across those areas, for a multitude of reasons.

1. From the PR side, the idea of just putting out a press release to gain traction is going to be a distant memory. Each and every story that will be told will need to be uniquely approached from all angles and aligned with tactics and goals that make sense for the brand as well as the audience that they’re trying to reach. No more one size fits all, although it’s safe to say that hasn’t been the case for a while.

2. Still related to PR, I think we’ll also see podcasts and online video content (YouTube and other video platforms) being a go-to place for editorial brand awareness, no longer traditional publications (although they’ll of course still be valuable).

3. There will be a very clear and overwhelming shift from traditional advertising and marketing placements to much more organic and involved brand integrations within content and tied to other brands. In other words, it would need to be so organic and feel native to the content it’s included in that without it, the content couldn’t exist.

4. Consumers will have a much larger and more vocal say on how and when they’re marketed and advertised to, which will play a huge part in what that ultimately looks like. Online communities especially are extremely vocal about what works and doesn’t work for them and brands will have to pay close attention to ensure they’re not alienating or not catering to the communities they’re trying to reach.

Essentially, due to the online landscape, there will be so many changes across advertising, marketing and PR that it will be difficult to keep up; from new platforms to engage on, to unique and valuable communities emerging, to leveraging organic methods to expand credibility and user affinity, it’s the role of the advertiser, marketer and publicist to stay ahead of the curve across all of those areas and ensure they’re smart enough to differentiate between a blip trend and something that has staying power.

What advice do you have for ad professionals who are beginning their careers?
The best advice I can give is:
• Put in the work. Nothing is ever going to be handed to you, so don’t assume anything -- just lean into something you love and lean into it hard. If you work hard, hone your craft and start to shine, you’ll get noticed.

• Meet as many people as possible; don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone in an effort to meet new people from all walks of life. You don’t know what they’ll teach you or how they might play a big part in helping you grow, both personally and professionally.

• Early in your career, try not to say "No". For example, early on I took a job that I didn’t want, but it helped introduce me to someone who eventually hired me for a gig I did want. Don’t just assume because at face value it’s not for you, you should pass it up; you just never know where it’ll lead you. P.S. You can be a bit more flexible with saying "No"later on in your career.

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help; however, not until you’ve done the necessary diligence to try and figure out the problem yourself. Critical thinking without immediately asking someone else for the answer or help is so crucial to develop a strong mind and detail-oriented approach for both work and life.

• Have fun. The moment it’s not fun, do something about it.

• Always be open to change, and at times, when it makes sense, be at the forefront of change.

• Again, and most importantly, work hard and be nice to people.

What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?
Co-chairing the 2019 ThinkLA Gaming Breakfast with Myra Marayag and Robert Figouroa, and all the amazing planning we were able to accomplish with ThinkLA gurus Marcie Booth and DonLupo.

Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?

I have a really good feeling about 2020, and you should too.


Kat Jones is Founder of Motiv PR.

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Deutsch CEO Mike Sheldon Reflects on Two Decades at the Agency

Posted By Don Lupo, Thursday, October 10, 2019
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2019

By Doug Zanger
Senior Editor

Reprinted with permission

Deutsch North America’s CEO Mike Sheldon 
is hanging up his cleats. It’s not a retirement, per se, but a move away from Deutsch in Los Angeles after 22 years.

During his tenure, the Michigan native has presided over highs and lows. Most notably, Sheldon is credited with turning Deutch’s then-nascent L.A. operation into one of the staples of the market, taking it from a handful of people to, at its peak, a 600-plus juggernaut. The agency continues to create standout work for brands, including high profile campaigns for Taco Bell, Dr. Pepper and others.

On the downside, the agency split from Target, yet won the Reebok business shortly after that. Additionally, after nine years—and being credited with reviving Volkswagen’s fortunes with breakout work including the oft-referenced “The Force”—Deutsch and the carmaker ended their relationship.

Yet with all of the ups and downs (common in any agency), Sheldon, who spent six years at TBWA\Chiat\Day pre-Deutsch, remained upbeat and steadfast in his mission to build and retain a positive outlook and culture. Adweek caught up with Sheldon to find out a little more about his time at Deutsch and what’s next.

I’ll start with the predictable question. Why now?
Mike Sheldon: It’s a confluence of events. I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I turned 60 a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been talking to [IPG CEO] Michael Roth about this for a while and want to see what else is out there. I’m not ready to go feed pigeons on a park bench. I want to see what the universe brings. I still have a lot of energy and interest in new and exciting ventures, and I figured after 22 years at Deutsch and 37 years in advertising, maybe there’s something else out there for me.

