Mixing Work and Politics for the Future of Everything (Even Kevin Bacon)

INFLUENCER: kaboom's Lauren Schwartz on why the US ad industry can't sit out on the 2020 Democratic primary

Here’s what I know: They say you should not mix politics and work or politics and family or politics and polite conversation.

Here’s what else I know: I have never really done what 'they say' I should do. So here goes.

I have found myself really engaged in this US Democratic primary. I am not even a registered Democrat (I am an independent because I like to think I am of independent mind and spirit). My interest in the primary and the candidates comes from a deep belief that this election is truly the most important one of my lifetime.

Sounds so ominous right? Well unfortunately I think it is. Our climate is at stake; the role that corporations play or do not play in our democracy and our everyday lives is at stake; the way we think of our fellow Americans and the immigrants who want to become an American is at stake; our democracy itself is at stake. 

The other reason I have found myself so engaged is that, for the most part, those running for the highest office in the land are 'my people'; these are folks who are all one to two degrees away from me. Not seven, like when you play the Kevin Bacon game. Two.

Kirsten Gillibrand and I went to college together. We were one year apart with friends in common.

A month ago I went to an intimate gathering for Michael Bennet. Am I a heavy hitter donor? No, I just happen to know a guy who went to law school with him, and one of my closest friends from college’s twin brother was his roommate at Wesleyan. 

I served on the AICP board with Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug. Through AICP we met Ted Lieu when he was still serving in Sacramento. He’s a rock star now, but I bet he is just as humble and determined to make positive change, as when we met. 

I saw Tom Steyer at the Commonwealth Club as a part of The Climate One podcast series and was chosen (based on my pre-submitted written question) to ask one of the five questions from the audience. I posted about it on Instagram because that’s what you do, and an old high school friend commented that he knows Tom and his wife well. 

Then there’s the Pete Buttegieg talk that stated my hyper-engagement. We are not connected by two degrees or even three (or are we?). But I did get to see him speak at a really intimate gathering. It’s been an element of this election cycle that I really appreciate - the ways in which the candidates are attempting to balance a wide reach and personal contact. 

So what does this all mean really? Am I the Kevin Bacon of the Democratic primary? Or am I just at the age where the people I came up with are really kicking ass and making a difference? Is it a matter of privilege? Or are the candidates increasingly coming from different places than the status quo? Whatever the answer, it is an unprecedented time. I certainly feel way more connected to the people and the process than I ever have before.

Admittedly, there’s a part of me that secretly wishes I was up on that stage. I did say that I wanted to be the first woman President when I was growing up. I majored in international relations, worked at a think tank and applied to be a CIA operative (I got pretty far, believe it or not!).

Yet here I am running a content production company with a deep career in advertising. Really quite far from politics and/or making a difference in the world. Yeah, I know some of the people who know the people, but I am not one of the people on that stage. That’s okay, I have a role to play too. 

But what I am is this. I am a working woman. I started my own business and have survived multiple recessions. I make stuff; I hire people. I am the quintessential small business owner. I am our main street and not your wall street.

I am also the mom of two amazing young kids and the wife to an equally amazing husband. And I am rocking the life work balance, most of the time. 

I am an engaged citizen. I just served on jury duty - and was the foreperson and actually enjoyed it. I host proposition parties at our house to discuss and debate the myriad of California and SF based propositions (if you live here, you know what that means). 

I am engaged in civic life, which is now more important than ever. Because here’s the thing, the stakes are too high not to be. If you do not march, or call and email your representatives, and if you do not vote, then you cannot complain when our democracy is a shell of its former self, we don’t have clean air to breathe or water to drink, and when corporations have completely taken over.

We can’t sit this one out, people. No one. Sure, I am two degrees from the big stage, but ultimately we all are. The stage is our future, and we are here to take a leading role.  

2019 Production Outlook Survey -- Lauren Schwartz

Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry--creatively speaking or from a business standpoint--in 2019? 

