Do We Even Ad Nerd, or Do We Even Ad Nerd?!

Amanda Cosindas | Mar. 26 2021

Buzzer beaters, dog lifelines, impossible questions, and fierce competition. All of this and more in this week’s episode of “Do You Even Ad Nerd?” — Muse by Clio‘s advertising trivia game on Clubhouse .
 
Tune in to catch The Many’s Head of Strategy, Melissa Cabral, and Partner, Scott Harris, face off against R/GA’s Shannon Cunningham and Erin Lynch.
 
We won’t give it all away, but we will say that, the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.
 

https://youtu.be/XDtmvB9XdnQ

Heart to Heart: Two Project Managers on Resiliency Through Trauma

Amanda Cosindas | Mar. 5 2021

This last year has challenged so many of us to look inward, find new ways of doing things, and uncover some very personal feelings about our physical and mental health and well-being. This journey has surfaced a complex system of facing fears and great uncertainty, while maintaining our daily lives—our work, our families, our habits and routines. We’ve done this in our personal lives, we’ve done this as an agency. We even closed for an entire week to give everyone a much-needed mental health reset. It was that intense. 
 
And while we persevered, some of us faced added pressures. They may have been unrelated to the pandemic on the surface, but offered a unique opportunity to navigate such a crisis in a profound way.  
 
To that end, we invite you to meet Peanut Adams and Shera White, two Project Managers at The Many, as they discuss their hard-fought paths through trauma and how their experiences have shaped not only who they have become in this last year, but their perspectives on life, work and family. As Peanut was made suddenly aware of a severe and acute heart condition, and Shera said goodbye to her father following a long road as a paraplegic, they have maintained a beautiful mix of optimism and realism that guides their daily work practices. Here’s their conversation, we hope it inspires.
 
Shera: It’s been really comforting and inspiring to learn about your sudden heart surgery last year—reading your open letter on LinkedIn gave me a new insight into Peanut! So that we can catch everyone else up, can you describe the feelings you had when you found out that you needed to have open heart surgery? 
 
Peanut: It felt a lot like one of those waterslides where you stand on a platform, and the bottom pops open and you hang suspended for a split second before a straight drop – your stomach flies up into your throat and the whole bottom of your world is gone. I’ve always been the picture of health so it didn’t make any sense – I felt incredibly out of control of my own life. 
 
S: Wow, what a ride. So this diagnosis was clearly unexpected. How many weeks in between experiencing symptoms and then going to the hospital? 
 
P: It was around 4 weeks from the time this whole thing started to finding out I would need to have surgery. I initially went into the ER shaking uncontrollably on December 13th, 2019, heart racing, symptoms that seemed to come out of nowhere and frankly terrified me. 
 
They couldn’t find anything wrong, in fact they kept telling me how great everything looked, which was incredibly frustrating at the time. 
 
Then I felt fine again…until they called and left me a voicemail on January 13th, 2020. 
 
As it had turned out, my cardiologist had shared my test results with some colleagues who made it clear in no uncertain terms to her that I needed to come in and have what turned out to be a rare benign tumor that was being sucked in and out of a valve on the left side of my heart with every beat, removed – or face the potential of a massive stroke, heart attack or blood clot at any time. The odds they gave me of that happening were 1 in 4, so with that, I was scheduled for  surgery on March 5th, 2020.
 
S: What was the risk and how did that make you feel? Why did you decide to move forward with the surgery? 
 
P:  I was left to either choose between having the surgery and facing my fears in the short term with low chances of complications, or the terror of being my own personal doomsday clock, wondering if the next moment might be my last and agonizing over what I might miss. 
 
Honestly, I didn’t feel like I had any other choice but to just do it. And really, it wasn’t just about me. It was about my family, friends and loved ones. I’d be putting them through that same uncertainty too – that just wasn’t something I was willing to do.
 
S: Oh God, I don’t like talking about death.
 
P: Death wasn’t the thing that made me angry or kept me up at night. It will be something we all experience. Death is a certainty one way or the other.
 
What was terrifying to me was the things I might leave left undone or unsaid. If this experience was a sentence, I could be certain about everything in that moment as it was being written, but not after. The blank page after the surgery was what crippled me. I would lay awake at night and think about what if i don’t get the chance to marry the love of my life or have one more family dinner, and that was the thing that made me so unbelievably scared. It was unbearable to face the uncertainty. The surgery itself, I would be asleep, I wouldn’t remember it. 
But facing the recovery process, what could happen after, if it would be successful, if i would have complications, etc —it was that hanging open ended vacuum of space where all the fear lied. 
 
