Agency Brief: Red & Co Founder Mira Kaddoura starts fundraiser for Beirut
Following the devastating port explosion in Lebanon capital Beirut that killed 200 people, Red & Co. Founder Mira Kaddoura has started a fundraiser to help rebuild the city. The initiative is of course near to Kaddoura’s heart, as she is originally from Beirut. Kaddoura says even before the explosion, Beirut, referred as “the Paris of the east,” was facing a financial crisis and “teetering on the edge of ruination.”
Red & Co. is encouraging anyone who can to donate to the cause to do so, and it promises to match each donation, “dollar for dollar,” up to $20,000 through the end of August. The move is a substantial one especially in a time when agencies, especially small agencies, are struggling financially themselves due to the pandemic. Kaddoura notes that Red & Co. will also be committing creative resources “to help the citizens of this beautiful, magical, heartbreaking city that has already suffered so much.” She says the explosion destroyed not only homes and businesses but “necessary infrastructure” including hospitals and the main port of the country that brings in 80 percent of Lebanon’s food. Donations can be made here.
“Some of you may have your own connection to Beirut, but it is my home and where I grew up and have lots of family and friends,” Kaddoura says. “Lebanon’s citizens can’t rely on the feckless government (which just resigned) or the many corrupt institutions that await a karmic reckoning, so it’s up to all of us to help.”
Virtue expands Americas region, names two to lead
Virtue, the creative agency born from Vice, announced that it has expanded its Americas region, bringing its Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Mexico City, São Paulo and Toronto offices under the same umbrella. To lead this newly expanded region, the agency appointed Krystle Watler as managing director and Genie Gurnani as executive creative director of the Americas. Virtue says it has already been operating “under a borderless, global model” across its 21 offices and this regional integration of the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico will see those teams working closer together. Gurnani, based in Singapore, most recently was the head of creative for both Virtue’s and Vice’s APAC region. Watler was managing director of North America.
Watler says the expanded Americas region to include Virtue’s Mexico City and São Paulo offices in particular will “not only help with our growth objectives” but “also diversify our thought, our approach.”
As leaders in positions of power, Watler and Gurnani penned an open letter, “Come Through,” to their fellow diverse, underrepresented and marginalized advertising professionals. The two explain in the letter why they “get” the struggles people of color in the advertising face because “we got through" them. They talk about having to bite their tongue on certain issues, hiding their true selves so their ideas could break through and “seeing nobody like us at the table.” Watler and Gurnani write that they navigated all those obstacles so they “could change all that” for other marginalized people—who they assert belong at Virtue Worldwide.
Pause for a cause
Havas London has partnered with Creative Equals—a diversity, inclusion and equality organization—to entice other shops to take up an anti-discrimination initiative it enacted within its own agency last year. The initiative, called “Press Pause,” provides employees with the means to challenge “problematic views and behaviors.”
According to the agency, the guidelines are as such: should employees face “an uncomfortable or problematic encounter (defined as “any exchange where behavior is shown or something is said or implied, including microaggressions) that is deemed prejudiced, discriminatory, derogatory or negative toward any one person or more”—they should take a “pause” before several next steps are taken. Havas says, once “paused,” employees can voice their concern right in that moment if they so choose, shift the conversation onto an “appropriate topic” and “later raise their concern with a nominated person.” The agency says employees can also opt to walk away from the situation and report the incident. Havas ensures that “further steps will then be taken, the exact nature of which are dependent on the circumstances of the incident.”
The agency’s initiative, now backed by Creative Equals, is “an acknowledgment that the industry lacks a codified means through which its people can confidently challenge discrimination in all its guises," the agency says. Havas London encourages other agencies to adopt similar practices.
“It is incumbent on all of us to call out discrimination, wherever we see it,” says Havas Helia CEO Xavier Rees. “If we don’t, we are complicit. As an agency leader, I need to ensure everyone is able to do that, with confidence and without fear. Press Pause arms our people with the right tools when faced with a difficult situation and empowers them to address it through a clear process and the right support.”
The Via Agency offers free creative to pandemic-stricken businesses
Portland, Maine-based The Via Agency has started an initiative, called Resurgam, through which it will offer free advertising services to 10 small, local and primarily minority-owned companies adversely affected by the pandemic. The agency has partnered with the Portland Press Herald to create and distribute 10 poster ads (like the one below for Better Letter Hand Painted Signs, already completed) for small businesses. Local companies The Via Agency says it will be deploying its creative services to, free of charge, include a coffee shop, a college and a knitting restaurant (whatever that is). The project was aptly named “Resurgam,” which means “I shall rise again" in Latin. The mantra is also Maine’s motto.
“This really is a special project for us,” The Via Agency Chief Creative Officer Bobby Hershfield says. “We loved partnering with the Portland Press Herald to help fill ad space and we loved turning that ad space into a vehicle to help small businesses around town."
L.A. women's soccer team selects trio of shops as lead partners
The National Women’s Soccer League’s new Los Angeles team, Angel City, has selected Havas-owned Battery, Interpublic Group of Cos.’ R/GA and social media boutique shop Plural as its agency partners to support its internal marketing team following a review. The National Women’s Soccer League last month awarded exclusive rights to start an L.A. team to Academy Award-winning actress and activist Natalie Portman; technology venture capitalist Kara Nortman; media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman; and tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, who led the investment through his firm Initialized Capital. The team is set to start its first season in 2022.
Battery will be responsible for assisting with brand development and had already been working with the internal team to come up with the Angel City name and design. Plural first got involved in May and will continue to collaborate on social content development and implementation. R/GA will focus on social strategy and long-term community engagement and development.
"We are rewriting the playbook for women’s athletics,” says Uhrman, who serves as founder and president of Angel City. “We are fortunate to have a team of talent who bring decades of experience building some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world while we endeavor to bring a new era of sport and entertainment to the communities of Los Angeles who deserve this moment.”
Instrument promoted Rocky Clarke-Puntney to executive director of Nike. She joined the Portland-based agency in January 2012 and most recently served as a group director on the Nike account. Instrument has worked with Nike for the past 10 years, most recently serving up ads including “Until We All Win,” the brand’s push for equality, and “You Can’t Stop Us,” its response to the pandemic. Instrument says Clarke-Puntney will be responsible for “offering a higher level of partnership and strategy” for Nike in her new role.
Grey Europe was named global agency of record for Livinguard, a technology brand with a focus on hygiene and sustainability. Grey Germany, Grey Consulting and Wildfire—a WPP-owned social and influencer agency—will be responsible for Livinguard’s brand strategy, app development and delivery, communications strategy, digital and social media. One of the agencies’ first tasks will be to help build the company’s “Protected by Livinguard” platform, which aims to position Livinguard as “the leading global brand for hygiene and disinfection, starting with face masks, gloves and wipes.”
Eleven has appointed Andre Gray as its new executive creative director in San Francisco. Gray most recently worked at TBWA/Neboko’s Amsterdam hub as global creative director for Adidas and Gatorade. He is behind such work as “Goodbye Gravity” for Adidas’ Ultraboost products. In his role at Eleven, Gray will work alongside Chief Creative Officer Mike McKay across the agency’s clients which include Samsung, Pella, JSX, Electrify America and Dignify Health.
Huge has hired Irina Kondrashova as VP of strategy. She comes from Uber, where she spent three years as head of brand strategy for the U.K. and Ireland. In the new role at Huge, Kondrashova will lead global strategy for the agency’s long-standing partnership with Google. She will report directly to Huge West Coast President Mark Manning.