What would you say, outside of the obvious things like technology, are the most significant changes you’ve seen at Deutsch L.A.?
We’ve always been about investing ahead of revenue. In the future, it will be the same. You have to stay ahead of the business, or you’ll get run over. We got into digital production years ago, 
and started Steelhead [Deutch’s in-house production company] a few years ago. Experiential is now huge, analytics are as well. The future is going to be like the past: Unless you stay ahead, it will get the best of you.

How does an agency “stay ahead”?
For us, it’s having rock-solid clients like Taco Bell, Keurig Dr. Pepper and H&R block that appreciate the partnership and long-term commitment and depths of understanding that an agency can have into a client’s business and provide value way beyond any marketing communication. Then some clients want a TV spot or need to spend time looking at their consumer base. You have to go with the flow since there aren’t a ton of AOR relationships. I keep telling everybody to think of yourself as the ultimate Swiss army knife because that’s what we need to be a good, successful agency moving forward.

You’ve touched on a couple of successful points in your tenure. Aside from those, what would say is another significant accomplishment?
By far, the idea of kindness. There are a lot of really good people in this business—brilliant and creative people. But that has to be combined with being kind and putting your employees first and, unfortunately, making some of those difficult decisions like walking away from a prickly client. It doesn’t get talked about much in this business, but being good to other humans is a business asset.

Anything you would have done differently over the past two-plus decades?
I thought that I could have started an agency at one point, but it was never in the cards or the right things for me. I used to think that I should have done that, but looking back, I’ve realized how much I’ve enjoyed and valued my time here.

One of the tougher times for the agency was the end of the VW relationship. What did you learn from that?
I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t say it was a kick in the gut after nine years of really great results, fantastic work and a great brand point of difference. But that’s advertising. That’s what we signed up for. There are a lot of things that you can’t control, and the best advertising executives have a short memory. So while that stung, nine months later, it’s a distant memory, and we’re on to all the work that’s currently filling up the plate. You can’t take that stuff too seriously, personally or emotionally—it’ll eat you alive.

What’s your view on the agency world today?
It’s a tougher time than it’s ever been in the business, but it’s also kind of a mind game now. You have to stay positive, keep pitching and pushing. Anybody that reads too much of the press or gets bummed out about anything is dead because this business is just unforgiving. So it’s staying ahead. It’s innovating, it’s adding new divisions. It’s not being afraid to invest and keeping both feet on the gas. Otherwise, there’s just too much gravity pulling things down right now. Clients will always pay for ideas, great execution and results-driven communications.

What’s next for you?
I’m going to keep the aperture wide open. I have purposely not overplanned this. My goal is to see what the universe brings in. That might be taking a bike ride on a random Tuesday, consulting, bringing in a direct-to-consumer product to life, or another type of product to life. I really want to stay open.

Is Lil’ Sweet, Diet Dr. Pepper’s mascot, the most underrated ever?
I think he might be. But, in all seriousness, 
we love Lil’ Sweet, and that brand continues to defy gravity year after year because it’s the coolest, weirdest campaign in the world.

Doug Zanger is a senior editor at Adweek focusing on creativity and agencies. Find him on Twitter at @zanger.

This article originally ran in Adweek and is reprinted with permission.


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Do What You Love

Posted By Editorial, Monday, September 30, 2019

By Robert Bridwell
Creative Director
LO:LA Agency

It is always satisfying when you get to do what you love. One of the greatest pleasure’s we know as a group of like-minded souls is when we are out on location, pulling a story together.

Earlier this year we had the challenge and pleasure to bring to life the stories behind Total Wine & More’s Winery Direct program. Who wouldn’t turn down the chance to spend 10 days in Napa interviewing and filming what are effectively the rock stars of Californian wine making. But I guess that is the rub, how do you do justice to a request like that with limited time and limited resources?

Intelligent collaboration is the way we do things and bringing together the right team for this job was, for us, theory in practice.

Five days, 10 vineyards, and what felt like an infinite number of products to capture, to do justice to this request was only going to be achieved if we thought differently about things. Just creating content was never going to be enough. Today we seem to live in a world where content is king, but that isn’t enough, less really is more. Rather than just flood the world with more things, we need to create better things, we need to connect with consumers on an authentic, sincere level.

On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers, these emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do. So, deploying emotionally – connection-based experiences can help drives significant improvements in business outcomes.