S: I agree to a certain extent—death is a closed road. But for those of us living, we’ll never experience that person again after they are gone. There’s a different type of pain that we are left with when that person you love is taken. Grief is a lot like the ocean, deep and never ending. When you die you leave those around you hurt, sad, depressed, angry and sometimes unable to really move on with life. When my father passed away, I didn’t know what this new normal looked like, and I wonder if he too misses us here on earth. It’s all really hard both ways. 
 
But let’s get back to your “spaghetti heart” — why did you give your condition a nickname? 
 
P: As I wrapped my own head around the situation, the easiest way to cope was to minimize it and make light of it. When my cardiologist was describing what they found, she couldn’t find the right layman’s terms, so I suggested it was like a piece of vermicelli. While that got a laugh out of her, she agreed, and that’s where “spaghetti heart” started. 
 
‘To be able to put it in understandable means, it somehow softened the blow of the whole experience versus. looking at it in cold clinical terms. At the core I adopted it because that’s my sense of humor—I couldn’t do anything about it, so might as well make it funny. 

S: I thought that was brave of you to give it a nickname because it’s important to not let fear overcome. Looking back at my situation with my dad, after he was shot and ended up paralized, I sometimes wish I would’ve lightened things for him, but it was so hard because his outcome was death. Looking at his face, I could feel that it was an incredible position to be in, but as someone who became one of his primary caretakers, even as a kid, I did my best to look calm even though I was always very worried.
 
P: Tragedy is so hard, there’s no one right way to cope. For me, I knew how terrible it made me feel, and I didn’t want anyone to worry, so I let everyone know it was ok to laugh about it. It’s hard in a scary situation to back away from it, and I think it’s the kind of thing where people don’t always know what to say. The nickname became a built in ice breaker when talking about it.
 
S: I admire that about you—your ability to put others at ease. And fortunately, you had a successful surgery. But how did all of this change the balance between your work life and your personal life? 
 
P: It was really difficult because I realized so much of my value had been rooted in career development and what I could do from a work ethic standpoint. That feels like so much of the throughline that we get from society—if you’re not working really hard you’re not successful, if you’re not living and dying at your computer screen, it’s not enough, and for many years that’s the way I was sort of hobbling through life.  
Initially I was told I’d only be out of work for 6 weeks, then it jumped to 12 due to some complications alongside the initial COVID lockdown. I hadn’t gone that long without working since I was 12 years-old, and it made me realize how out of whack my work life balance was.  
 
My brother reminded me that I wasn’t not working, I was focusing on my recovery, and that was my full time job. And it was a bit of a mental jolt for me. I could sit and read books that I’d been meaning to read for years. I wrote poetry, I journaled, I looked through old family photos. If you sit and ask yourself how much time you spend really thinking about things and being introspective, I think you’ll find that most of us don’t really dedicate very much time to it.
  
It provided me an opportunity to break a cycle of self flagellation by work. The challenge was that the free time also made me realize the depth of the trauma that was associated with all of it. Beforehand, you are in this sort of survival state and figuring out what’s the plan in the same way we approach project management—what’s the next milestone, what is happening, how is it happening, when is it happening by? 
 
But once in recovery there’s that moment when the dust settles and you have the opportunity to survey the damage. It took me months to realize the full extent of how hard it had been mentally and physically. For better or worse, it stripped me down to my most basic insecurities and left me really bare. I had no choice but to be raw, exposed, incapable. I could attach all of these negative self descriptors around it and that’s how I saw myself, useless. But at the end of the day, it’s about balance and not dwelling in one end of the extreme or the other. Ultimately, it made me really value my time in a completely new way. 
 
S: I would have to say the same, “surveying the damage” is a process. When I first started working at The Many, it was tough. While I realized how fortunate I was to join a company that did simple things like offer fresh fruit every morning and genuinely cared about my well-being, I also realized I was having a hard time being myself. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t feel the same energy as my peers. I didn’t realize I was having a really hard time being “normal” because I was so exhausted from being a caregiver—my own dreams and creative juices had died, along with my personality. 
 
However, the people here eventually helped change my perspective because I was able to open up to some of my coworkers about my dad. That open communication and feeling their understanding really helped change my narrative in an important way, and it helped me understand my work-life balance much better!
 
P: It’s a truly special place

S: My experience with my dad really taught me to live in the moment. What is your greatest takeaway from your experience?  
 
P: Be mindful that all the time we have is completely not up to us, so why spend time with people who don’t make you happy or doing things that don’t bring you joy and satisfaction, it’s not worth putting things off for any reason. Because of this, I’m back in school, I had put off finishing my degree for years because I felt like I could do it later. 
 
