Million-dollar talent from Upwork

To support COVID-19 projects, Upwork is donating a million dollars of time from their network of independent professionals. And who better to tell us about it than the pros themselves?

Look for their bright, shining, competent faces in a new national TV spot launching today. Created in just one week using video footage shot at home by freelancers on the Upwork platform who are ready to help. To source the footage, Upwork invited a select group of more than 125 top-rated professionals in its network to submit videos. 

Upwork has paused its pre-COVID-19 brand campaign ‘Upwork is How’ and is dedicating its national media buy handled by Duncan Channon to support the Talent Grants effort and reach businesses and nonprofits in-need. Upwork plans future spots to highlight the impact of select grant recipients’ COVID-19 relief initiative.

Here’s what our CCO and partner Michael Lemme had to say about the worthy endeavor. “It was an inspiring challenge to sift through so many videos shot by freelancers in their homes with their dogs, houseplants and kids to convey a unified message: we’re here to help. It captures a feeling that’s familiar to most of us. The desire to use our skills — whatever they may be — to be of service from wherever we are.” 

A grey-blue background with a circle of screenshots of various people speaking in a video conference call. In the center of the screenshot is text in white text letters that reads “Work Together.

Cotteleer in Campaign US

DC’s chief experience officer speaks with Campaign about the virtual world and how COVID-19 has actually brought DC’s SF and LA offices closer.

You can see what she had to say here or simply scroll down.

Grid image of 20 US employees on video conference call together. They are diverse in their age and their genders. They all appear smiling and some chatting like they are familiar with each other and enjoy working together.

Amy Cotteleer, partner and chief experience officer at Duncan Channon, was never one for Google Hangouts, but she’s become a convert.

It’s keeping her more closely connected with colleagues and has become a “bit of a silver lining.”

Los Angeles-based Cotteleer, who sold her digital, social and live experiences business, A2G, to Duncan Channon in early 2019, is applying lessons learned during the financial crisis of 2008 for clients including the LA Rams and e.l.f. cosmetics.

Back then, she helped brands maintain relationships with consumers when disposable income and consumer confidence were under attack. 

Cotteleer discovered that social influencers—it was the dawn of the Mommy Blogger Era—were proving great surrogates to real-life, consumer events. For Nintendo Wii, A2G was able to work with bloggers to reach parents who were worried about their kids playing video games. 

“We appreciated that it was the experiences of the influencers, that they could then bring to their audiences, that would then be shared exponentially,” said Cotteleer. 

Today, it might be beauty influencers on TikTok and game-streaming personalities on Twitch, but the concept is the same. They are the bridge to consumers who are not interacting with brands in-store or at events. 

Cotteleer, a former banker who worked in movie financing before switching to marketing, talked to Campaign US about keeping clients, colleagues and her two daughters happy while maintaining her own sense of self.


We are almost a month into COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. What are your impressions or learnings over this time?

It is a month, and I have a totally different perspective than what I thought it would be. 

The demands that have been placed on working parents, to entertain, to protect, to teach, to coach…for me, it has been a complete learning experience. It is fraught with challenges, to technology not being a friend to, over time, a sense of uneasiness. 

At any part of the day, you can go from being uneasy to fearful. Even though we are Zooming every day that is not a human connection.

How is it managing teams from afar?

As a partner, as a leader, it is my belief that we have to separate the signal from the noise. We do that by figuring out what people need, encouraging who we work with. It is about setting boundaries, being realistic and helping employees figure our how to self-care and be present. Especially if you are a parent. 

At the agency, our CEO Andy Berkenfield announced a program, Tag Out. What that means is, as a parent, if you feel you need to tag out, you have not only the support of the agency but also of co-workers and colleagues. For me, every morning between 9 and 10, I am tagging out to make sure my daughters are good for school and with the apps they are using for learning.

As a marketer and a consumer, do you miss stores or do you see your own behavior changing longterm? 

The question we are grappling with as an agency for our clients is: Business as usual. When will that be and who will I be when it returns to normal?

This is not short-term, even when the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, we are not just going to flip a switch and do live events as soon as we can go outside. 

Then, the reality is we are at a minimum of three to six months from holding events, because there are so many things that go into live events, from a scouting perspective to negotiations. Providers are going to be decimated because of the shutdown. The reality is, we are going to lose florists, caterers. We are going to lose venues, we are going to lose fabricators. 

And there is a psychological impact we are going to have to address. Can you imagine being surrounded by a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand people? I can’t. It scares me, and I do it for a living.

What are you able to do for clients now, as far as social and digital experiences?