At LO:LA we seek out and engage with the emotionally connected customer. The Brand Storytelling Report 2015, commissioned by content marketing agency Headstream, revealed that while 80% of people (UK adults) want brands to tell stories, 85% of them can’t remember a good one.

So, we’re constantly looking for ways to relate. To us it’s about holding up a mirror to consumers and letting them know the story starts from and with them.

“Show customers you know them and show them you care”

This then became our mantra for how we went about capturing our content. To deliver on this we strive to be as authentic as possible. We believe that having a nimble crew is not only cost effective for the client, it’s also improves our ability to be authentic. When large crews show up talent has a tendency to feel overwhelmed, especially when they aren’t hired talent. The winemakers we interviewed were relieved when they saw the size of our crew and more relaxed. Nothing was scripted, just a list of questions tailored to capture the topics we needed in the cut. We were able to move around from vineyards, tasting room and barrel rooms, capturing product still photography, b-roll and drone footage within a few hours.


Having a nimble crew was a huge advantage for us as well. We were able to cover two wineries a day. Even on days when we drove from one wine region to the next, we delivered on the ask. Each location had unique elements we wanted to identify and capture. With walkie talkies in hand, we would split up and scout the best options and quickly get set up for the interview. Meanwhile, our photographer set out to capture product stills. Very passionately, we were amazed with what he was able to pull off with very little direction.

Creating content is a labor of love. Having trust as a team instills trust with the interviewees and the client. Being open to all suggestions and working with a team that shares your passion and strives to deliver the best result is how we deliver on our promise of intelligent collaboration.



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Anniversary of the Signing of the ADA

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 31, 2019
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Entertaining Cord Cutters with Advanced TV

Posted By Sponsored Content, Wednesday, July 17, 2019

By Frank Pasquine

Content Manager

Tremor Video

It is often said that, "The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing." It is our job as entertainment marketers to tell our story to the right audiences without feeling intrusive. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have fun in the process.

Over the years, there’s been no better platform for brand storytelling in the entertainment marketing space than the centerpiece of the modern living room — the television. However, we’re no longer living in an era dominated by linear and cable television. Over-the-top (OTT) video is where it’s at. 

For those of you unaware of what OTT is, it’s pretty simple. OTT covers any premium long-form video content that is streamed over the internet through an app or device onto a TV (or PC, tablet, or smartphone) without requiring users to subscribe to a wired cable, telco or satellite TV service. This content is accessed on Connected TV (CTV) devices include streaming players/sticks (e.g. Roku/Amazon Fire TV), gaming consoles (e.g. PS4), and smart TVs. Just think of how many times you’ve binged The Office or Stranger Things through your favorite streaming platform. It’s almost as if cable is now your old high school friend. Sure, you might still keep in touch, but OTT is your new best friend that you’d rather hang out with!

Let’s take a look at the facts. U.S. cord cutters will increase to 55 million in 2022, from 33 million in 2018, and there are over 820 million connected video devices in the US. Soon you’ll be left with no choice but to include CTV in your video strategy. 

We shouldn’t fear these changes; we should embrace them. Delivering your video to the big screen without as big of a price tag, engaging with millennials and cord cutters, and creating customized creative messaging are just some of the reasons why the latest video advertising trend is rapidly surpassing traditional TV advertising.

Advanced TV solutions provide the ability to be more creative and intelligent in your brand storytelling. You still have access to the largest screen in the room, only now it comes with the ability to reach your audiences with more granularity. So, your new horror movie trailer can now reach cord cutters who not only frequent the movie theater, but also binge on shows like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead. Not only that, viewers will be able to enjoy the full video trailer, as they’re unable to skip ahead on CTV like they would on YouTube.

Furthermore, advertisers can leverage an abundance of data in order to take their creative execution one step further. For example, at Tremor Video, we have an in-house Creative Studio that can build custom overlays, end cards, or branded title cards, based on unique audience data, and incorporate them with unique messaging that is more likely to engage your audience.

Even for those still watching their primary programming on traditional TV or cable – we also have the ability to reach them while they’re multitasking on their phones, tablets, and computers. This past year, through the process of retargeting TV viewers via their second devices, Tremor Video was able to provide actual impactful results for major entertainment clients with KPIs like lift in TV tune-in and lift in movie goers—not to mention overall brand awareness, clicks, downloads, and more. 

The possibilities are seemingly endless. This all starts by being proactive during initial planning and including stakeholders from each team that will work on your campaign. Begin with a creative strategy brief, then align on goals, share insights on what works, and streamline effectively from the get-go. When done right, it makes your brand feel organic to the content and to the consumer you’re connecting with. The key is to understand the technology that is readily available, embrace consumer viewing trends, and think creatively when strategizing your video campaigns. 