We act like we have this inexhaustible timeline ahead of us but the reality is we don’t – I think there’s’ something to be said for finding purpose and reason for doing the things we are doing, and having a deeper sense of gratitude for the situations we find ourselves in, and understanding some things are out of our control.  I think we need to learn to feel ok putting ourselves in situations that might not be comfortable in the short term but will span out to a lot more happiness and positivity. It’s not worth the regret.  Eat that damn donut if you want it!
 
S: OK, one last question—what would you do differently if fear was not a factor? 
 
P: For me, there is fear we are aware of like spiders, heights, death etc. and then there is the fear we aren’t consciously aware of. It’s the kind of stuff in the depths of our minds and hearts. We don’t feel actively afraid of it because we don’t know it’s there until we are confronted with it. That being said, If I was to do anything differently I would have recognized the things I was willfully ignoring – I started therapy this year which was a really big deal for me because it’s something I knew I needed for a long time but also told myself I didn’t need because I was strong enough to deal with everything on my own. Getting  to a point where I knew I wasn’t okay and needed it not just for myself but for the benefit of other people too, is something I would have done much, much sooner.

Today is the one year anniversary of Peanut’s surgery. 💗

Getting Creative with CTV: Exploring New Ways to Measure Effectiveness

Vanessa Shanahan | Nov. 5 2020

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on consumer behavior shifts in a period of just months. While the explosion in targeting OTT content via Connected TV (CTV) platforms creates exciting new opportunities to reach a tighter target, it can present challenges with duplicated reach and measurement.
 
Recently, some top industry leaders and I took part in Upwave’s Masters of Brand Measurement: How CTV is Disrupting TV Buying and Measurement panel to discuss the challenges facing TV marketers today. The Masters included: George Castrissiades – Executive Director Advanced Products & Partnerships, Crackle, Jonathan Bohm – VP Multi-Platform, NBC Universal, Dave Marquard – Head of Product, Premion, Sonia Vaidya – Head of Analytics, AKQA, and Jon Stewart – VP Measurement, Upwave.
 
It was super exciting to discuss the role of measurement in the evolution of CTV. The panel demonstrated the need for the standardization of metrics as it remains the most challenging and fascinating part of my job. As an analyst, my role is to help our clients quantify how their investment ultimately translates into consumer demand and is reflected in driving business outcomes that remain true across all channels.
 
The need for standardization of metrics is critical to the future of TV. The tsunami of data sources, driven by fragmentation in the media space, has had a critical impact on data measurement. It’s tough to define and calibrate ad buys and there is a great need for uniformity in data measurement across all platforms, a source of truth, something that is universal and trusted. Currently, there is nothing formally being used to measure the 300 million viewers. Instead, every company and source is using their own measurement system and reporting.  
 
With CTV there could be a really great opportunity to measure the effectiveness and how to reach the consumer through innovative creative and messaging of different lengths depending on the type of content and device. The data allows us to better understand what type of content plays best for the consumer, at what time, and where, so we can deliver the right type of creative in the right environment. Just because one piece of content works on one platform, it does not mean it translates effectively to another. 
 
As marketers and analysts, we want to lean into our learnings. However, we have to be adaptive and fluid to understand and optimize our creative to target and reach consumers. With a standardized metric system approach and an understanding of how each platform’s consumer behaves, the onus is on us to understand the data and to create creative around that to help us stitch together and build the story we want to tell in order to quantify the true impact we are delivering for our brands.
 
Watch the full panel below to really dive deep into the conversation!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLRkmb1SHig&feature=youtu.be

Making Waves: Meet Zach Williams, Designer, Musician and Surfer

Amanda Cosindas | Oct. 23 2020

There is something about being part of an agency that feels like a family. You gain the opportunity to really know incredible people with profound stories and exceptional talents. To know them on a deeper, more human level, beyond the waving in the hallways (or on Zoom) kind of work friendships. I am humbled that, as part of our Voices of The Many program, I have the opportunity to dive into both the personal and professional lives of my colleagues.
 
Particularly humbling, is the opportunity to give you a glimpse into Zach Williams’ story. You see, Zach embodies a difficult history that is well-hidden underneath his relaxed smile and beach style, coupled with a mix of talents that go far beyond his role as a Senior Designer at The Many. On any given day, he’s putting his art into practice bringing brands to visual life, from reimagining the vis ID for Bumble Bee Seafoods’ consumer-facing brand to designing animated social posts for Outshine Fruit Bars, or strumming his harmonica through the streets of Santa Monica or ripping on his surfboard up and down the Pacific Ocean (or even in the middle of a desert; more on that later). 
 