2018 was a year of stops and starts. Of creative thinking, and anticipating the unexpected. As far as the business is concerned, I have always believed, and feel it even more so now, that relationships are key. To be a trusted resource and partner, a problem solver, and someone who not only has the talent but the ability to execute it well - those are the essential elements for today’s climate - and really a productive and rewarding way to operate in the world. There are a lot of folks using Director or Production Company banners who don’t have the acumen or experience that it takes to do this work well and consistently. And I think some agencies and clients have had their share of bad experiences because of it. That hurts the industry at large, but also reinforces how vital trusted relationships are as the kind of work expands and changes to align with new opportunities. I always like to say that production is easy until it isn’t and when the shit hits the fan, you need experience to calm that storm.

What are your goals, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company or division in 2019? 

As the EP/owner of kaboom, my goal is to really work on curating a relevant roster of directors and other supporting talent that meet the needs of the current climate. As we all know, budgets are shrinking but the expectations remain the same so our challenge is to align the right kind of talent and partners who help us deliver that content. It is also our responsibility to challenge seasoned directors, who are used to a different time in the industry, to think about creative ways to execute on these tighter budgets. I believe we have the right sort of talent to tackle the needs of our industry right now…but there is always room to enhance and elevate. I am constantly striving to be better and to provide the highest levels of production to our agency and client partners in the most cost effective way. That goal never stops.

Last year’s constant headlines of gender pay disparity, sexual misconduct and worse brought issues to everyone’s attention that were long overdue to be dealt with. There have been industry wide-strides made towards righting these wrongs but there’s a long way to go. Can you tell us what policies you have in place or plan to implement in 2019 to ensure racial and gender diversity, pay equality and a safe/inclusive work environment for everyone in your company or division? 

As a longtime women owned and women run production company, I feel fortunate that we have never really grappled with the “headline issues” that have beset our colleagues in the industry. As a female owner, I have always run our company to be fair-- to be a place where everyone has a voice and feels safe, respected and appreciated. Certainly there are many men who have run their companies the same way, but women seem to be taking leadership with parity and respect at the fore. Is it in our DNA? A reaction to experiences? Whatever compels people to create better working environment for people of all kinds, bring it. We will all benefit from a perspective of inclusion and a celebration of what makes us unique.

Director James Lovick Lands His 1st U.S. Representation, Joins Kaboom

Production house kaboom has added director James Lovick to its roster, marking his first U.S. representation.

A product of a family steeped in cinema, Lovick absorbed a film education on set working in a variety of crafts--editing, DP, stills photography--that continue to inform his approach as a director. It was a discovery process that led to directing acclaimed documentary series for the BBC and Channel 4, including one that followed Eddie Izzard during his journey to do 43 back-to-back marathons for Sport Relief. These invaluable opportunities in unscripted storytelling were inspiring but prolonged, so Lovick turned to short-form to find his home in branded content and advertising with humanity at the fore.

The diversity of experience--windows into many worlds--and the constant problem solving opportunities are just a few of the aspects of advertising that Lovick appreciates. Over the past few years, he has directed for a wide range of brands, including films for Charles Schwab, Visit Jersey, Kenwood, Baileys, Dorset Cereals, Vodafone VOXI, and WWF India. 

“James is a rare talent who is able to create beautiful and compelling docu-style stories as naturally as his ability to help a product shine via tabletop,” said kaboom EP/founder Lauren Schwartz. “He came up through the ranks of production to find his calling as a director. He can span genres, can edit, and sees the world through a photographer’s eye. All of this makes him a force of creativity.”

In a truly contemporary twist, Lovick became connected to kaboom via Instagram--where mutually admired perspectives sparked a conversation that led to his joining the company’s roster. Resourcefulness and an open approach to client collaborations were unifiers between Lovick and kaboom, solidifying a relationship started, appropriately, with curated imagery.

“Lauren and I share a great many perspectives about the industry and forging meaningful relationships that help elevate the process and projects,” reflected Lovick. “While I’ve spent the last few years focusing my attention on work in the UK, I am now ready to expand into the US with kaboom – a woman-owned company that’s boutique in size--accessible, involved--and with incredible reach.”

SHOOT: kaboom signs tobin sanson

Director tobin sanson has come aboard the roster of kaboom productions, marking his first representation by a national production company. He’s already wrapped his first project with kaboom--a campaign for lifestyle brand Everlane.

sanson’s storytelling spans collaborations with such clients as Clif Bar, Camelback, Cole Haan, Mountain Hardware, Huckberry and Hanah. He was also part of the creative team that lensed the “Walk On Water” music video for the band :30 Seconds to Mars. 