After recently joining forces with YuMe by RhythmOne, a leader in Advanced TV solutions, Tremor Video can now offer customers an even more robust set of CTV advertising solutions. If you’re interested in learning more, visit


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Reflections from 'Soul of a Nation'

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 10, 2019
The ThinkLA DIG Committee gathered at The Broad museum in Downtown Los Angeles to see the important exhibits at Soul of a Nation: Art in theAge of Black Power 1963-1983

Soul of a Nation shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists made over two decades, beginning in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. Soul of a Nation explores how social justice movements, as well as stylistic evolutions in visual art (such as Minimalism and abstraction), were powerfully expressed in the work of artists including Romare BeardenBarkley HendricksNoah PurifoyMartin PuryearFaith RinggoldBetye SaarAlma ThomasCharles White, and William T. Williams. Los Angeles-based artists appear throughout Soul of a Nation, and more deeply in three specific galleries, foregrounding the significant role of Los Angeles in the art and history of the civil rights movement and the subsequent activist era, and the critical influence and sustained originality of the city’s artists, many of whom have lacked wider recognition.

Featuring the work of more than 60 influential artists and including vibrant paintings, powerful sculptures, street photography, murals, and more, this landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.

Three of our committee members offered their perspectives and reactions to the exhibit. Please see photos in the gallery below.

Kirsten Atkinson
Vice President, Client Partnerships Group
DIG Committee Co-Chair

The Broad “Soul of a Nation” took me on a journey of Black America’s (lowercase intentional) frustration and anger of the oppression endured at that time, expressed through various art forms. I was mostly impressed by those who chose to use creatively to heal their souls and document their experience in a personal way – Bearden, Hendricks and Puryear to name a few. New artists emerged, new expressions of art were formed and healing begun. I was touched by the experience.

Christine Rose

Regional Marketing Manager, West Region
Outfront Media

My favorite piece was a wood sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett titled “Black Unity”. The gesture, the raising of a closed fist, is a widely known symbol of the black power movement. The sculpture showed this famous gesture and on the reverse side showed two faces, in the style of African masks. Two very different images. To me, the fist represented power and strength, while the faces (or people behind the fist) felt confident, in control and calm.


Another great moment was finding a QR code to a ‘Soul of a Nation Playlist’. This was a great compliment to the exhibit that allowed me to also experience some artist’s music who also paved the way.


The entire exhibit was insightful, and really celebrates the age of Black Power. I think it also told a story that is still relevant today.


Sara Hope

Hope Creative

Well, I certainly left creatively inspired! It was great to get out of the office, commune with new friends, and get some culture!

I learned more than I ever imagined through art - and in particular the use of symbols and color as statements to express oppression. As a creative and one who deals in symbols for branding often, it peaks my interest and I want to learn more. 

We even left with a blank panther pin and some sweet Basquiat cards! 


Samantha Hawkins

Senior Consultant

DIG Committee Co-Chair

A theme that stood out to me was this tension black artists felt, around what it means to be a black artist, and what “black art” should or shouldn’t be. Some believed the black esthetic must be inherently separate from mainstream art, that it must be for activism and politics. Others disregarded any attempt at being defined or contained. In the 1970’s artist Benny Andrews wrote about white mainstream art critics for “not being able to see a black figure done by a black artist without automatically assuming that the work is propagandistic, or politicizing,” and “being unable to look at an all-black art exhibition with the same impartiality that he brings to an all-white exhibition.”


This is still very prevalent in our world today beyond art. We want to put everything in a box. Many people feel this tension in their own personal and professional life. There’s a duality of feeling a responsibility to represent my culture(s) and yet assert my own individual perspectives without it being received as something that belongs in a box because of the color of my skin.


This was such a great experience to go and learn among other advertising pros of all sorts of backgrounds. I find moments like this are a fun and informative way to open the doors, have intimate conversations to enhance our collective cultural competency and to welcome safe spaces to explore and learn about other cultures and perspectives in the future.


We’ll definitely be doing more outings like these, so stay tuned!




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SheSuite Recap: June 4, 2019

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 6, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

By Monique Hidalgo
Associate Community Manager

On June 4, ThinkLA hosted an event which gave people the opportunity to learn and meet some of L.A.’s top executive women who are dominating the marketing and advertising industry. All who attended the event had the pleasure of learning from Kim Getty, President of Deutsch; Laura Jones Joukovski, Chief Media Officer at TechStyle Fashion Group; Paula Madison, Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC; and former President and General Manager of NBC4 Los Angeles, and Denise Wong, President of Midnight Oil.