Most recently, as social unrest shook the U.S., Zach opened up to all of us at The Many about his childhood, growing up as an orphan in Alabama after his dad had passed away and his mom had left town, giving us all a perspective check. And since then, he’s gone on to release a quarantine-inspired single, “The Slow Down,” while soon after making a splash at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, getting his stoke on and playing music for a Golden Road Brewery event meant to highlight a diverse group of surf, music and athlete influencers. So, I sat down with Zach to tell his tale and share his refreshing viewpoint and experiences with the world.
 
Amanda: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what your childhood was like.
Zach: I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Ever see that Will Smith movie, Pursuit of Happiness? It was kinda like that—living with my mom in cars and hotel rooms until I was scooped up by my grandparents around age seven, when I went from the inner city to the suburbs. I had a great time growing up with my grandparents until around high school when I had to move again, this time to the countryside to live in a boy’s home. So, my childhood was kind of all over the place. I wouldn’t change a thing though, it’s the reason I am where I am now.
 
AC: That sounds like a lot of transition for a kid. If there is one thing you could tell your teenage boy self, what would it be? 
ZW: I’d tell him to keep doing his thing, that what you perceive as weakness is actually strength, and to never let anyone make you doubt yourself.

AC: I imagine it’s quite different, Birmingham, AL, and where you live now in Los Angeles. What’s your current experience with racism in the world-at-large and in the advertising industry? Is there any particular change you advocate for?
ZW: Yeah, being from the deep south, it was so clear to me once I moved to L.A. a decade ago how inherently racist my upbringing was. It was a stark contrast to how much more equal things felt here, especially on the westside of Los Angeles, where you’re judged more on what you can produce versus on stereotypes or racist constructs. In terms of change, I would love it if people could meet different kinds of people. In my experience, that’s all it takes to create some empathy and understanding from anyone. 
 
AC: I love that thought—less judgement, more empathy.

Aside from being a designer, I know that you are also an avid surfer and dedicated musician. How did you first get involved with both and how do each of these creative outlets continue to inspire you? 
ZW: I started playing guitar when I was 14. I had left my grandparents, moved into the boy’s home and had plenty of time to learn something new. I liked how I could do it all on my own and I liked how there was a whole system of music theory to discover. 
 
And then surfing…I grew up loving the ocean and going with my grandparents every summer to the Gulf of Mexico; there are a few little waves over at Pensacola we would play around in. So when I moved to California, I jumped right in. 
 
There is a concept of “the journey and discovery” when it comes to finding the right design expression, finding the perfect wave, finding the right melody to make the song work. I like the journey and discovery aspect of the creative process, and these three creative expressions—music, surfing and design—seem to fit me best. I am constantly inspired by jumping between disciplines, it keeps things interesting and they always seem to inform each other.

AC: Speaking of different disciplines, your new single, “The Slow Down,” puts a sweet and simple twist on the difficulties of quarantine and the pandemic. What inspired you to write and produce this song, and is there anything in particular you hope it elicits in your listeners?
ZW: It was a weird time earlier this year, a scary one. I wanted to soothe that fear in myself the best way I knew how and to try and flip it on its head and turn a negative into a positive. So I wrote “The Slow Down,” a song that talks about that, making the negative a positive. I hope that it helps inspire that sort of inner peace the way it helped me while I was writing it. I’ve used this strange year as an opportunity, and maybe this can encourage more folks to do that too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOf2f-YHBYM

AC: When you’re not designing and writing and playing music, you do a lot of traveling. How does this inform your work and your passions?
ZW: Traveling is everything. If you read any of the journals from the great artists, you always see that they’re on the road taking it all in. Any creator can tell you that they are most inspired when they are moving. New combinations of lights and smells and sounds. There’s something about physically moving that shakes the dust out of your brain and makes impossible things seem possible. When you’re out of your element you listen more and speak to people differently.
 
AC: Out of your element, great segue…you recently played a set at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch. First, can you share with readers what exactly that is for those who might not know?
ZW: The best way I can explain the Surf Ranch is to imagine that Tiger Woods built a golf course for himself and it was the most coveted golf course to go play on. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is kind of like that, but for surfers. Kelly, alongside a team of scientists, built an artificial wave that surfs just like a real ocean wave, and it just so happens to be in the middle of the desert in Lemoore, CA. It has become a global mecca for surfing, and brands host days there where they invite pro athletes and musicians to perform. To be invited to play there, and to surf that wave, is a huge honor!

AC: I know that’s not an easy invitation to receive. How did you make the connection with Kelly’s team, and what does the kid from Alabama think of that musical experience and surfing alongside some of the best in the world?
ZW: Like my grandmother always said, you never know who you know. And that is the case here! I had met the director of marketing for Golden Road Brewery at some point in the past, and while they were pulling their day at the Surf Ranch together, I came up as the musical talent. And I think the biggest learning for me, something I understood from my childhood, is to always try and leave a good impression with folks, you just never know what that will lead to!
 