“tobin’s work embodies a blend of candid humanity in intensely striking environments. You feel immersed in the moment,” said kaboom EP/founder lauren schwartz. “Furthermore, he is an enthusiastic partner in the process that begins well before filming, bringing a deep understanding of how brands need to connect to audiences.”

sanson is a director, cinematographer, photographer and storyteller, serving as a creative resource--whether extending the narrative from film to print for a complete campaign, to harnessing his editing and DP talents to support a project’s distinct needs.

Born in the mountains of Colorado, sanson was raised to appreciate the majesty of the natural world. This never-ending source of inspiration compels him to create stories driven by the rawness and authenticity the natural world demands. Early skate and surf films, and a love of the wild, led sanson to work for brands, both as an in-house creative and helming brand films as an independent director.

Reversing Roe: Behind the Scenes on Netflix’s Abortion Rights Documentary

Directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg - repped for ads by kaboom as ricki+annie - on diving into a contentious issue

Reversing Roe is a new documentary feature directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (represented for advertising projects via kaboom as ricki+annie). The film exposes a decades long political campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision in the US surrounding laws that criminalised or restricted access to abortions, using interviews with abortion rights supporters and opponents. We spoke with the directing duo about the film, which is now available on Netflix.

Reversing Roe is a new documentary feature directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (represented for advertising projects via kaboom as ricki+annie). The film exposes a decades long political campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision in the US surrounding laws that criminalised or restricted access to abortions, using interviews with abortion rights supporters and opponents. We spoke with the directing duo about the film, which is now available on Netflix.

LBB> How did Reversing Roe originate?

Annie> The film was originally developed by Lincoln Square Productions (a division of ABC) as an historic examination – think ‘Eyes On The Prize’ approach - of reproductive rights in America. We first started to talk about this project on Election Day, 2016, and we all felt like, okay, let’s take our time and figure out just how we want to tell this story. When Trump won the presidency, the whole project took on a new urgency. Eva Longoria came on board as an executive producer, and championed the project, which was sold to Netflix. We started shooting at the inauguration in 2017.

LBB> What was your approach to the film?

Annie> The film begins with a look at the realities and the culture in America around abortion before the wide-reaching decision of Roe v. Wade. At the time, there was growing concern and awareness of illegal abortion and the rates of women who were suffering as a result; abortion was considered by many to be a public health issue, not a political one, and the earliest waves of reform actually came from Republicans who were following the lead of physicians who were seeing a real crisis in ER wards across the nation – and these doctors were for the most part white and male. There were calls in various states to liberalise abortion laws to allow women to seek legal and safe care, and Gov. Ronald Reagan was the first to sign a liberalised abortion bill in California. Following the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, there was tremendous ideological pushback that placed reproductive rights as a central election issue and changed the political landscape of America. 


Ricki> In the film, we follow a number of central figures in the debate on reproductive rights, those who self-identify as ‘pro-life’ and others who consider themselves ‘pro-choice’. No one is ‘pro-abortion’ -- our goal was to have frank discussions about the various aspects of reproductive rights, and the fallout from a landmark decision that ultimately helped to transform the Republican Party. 

LBB> How did Justice Kennedy’s retirement impact the film?

Ricki> We’d locked picture when the announcement was made. It was quickly agreed by everyone involved, and at the encouragement of Netflix, that we revisit the film’s ending. It now includes the potential appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, and a look at how a conservative Supreme Court could impact, among other major issues, reproductive rights legislation.  


LBB> How do you know when a project is right for you?

Ricki> Our films tend to be character and story driven, so in many ways this was both a departure and an opportunity to explore an issue with historic context and differing perspectives. We generally embrace projects that are either very timely or timeless with stories that we perceive as vital.  

Annie> It’s hard to have constructive dialogue when people are so polarised around abortion; however we hope this film sparks conversation about its politicisation and what’s at issue in the coming election and beyond. Since the film is being released before the midterm elections, we also hope it activates people to vote. Currently, turn out for American elections is abysmal. If more people are engaged in the election process, the legislative results will be more truly reflect what constituents want. Axios released a big poll this week that shows 71% of respondents want Roe to remain intact.  Let’s make sure our legislatures echo that.   

