Ahead of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we're spotlighting creative talents behind some of the year's most promising work and whose presence is sure to be felt on the Croisette. Previously, we featured the duo behind Titanium contenders for Adidas and the Columbia Journalism Review, the W&K trio who steered Nike's "Dream Crazy," and he Mother N.Y. team behind the New York Public Library's "Instanovels." Now, here's the Droga5 pair behind The New York Times campaign likely to nab big Lions next week.
The New York Times’ “The Truth Is Worth It” campaign is advertising poetry. In just seconds, with a seemingly simple combination of image, text and sound, its spots recount the arduous journeys NYT reporters take from hunch to scoops. The journalists make call after call, feign sickness and throw themselves into war zones to realize stories such as “Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border” and “The ISIS Files: When Terrorists Run City Hall.”
The ads themselves took some sweat too.
Led by Droga5 Creative Directors Toby Treyer-Evans and Laurie Howell, the campaign has already earned top nods at The One Show and D&AD, and going into Cannes, it’s shortlisted for a Titanium Award.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could show everything that went into a headline, but do it as if the journalist was discovering it as they were writing the story?’” Treyer-Evans recalls.
The spots rely largely on interviews with the journalists themselves and on found footage, including photos and video the reporters captured on their phones. “It was tricky tracking it all down and poring through hours and hours of stuff they shot,” Howell says. The process then involved working side-by-side with the directors in the editing room to refine the footage and various elements, and then afterwards, incorporate the sound design.
One of the biggest challenges was staying “true” to the story. “If one sentence wasn’t right, it messed up the entire script,” Treyer-Evans says. “We had to reduce our interviews with the journalists to the most interesting story beats, and we couldn’t just make it up as we went along,” Howell adds.
The pair of U.K. natives proved to be adept storytellers even before the Times came along. Among their other projects at Droga5 are the quietly stirring “The Last da Vinci” film promoting Christie’s auction of the artist’s “Salvator Mundi,” as well as Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself” ad starring Michael Phelps, which earned a Cannes Lions Grand Prix in Craft in 2016.
Oddly, the pair first studied industrial design at Loughborough University in England before crossing over to advertising. Their first stop was at JWT London in 2011, followed by a gig at Wieden & Kennedy London a couple years after. In 2015, they moved to the States to work at Droga5.
But their design roots still figure largely in their process. “We try to make a lot of our stuff,” says Treyer-Evans. “It helps us figure out whether or not the client will like it.”
To sell the “Truth” campaign to the Times, for example,“we made a pretty complete version of the first film as a prototype,” Treyer-Evans says. “It looked like someone had gone mad on the scripts, connecting one word to the next, and making sure the stories made sense.”
“There’s definitely a benefit to having a different background,” Howell says of their approach. “We don’t evangelize advertising and aren’t advertising nerds. We approach it more as creatives trying to solve a problem.”