AC: Your grandma sounds like she was a wise woman! So, what is your favorite surf spot and why? Also, who is your favorite musician, if you had to choose just one!
ZW: My favorite surf spot is this sneaky little river mouth just north of Canggu in Bali, mostly because of the process of getting there from your villa—the barefoot motorbike ride, paying the temple gateman 20 balinese rupiah to park, walking up and down the sketchy black rocks. Love the journey. 
 
My favorite songwriter is Lightning Hopkins, an original blues man who is my biggest musical inspiration. He taught me about the heartbeat of the blues and how to keep that beat in my writing.
 
AC: Last but definitely not least, what can you share with other kids like yourself, coming up in advertising, art or music, (or really anyone) about how to make it through the hard times? You’ve forged this crazy, beautiful path all on your own, what has helped you most in creating the life that you wanted?
ZW: Believe in yourself. I know that sounds super cliché, but that is 100% the reason that I am where I am. My grandparents always told me that I could do whatever I set my mind to, and I believed them and still do. Also, know that you can’t do it all on your own. Collective will is a real thing, so don’t be shy in making friends or helping other folks win.

Zach Williams is Senior Designer at The Many, and Amanda Cosindas is Director of Marketing and Communications.

Attending 'She Suite in Color' with ThinkLA

Shera White | Sep. 25 2020

This week I attended ThinkLA’s She Suite in Color event, and it was definitely a great start to my day. It was my first time ever attending a webinar—it was insightful and powerful. The panelists were a range of expert Black women who shared their stories, advice, and knowledge on growing in the industry. They started off with a discussion on dealing with a health pandemic and social injustice. They also talked about the fundamental importance of how to make sure you break the concrete ceiling, and the value of external mentorship, and teaching others. 
 
They touched on how media is constantly changing and the importance of staying educated and taking courses to keep up (it’s a must), and how networking is often overlooked because everyone is so busy, but building relationships with people is a good way to get recognized. 
 
As I was chatting with my colleague Maria Favela after the event, something that really resonated for both of us was a point made by Pauline Malcolm, Head of Advertising Sales, Western Region, at Quibi, which was to think of yourself as a brand and what you want people to say about you when you leave the room. It was about being able to speak up about your accomplishments and not shy away from “the humblebrag” — because you need advisors advocating for you inside and outside of the room, and for that to happen, you need to be bold, know your own value and speak to your own strengths. 
 
I also had the opportunity to ask all three ladies a question about something I’ve often experienced, “ Have you ever found yourself having to ask the same question over and over about inequities and concerns in the workplace or just in general? Women of color don’t get a serious response to our concerns. How can we be taken more seriously as women of color?” 

“I had to learn how to maneuver the conversation and ask the question. I would be asking questions, there would be a lot of conversation and I would leave the meeting and realize I didn’t have my question answered. So I had to learn (how to) not leave the room until those questions were answered. And developing the ability to do that in a way that didn’t make whomever I was speaking to defensive or angry was something that took me quite a while to learn."

That was Esther “ET” Franklin’s response, and that goes back to what Pauline emphasized. Learning that skill comes down to really understanding your value and the respect we all deserve to insist on our concerns being heard and addressed. Overall, I had such a great time and I would like to thank The (wonderful) Many for the opportunity to attend!! And now you can watch the full event below and hear my question for yourself at 56:09!
 
The Panelists:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QORkNXld_60

Shera White is project manager and front of house at The Many.

How Stress and Uncertainty Are Changing Media (and how media has saved us from quarantine)

Jaclyn VanSloten | Sep. 22 2020

I was recently inspired to pen another piece for Muse by Clio that sums up my observations as a media professional during these crazy, Covid times. Keep reading below for the story as originally published in Muse, or click on over to their site to learn about my “expressions of the fight against existential angst.”
 
When asked on a plane, I am always a little reluctant to reveal what I do for a living. For every wide-eyed, gushing response about how sexy an advertising job is in LA, I get an equally polarized response blaming me for the “annoying YouTube ads” that plague my flight companion’s daily consumption of cat videos. More often than not, my crusading response on how advertising plays a much larger philosophical role in society, falls on deaf ears. The good news is that I am not flying much these days, no one is.
 
On March 19th, California ordered the first “Shelter in Place” in the US; the remaining states’ orders fell like dominos. In an instant, we all went into quarantine. Our lives did a complete one-eighty, but we didn’t fully understand the impact. It was impossible for there not to be ramifications; we just couldn’t predict them, yet.
 