Reversing Roe, The New Feature Documentary by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (kaboom’s ricki+annie)

Reversing Roe is a new documentary feature directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (represented for advertising projects via kaboom as ricki+annie). The film exposes a decades long political campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade using interviews with abortion rights supporters and opponents. We spoke with the directing duo about the film, which is now available on Netflix.

How did Reversing Roe originate?

Annie: The film was originally developed by Lincoln Square Productions (a division of ABC) as an historic examination – think “Eyes On The Prize” approach - of reproductive rights in America.   We first started to talk about this project on Election Day, 2016, and we all felt like, okay, let’s take our time and figure out just how we want to tell this story.  When Trump won the presidency, the whole project took on a new urgency. Eva Longoria came on board as an Executive Producer, and championed the project, which was sold to Netflix.  We started shooting at the inauguration in 2017.

What was your approach to the film?

Annie: The film begins with a look at the realities and the culture in America around abortion before the wide-reaching decision of Roe v. Wade. At the time, there was growing concern and awareness of illegal abortion and the rates of women who were suffering as a result; abortion was considered by many to be a public health issue, not a political one, and the earliest waves of reform actually came from Republicans who were following the lead of physicians who were seeing a real crisis in ER wards across the nation – and these doctors were for the most part white and male.  There were calls in various states to liberalize abortion laws to allow women to seek legal and safe care, and Gov. Ronald Reagan was the first to sign a liberalized abortion bill in California.  Following the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, there was tremendous ideological pushback that placed reproductive rights as a central election issue and changed the political landscape of America. 

Ricki: In the film, we follow a number of central figures in the debate on reproductive rights, those who self-identify as “pro-life” and others who consider themselves ‘pro-choice.”  No one is “pro-abortion” -- our goal was to have frank discussions about the various aspects of reproductive rights, and the fallout from a landmark decision that ultimately helped to transform the Republican Party. 

How did Justice Kennedy’s retirement impact the film?

Ricki: We’d locked picture when the announcement was made.  It was quickly agreed by everyone involved, and at the encouragement of Netflix, that we revisit the film’s ending. It now includes the potential appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, and a look at how a conservative Supreme Court could impact, among other major issues, reproductive rights legislation.  


How do you know when a project is right for you?

Ricki: Our films tend to be character and story driven, so in many ways this was both a departure and an opportunity to explore an issue with historic context and differing perspectives. We generally embrace projects that are either very timely or timeless with stories that we perceive as vital.  

Annie: It’s hard to have constructive dialogue when people are so polarized around abortion; however we hope this film sparks conversation about its politicization and what’s at issue in the coming election and beyond. Since the film is being released before the midterm elections, we also hope it activates people to vote.  Currently, turn out for American elections is abysmal.  If more people are engaged in the election process, the legislative results will be more truly reflect what constituents want.  Axios released a big poll this week that shows 71% of respondents want Roe to remain intact.  Let’s make sure our legislatures echo that.

kaboom's Erik Moe Finds Effervescent Comedy in Sparking Ice Marketing Mayhem

Satirical spots created by Bread N Butter and produced by kaboom take a humorous approach to the advertising industry

Nothing goes better with Bread n Butter than Sparkling Ice, as evident in the new campaign directed by kaboom’s Erik Moe. The spots are a comedic take on the advertising industry, where an effervescent duo of eager interns seeks original ways to sell Sparkling Ice. A music video, spinning prize wheels, and viral stunts – all make their boss think WTF. What The Flavor, that is.

According to Tommy Hernandez, Creative Director: “Working with kaboom was to have a true partner in the creative process from start to delivery. Erik’s passion for comedy and talent in eliciting amazing performances were not only essential, but made the experience as fun as what you see on the screen.” 

In addition to production, kaboom produced the project through post including the collaboration with kaboom director/editor Doug Werby who cut the campaign. 

Watch the intern antics below.

Love+Medicine Reconnects kaboom director michele atkins and Preston Kelly For Gundersen Health System

kaboom and director michele atkins reunite with agency Preston Kelly on a new Love + Medicine campaign for Gundersen Health System. This year’s campaign, the fourth collaboration between Kaboom, director atkins and Preston Kelly, takes inspiration from real patient stories whose lifestyle changes are central to a happier, healthier existence. 

