Na Frenette brings trust and intention to Mastercard's 'True Name' campaign

For our Creative Excellence Showcase for AAPI History Month, the Tool of North America director discusses taking their 'love language' to storytelling for Mastercard's card for transgender individuals

Published On
May 02, 2022

Editor's Pick

All throughout Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Ad Age will once again be showcasing notable projects in the careers of AAPI talents in the industry for our Creative Excellence Showcase. Our aim for the series is to shine a light on the wide-ranging influence AAPI talents have across the advertising and marketing business, via myriad disciplines. 

To kick things off, today we are excited to feature Na Frenette, a director on the roster of Tool of North America. Frenette is a gender non-conforming artist born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, now based in Detroit.

Here, Frenette describes the origins of their creative career and shares a memorable project, a documentary-style spot for Mastercard via McCann Canada that explores the impact that its "True Name" card has had on its transgender customers.

Na Frenette
Na Frenette

Growing up I spent a lot of my time reading and drawing manga, which helped inspire my sense of visual storytelling. I started documenting my friends and family when I was 15 years old with my little Sony camcorder. It was my birthday present from my dad. I grew up not naturally exposed to emotional intimacy. Filmmaking was my love language, my gift in abstract form, expressing my care and gratitude to my loved ones. That remains true today. 

Also watch: How AAPI talents can thrive in advertising and marketing. 

In my career as a documentarian, I’ve told stories that centered on social issues in my home country. My creative purpose is discovering, understanding and shifting belief systems. I practice sincere and unexpected visual storytelling that shares the unique and beautiful truths of 2SLGBTQ+, BIPOC, disabled, and other underserved individuals. The goal of my artwork is sharing the community experience, narratives of healing, and safely bringing people together in real life — in order to change societal narratives. My approach is to always consider the meaning of the story while trying to find the emotional heart to move my audience. My films portray enduring truths and are made with commitment to the pride, success and well-being of my clients (talent/collaborators/protagonists/characters) throughout the creative process. It begins with heartfelt conversations, deep listening and intimate collaboration. 

On a “True Name” spot I directed for Mastercard, every step of the process was magical. I was involved with casting and pre-production interviews, which is an important part of filmmaking, especially when you want to make a genuine and authentic film with real people. 

As a POC immigrant trans and nonbinary person, I approach things with deep sensitivity and understanding. Every element has to be intentional and mindful. I spend a lot of time talking with my talents and really get to know them. On this job, we took time, built trust slowly, and it shows in the film. I believe filmmaking is a process, not a product. Everyone’s heart was in the right place on the project, and I was honored to be a part of it.