During every major global crisis, media has played an essential role battling a shared enemy; an eventual paradigm shift was the result. Media’s role in the 2001 “War on Terror” was to keep the public informed amongst national insecurity. Empowered with information, the public was willing to give up a degree of privacy, a shift that has become a “new norm” today. In the 2008 Great Recession, media exposed Wall Street, holding them accountable for their errors. Disillusionment with “the system” emerged and the paradigm shifted from career to the ‘gig’ economy.(1) COVID is unique in that there is no common, shared ‘enemy’. What role does media play in a global crisis that is as psychological as it is physical?
 
I am a firm believer that emotions drive action. This isn’t just media, this is life. We are not rational beings. Ask the psychology experts: Kahneman, Nisbett. Ask Dubner and Levitt. Principles unearthed from their research labs can be generalized to society at large. And the truth is: we are not really in control. One of the most significant outcomes of COVID was removing the facade of control and cloaking us in a degree of uncertainty, the very condition we try to avoid at all costs. We hate uncertainty so much that research shows we actually prefer predictable negative actions over uncertain outcomes.(2) 
 
In one important study, volunteers played a computer game where turning over rocks that may have snakes under them caused an electric shock. The researchers were able to ‘fix’ the probability of uncovering a snake. The main finding was that the greatest stress response (sweat) arose when players were the most unsure if they would uncover a snake; even more so than if they were almost certain they would find a snake. 

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground -- something predictable and safe to stand on -- seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.” - Pema Chödrön

To compound this effect, we know that uncertainty breeds stress, and stress breeds action. Think about this in your own life. I live in LA. Enter stereotypical traffic metaphor— when I’m early (admittedly, a rarity), I don’t think much about driving, I go “with the flow.” But if Google tells me I am going to be seven minutes late, this is where it gets interesting. I will do everything humanly possible to outsmart Google and cut time. I will weave in traffic, run that border-line ‘pink’ light, take that side road. Uncertainty breeds action. 
 
Everyone knows that stress response takes two relatively predictable forms: fight or flight. Since COVID is a ubiquitous, complex threat with no one source, the traditional forms of stress responses do not work. As a result, we try to control (equivalent to fight) or distract (equivalent to flight). Media habits are one form of how these drives are expressed. 
 
Think about your media consumption over the past four months. When quarantine hit, you were ready to crush quarantine life. You set-up your quarantine goals list, devoured the news, forensically researched DIY projects, gathered health and wellness info and hoarded recipes. You were vying for control using media. 
 
Maybe you also binged Tiger King, challenged the fam in a Blinding Lights dance-off, signed up for as many subscription services you could manage or connected the only way you knew how, through Instagram or Fortnite. Maybe you even got caught with a Wood meme (or two, if you were unlucky). These are all forms of distraction; a coping mechanism. 
 
You probably even oscillated between these stress responses, vying for control and distraction. 
 
The trends reflected that we were grasping for answers in a state of uncertainty; media consumption skyrocketed, especially in digital, connected TV and social. In an early April report, nearly three-quarters (72%) of Americans reported increased use of communications technology, especially video streaming on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other services.(3) How these channels were used may have differed, but it was all in response to the same emotion: uncertainty. Then something changed, people settled into their uncertainty; consumption flattening out. In late April, about half of Americans said they were limiting time with media.(4)  Uncertainty dissipated, at least a bit. The response actions became internalized; they have become a habit.
 
Lally said it takes 66 days to form a habit. What does this mean for the “new normal?” Quarantine has gone on too long to not have a permanent impact. It would be naive to believe things will return to how they were. But one certain outcome is that our relationship with media has changed. COVID is so ubiquitous that no one has been left unaffected. Day-to-day experimentation is sticking. Subscription sign-ups will be maintained. Heavy social and connected TV consumption will continue as the economy remains sluggish. The world will become increasingly digital in a way that we might not even recognize yet, especially in the realm of human connection. On-demand, personalization and ‘access’ will flourish. 
 
As old realities are brought back into the fold of our day-to-day lives, we will re-negotiate media’s purpose. Our new habits will become our lifestyle. Looking back, we might not be able to pinpoint the exact moment it all changed, but we will forever remember the “invisible enemy” that upended life as we once knew it. Ultimately, during this time, we have been at war with our own psychology, and media gave us a degree of certainty as the world stood still. Is it too big to say that media saved us as we fell into a cyclone of vast existential uncertainty? Am I being overtly biased, painfully self-interested and completely naive? F*ck it. Amidst a global pandemic, media saved us.  