“Our clients at Gundersen Health wanted to take their Love + Medicine up a notch to create a community health movement in their market,” according to Preston Kelly ECD Chris Preston. “michele’s understanding of the humanity in everyday acts has helped turn what could be pretty standard health care advertising into something emotional that actually touches our audience.” 

“It was a great privilege to be a part of this campaign with Preston Kelly and to once again help bring to life moments that are inspiring and truly relatable,” says michele atkins. “Meticulous preparation was a big part of the process, and one that allowed the performances surrounding these simple but vital truths to shine.”

Biker

At the heart of each narrative featuring a diverse series of challenges and how the simple adoption of exercise, meditation, and healthful eating can have a big impact. atkin’s directorial  approach, observational and naturalistic, imbues each spot with a sense of welcoming and warmth. This year’s campaign also includes companion pieces, 15 spots that offer additional vantage points on health: a cyclist’s eye view, the Zen of meditation, and a smoothie recipe brought to life with stop motion. 

View the 2018 Love+Medicine campaign

 

 

 

 

One Day Soon, The White House. For the Meantime, Advertising

My eight year old son asked me this morning: ‘Mom, when will a girl be president?’

“Soon I hope; I mean we really should have had a female president by now.” To be honest, his question made me realise how crazy it is that we have not yet had a female president nearly 100 years after women earned the right to vote (and no matter what the Hilary detractors think of her, I cannot imagine that most of the population is not wishing that we had 'that woman' as President right now instead of the narcissistic mad man who is in there now, wreaking havoc and creating chaos at every turn).

I was at the 3 Percent Super Bowl Tweet Up in San Francisco, sponsored by Digitas, and our task was to evaluate the Super Bowl ads to see if they passed the 3% conference test: 

1) Was there a woman?

2) Did she have any significant role (did she have a line, or more)?

3) Did the ad break stereotypes? 

As thrilled as I was to see spots like Coca-Cola’s 'The Wonder of Us' with its magnificent diversity (including the use of gender neutral pronouns), for the most part there were an awful lot of ads that missed the mark. There were a number of commercials where there was not ONE woman included. And there were a ton of ads where there was a token woman with no relevant role to play.

 

No wonder our population can’t see its way to electing a female president. We barely rate an appearance in advertising. 

There’s a phrase that is often tossed around at the 3% conference: You cannot be what you cannot see. Until advertising gets on board and starts reflecting the fact that our population is made up of 50% women and women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of buying power and influence, then the general public perception will remain one where the average consumer and voter could not imagine a female president. 

Entertainment and advertising are vital to changing perceptions about how the population sees itself. And advertising needs to lead the way in reflecting the REAL population and making it normal to see women in non-stereotypical roles. We should be shown kicking ass, as women do every day. I know plenty of kick-ass women, don’t you? Women running companies and departments, women starting non-profits, women surgeons; women who are the primary breadwinners in their family, women whose intelligence and drive is staggering….and yet, by and large we do not see that in advertising. 

Why was virtually ever spokesperson in a Super Bowl ad a man? Why was Wix.com, a company selling website building tools to small businesses, being pitched by two white guys when female owners of small businesses are growing faster than men? It was remarkable being at the tweet up, where we really had to look at the advertising and evaluate this aspect of it - to take in how very rare it was to see a strong woman in a non-stereotypical lead role.

Even though my son sees me running my own company and supporting my family, until he sees that on TV - in entertainment and advertising content- I will be an aberration, not a commonplace reality. Kids love ads. They take the messaging in with enthusiasm. The stories we tell make a mark, or this industry wouldn’t exist. And if much of advertising sells aspirational lifestyle, the best versions of ourselves, do we not aspire to a diverse, united, multifaceted, multi-dimensional life? It certainly makes for more interesting stories. 

Until adland catches up with reality, perceptions will not change. And until perceptions change, we will not see a woman as President. And after nearly 100 years of having the vote, isn’t it time? 

See more of the story about Lauren Schwartz, Owner/EP at kaboom, on the Super Bowl ads and her participation in the 3 Percent Tweet Up