The event was moderated by Caitlin Bruno, Strategic Partner Manager at Snap Inc., who started the discussion by asking the panelists about some of the experiences they faced early in their careers. The audience quickly learned that the main driver of success for most of the panelists came from the motivation they received from their families. Kim shared a story, that personally resonated with me, about how losing her father at a young age ultimately became her main driver of her success. Watching her mother struggle as she had to join the workforce for the first time, motivated Kim to never put herself in that situation, and encouraged her to work to get to where she is today.

The panelists were then asked if they had faced any sponsors or antagonists that have impacted their career. Though most of the panel focused on the sponsors who motivated them, Paula shared an example of an antagonizing superior that she once dealt with. His demeaning approach became her motivator for achieving success. Paula made it so that her company recognized how essential she was to it, which even ended up with this particular person being forced to deliver her a promotion, himself.

Another topic Caitlin brought up, which led into an interesting discussion, was if the concept of “work-life balance” actually existed. I was particularly fascinated to learn that all of the panelists do not believe that “work-life balance” is even possible. Kim even stated that she thinks this term should stop being used by companies. Since all of the panelists are also mothers, they agreed that there is no such thing as “work-life balance” when you have to juggle kids, marriage, and a career. Some advice given by Laura was to find a great partner that can help you juggle all of these different aspects of life. Not that it can’t be done alone, but some help makes it a little less difficult.

Caitlin concluded the event by asking the panelists about their takes on the future of marketing and advertising industries. Though they unanimously agreed that since the start of their careers, there has been much improvement from companies being more accepting of diversity and change, they all believe that there is still a long way to go. The industry is evolving, but it’s our job as marketers and advertisers to help clients, companies, or even people to become more accepting of change by normalizing diversity.

One of my main takeaways from this event was to work for somebody that you want to work with, someone that you want to learn and grow from. The panelists were strong advocates about making sure that you put yourself first and are constantly looking out for your best interest. If you’re unhappy with a situation, whether that be because of a superior, your company, your clients, etc., do something about it. Find a somebody you want to work for, a company you want to grow in. Be proactive, “trailblaze your career.”

Path to the She Suite was stocked with some really inspirational women. Though they all have had different upbringings and experiences which lead them to where they are at now, they all shared one common entity – Kim, Laura, Paula, and Denise are all examples of women who are changing the narrative of women in marketing and advertising industries. Their resilience and perseverance are helping to pave the way for future women in the industry. 



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Monsters Turned Out to Be Just Trees: SheSuite Reflections

Posted By Claire Thompson, Wednesday, June 5, 2019
By Claire Thompson
Client Partner
Vice Media

I feel compelled to outwardly reflect on yesterday’s event, the culmination of many small but significant moments.

Early last year, when we were re-launching this series as ELC Live!, Susan Franceschini, ThinkLA Executive Director, sat down with me and the former co-chair and urged us to think bigger. So we popped a bottle of rosé, challenged ourselves on weak spots, identified learnings and honed our intentions for future work.

Path to the SheSuite emerged as a key focus from those conversations. And when our first event sold out, it validated our sneaking suspicion that value of this idea extended well beyond a spirited brainstorm.      

For several reasons, last night feels like our best work yet.

  • Our speakers absolutely tore it up (and made us laugh while doing it).

  • Caitlin Bruno, a fellow cultivator of community in our industry, achieved a personal first in moderating last night’s discussion (and what a natural she was).

  • We had a fuller, more engaged, more diverse audience than we did at our inaugural event (+500% more men!).

And, we were served up some serious wisdom (plus content recommendations from the baddies themselves, recapped below). Kim told us that the whole “work/life balance” thing probably doesn’t exist. Paula taught us the disarming power of a smile when you’re trying to get promoted. Laura quoted T.Swift and it was good. Denise cleared things up for us: everybody poops.

Most meaningful of all, last night felt like a beginning.

We all scurried off to capture fragments of inspiration buzzing around our heads. And we’re real excited about the ways we can build.

So, please receive this note as our thanks but also as a call to action. We want to brainstorm with you. We want to hear your ideas, outlandish and bland. We want to incubate spin-off events and initiatives.

We’re only as good as the team behind us and last night felt like a radical team effort. And I’m super jazzed about that.

With love,



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