(1) Canvas8 Pandemic Culture Powerpoint (2020)
(2) de Berker, A., Rutledge, R., Mathys, C. et al. Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. Nat Commun 7, 10996 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10996
(3) Digital News Daily (April 2020); IAB, USC Study Reveals Rapid Shifts In Consumer Behavior Due To COVID-19
(4) Mindshare Wave 7 Report (April 2020) ;https://www.mindshareworld.com/usa/news/our-covid-19-research-wave-7?utm_source=podnews.net&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=podnews.net%3A2020-04-30

Jackie VanSloten is Associate Media Director at The Many

Why I Need a Creative Practice as a Media Person (and how you can have one too)

Caroline Tambling | Sep. 18 2020

Like many others, my experience thus far in 2020 has been a bit of a blur. Time seems to move so slow and fast simultaneously. By Wednesday, I feel I have lived 2 weeks in three days, and yet here we are already in September. Our agency made the decision to gift us with the full Labor Week off to take a mental health break. While we may feel like we can continue chugging along full steam ahead, the step of taking a pause to process and refuel on energy is so vital to a sustainable work life. Which is exactly what I did.
 
During Labor Week, I dove back into my creative practice. Perhaps I should mention I work in our media group, pulling raw data, crunching numbers, and gleaning insights from performance. And yet, I dedicated some of my free time to flexing that creative muscle.
 
The truth of media, and one of the reasons I keep coming back, is that it requires both left and right sides of the brain. It’s equal parts arts & science. Beyond the impressions and cost pers, there is a creativity to how we approach the planning process. How do we see beyond ourselves and understand the audience and what drives them? In a world filled with clutter, how do you capture someone’s attention in a way that feels authentic and genuine? We are problem solvers. We take puzzle pieces that frequently change shape and explore new ways to solve it. Creativity is table stakes for any successful person in Media.
 
Any sport requires practice. Long distance runners set their schedule with a mix of runs and strength training. Basketball players practice drills and shoot the ball hundreds of times. For me, I have to build up my creative practice if I want creativity to flow easily. To be clear, I’m not likely to win any awards or have an art installation in a gallery. My creative outlet is something small—I have to master how to dribble before advancing to layups. 
 
There are ways for all of us to fit a creative practice into the week. It could be so small—wake up each day and create a small doodle of what you dreamt. Take up watercolors and frame an abstract little painting on your desk. Find something that feels within reach that can help you build confidence in your ability to stretch your creative muscle. Over time your creativity will strengthen and grow, allowing you to explore new aspects in both personal and professional spheres.
 
I’m a firm believer that crafting should be two things: 1) accessible and 2) not-stressful. I suppose the third thing would be something that’s easy to start and stop at a moment’s notice. I recall one of my middle school art projects involved creating a loom out of cardboard for a simple weaving project. This is about the level of creativity I can invoke while working from home, so I figured I’d give this a shot. In case you too want to relive your formative creative years, here’s a quick how-to for getting set up.
 
DIY Cardboard Loom Instructions:

Step 1: Cut a rectangle out of cardboard. I’d recommend using one of those boxes from one of the products you bought off Instagram during the early days of quarantine. As the saying goes, size doesn’t matter here.

Step 2: Using a ruler and pen (or eyeball it if you are feeling confident), draw a ½ to 1 inch border on all sides of the cardboard. This ensures you have ample space for the tabs and offers forgiveness for the questionable ends of the cardboard you cut out with rusty scissors.

Step 3: From here it’s time mark across the top and bottom lines with ¼ – ⅜ inch lines. Cut from the bottom up to your border for each mark. These cardboard strips will be what holds your warp strings (the vertical string that is basically the foundation to your weaving).

Step 4: And that’s it! Your cardboard loom is constructed. You can now take a sturdy yarn and thread it through the loom. Tape off the starter on the back side and pull it through the first cardboard strip. Take the string from the first strip on the top and pull it through and around the corresponding strip at the bottom. Repeat this process until your warp string is set, taping the excess to the back or tying it off.

I’d take you through the weaving process with your weft string (the active string you are weaving across the warp string on your loom), but honestly I’m not qualified to teach those details as I’m still learning myself. There are tons of qualified fiber artists on the interwebs who offer incredible step-by-step instruction for this process. Many also sell starter kits in case you want to advance from cardboard to an actual frame loom. And in a year like 2020, finding ways to support artists while embracing your own creative practice seems like a win-win to me.

Caroline Tambling is a Media Supervisor at The Many.

AIGA LA Guest Speaker Jorge Andrade on Diversity in the Workplace

Amanda Cosindas | Jul. 10 2020

Tomorrow, Jorge Andrade, The Many’s Associate Director of Design, will be the guest speaker for AIGA LA’s Community Meeting focused on diversity in the workplace.
 
AIGA LA is committed to building a well-connected design community to have a stronger impact on society. Their community meetings are an “opportunity to connect with like-minded creative professionals, learn new skills, and discover new relationships and opportunities within the creative community.”
 
The event is free and will take place at 11:00AM PDT. Click here to register, and here’s a preview of what to expect:
 
“Join us from the comfort of your couch as we chat with award-winning designer Jorge Andrade, Head of Design at The Many Agency in LA. The Many recently shared the diversity of their workplace and committed to change along with Six Hundred & Rising. We’ll be discussing what an inclusive creative culture looks like and how to build it.”
 
To get to know Jorge a bit more prior to the event, read his story about being a Dreamer under the DACA program and how his experience as an immigrant amidst the ongoing shifts around immigration policy has shaped who he is today.

Transparency in an Industry That Hasn’t Done Enough

Christian Jacobsen | Jun. 18 2020

In 2019, our agency went through a transformation—rebranding ourselves from Mistress to The Many. That name change was born out of a spirit and core belief that our strength as creative problem solvers is the result of our many diverse experiences, talents, backgrounds and expertise; that greatness is never achieved in isolation.
 
We believe that mantra has never been more true than now. And that if we are to see true progress and the dismantling of systemic racism, it’s going to take all of us, together.
 
It’s become incumbent upon us to look at our own name, not just as a reflection of who we are, but who we still strive to become: an agency and industry of many more diverse voices.
 
Our commitment to diversifying our industry begins with transparency. So we’d like to share an honest look at the fabric of our agency. Not just to be open about who we are, but to be clear in our commitment about who we must become.
 
Together with Six Hundred & Rising, we commit to change.
 
NOTE: Since this story was published, as of December 2020, The Many has increased  diversity related to race/ethnic identification overall by 5%, and the women now outnumber the men by 55%.

Influencer Marketing and Brand Impact During COVID-19

Alyssa DeSangro | Jun. 2 2020

Amidst the smog of COVID-19, brands and advertisers have been reassessing their objectives and strategies. Along with first-hand experience in crisis management, we are leaning on news, research and reports to validate or debunk our thoughts. From linear to streaming to OOH, we’ve seen immediate implications due to our current climate and are being flooded with publisher trends on the matter. However, perhaps the one advertising tactic that isn’t as obvious, is influencer marketing. 
 
While brands reconfigure current campaigns, they should take a deeper look at the influencer marketing strategies they are using currently and have previously leveraged. In doing this, they can uncover brand perception, observe attitudinal shifts in influencer consumer relationships, and unlock ways to connect with influencers and their following. This is essential in providing more personal guidelines on how to step back into reality, whatever reality may be at the end of this. 
 
For brands with live influencer marketing campaigns, what are the risks and rewards of advertising during COVID-19?
 
What we know is that consumers have leaned more and more on influencers as a trusted source of information (no thanks to the idea that mainstream media is full of “fake news”). This makes it even more important to look at how that influencer is connecting with their audience. Is it sensitive? Is it a hard sell? What is the sentiment of their engagement? And how could this positively or negatively affect your brand’s perception through the eyes of that influencer’s following? For those who do this well, your brand is in excellent hands, as influencers are arguably the closest your brand can get to a consumer.
 
Furthermore, with production dramatically affected by social distancing guidelines, influencers are more powerful than ever as a resource for content creation. The more an influencer maintains their authenticity and vulnerability, connects with their following and curates content, the more trust they gain from those that follow. However, the consequences of those who fall short of this could be devastating for your brand. 
 
For brands with a long-standing influencer partnership, with no live campaigns, how could an influencer’s notorious association impact the brand? 
 
The implications for this scenario are the exact same, because as consumers, this relationship between brand and influencer never dissipates for us. 
 
So what does this mean for influencer marketing during COVID-19 and beyond? Right now, it’s important to keep up with your influencer network, past and present. Just as they’ve been a representative and voice for your brand up to this point, it is more important than ever that they are authentic, yet tactful. On the flip side, it is equally as important that brands show up and support their partners. This is a defining moment in time. The loyalty brands exemplify during a crisis builds much needed trust.
 
Looking to the future of influencer marketing, while it’s in flux right now, it’s not going anywhere. 
 
However, the current climate and looming grief hanging over society raises the possibility that this advertising medium will see a shift much like other mediums. There will be prevalence for those who influence effectively. But on the other side of that, we may find a bigger barrier of skepticism for brands and future influencer partners to overcome in order to gain the same trust that was more easily won by fans pre-Coronavirus. And while this is very likely the course in which influencer marketing was heading to begin with, COVID-19 will be the ultimate catalyst for change.

Alyssa DeSangro is Associate Media Director at The Many.

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