As we are social, digital and experiential, we have always understood the importance of all three. We are definitely talking to our clients about influencer and social engagements, across all platforms, from Twitch to TikTok. 

We have weathered storms before like the financial crisis in 2008. We created programs to reach out to YouTubers and mommy bloggers, so when events went away, consumers passion for brands continued. 

So we know influencers and social engagement are going to play such a critical role.

There is this instinct, I think it is almost primal during an economic downturn to want to cut dollars. Maybe you cannot do a live event, but I think that it is dangerous to for brands to cut spending. They will have a harder time coming back.

We are dealing with consumers who feel like life has been canceled, here is a time for brands to help their consumer connect. 

What is going on with some of the clients you are working with?

We were selected before the shutdown by the LA Rams to help them create strategies around their in-person, 7,000 person NFL draft event. The Rams, locally in Los Angeles, were going to have a celebration for their fans, 7,000 of them in one space, during the NFL draft in Las Vegas.

It is unfortunate that we might have to wait another year for it. Even before the NFL was talking about it, we were talking with the organization to discuss other ways to connect online, through every platform available for us to create the sense of community to connect with people who have a passion for football and give them a place to connect with each other.

Another example is our client e.l.f. They launch products on a regular basis. Often times, they have in-person events to celebrate. The products are going to hit the stores, that cannot be delayed. How can we look at the influencer community to do the heavy lifting, to do it differently, perhaps? 

It’s been about a year since Duncan Channon acquired A2G. How are things going with your team being in Los Angeles?

I would jump up on a plane go up to San Francisco and San Francisco would jump on a plane and come down to us.  

The irony is, I feel more connected to the San Francisco team now. I think I can speak for my team here in Los Angeles because we prioritize face-to-face communications through Zoom and Hangouts like we never have before. We used to not see each other every day.

It has been a little bit of a silver lining.

How will this COVID-19 affect you personally? 

I think on a personal note, it will forever change the way I communicate with the teams in San Francisco. I have prioritized now clicking Google Hangouts and making a face-to-face call and that is crazy for me. Now, I look forward to popping on Google Hangouts and seeing people. There are moments you hear a voice in the distance, and everyone asks, “Who is that?” Or someone’s child will pop on the screen. There are really delightful moments. 

Empowering the pandemic parent

Amy, along with our CEO Andy, talking to MediaPost about the agency’s support plan for working parents suddenly at home with kids.

Amy, along with our CEO Andy, talking to MediaPost about the agency’s support plan for working parents suddenly at home with kids.

You can check out the story here, or Ad Age’s coverage here, or just read below.


In a matter of weeks, the covid-19 crisis has forced countless industries to transform the way they do business while upending the lives of employees. The ad industry is no exception. 

As a precaution, we closed Duncan Channon’s offices and moved our 80-person staff to remote work from home four days before California Governor Newsom’s shelter-in-place mandate took effect March 17. Within a week, remote work became the new normal for agencies across the country. At the same time, schools and child care centers shut their doors.  

With this wholesale transition to WFH came a wave of media coverage about what agencies are doing to boost morale and keep employees engaged. Don’t get us wrong, those stories are important. Yet, there’s an even more critical conversation that deserves attention: how agencies are supporting parents, who have an exponentially expanded load, as they care for children while working from home. 

As the mother and primary parent of 8- and 10-year old daughters, I feel this impact personally. I’m now a C-level leader, a homeschool teacher relearning geometry and an athletic director overseeing the at-home training routines assigned by my girls’ sports teams. Unfortunately, the day is still twenty-four hours long. Colleagues caring for babies or toddlers have it even harder. 

Creating ways to stay connected are important, yet the most significant way to keep morale high is to show our people we have their backs — especially parents. This means talking honestly about the real challenges and stress parents are feeling. And, responding with empathy and flexibility. 

Here are three things we’re doing to support parents: 

1. Giving people time off to make their parenting a priority 

Nearly thirty percent of our staff are now parents working from home, and they have an unimaginably tough job. The demands on parents to protect, teach and entertain their children are overwhelming. Couple this with 8-hours of work and the disorienting new shelter-in-place reality, and you’ve got an impossible situation. 

We’ve been proactive in letting our entire staff know that parents sometimes need to step away from the business to put their kids first. To ensure it’s not lip service, we’ve launched the ‘Tag Out Time’ program. Parents have full permission to ‘tag out’ when they need some time, and ask someone on their team to ‘tag in’ on their behalf.

It’s flexible because parents need different things to stay sane. Parents of elementary school-aged children might ‘tag out’ on their calendars daily from 8:30 to 10 am to set their kids up with lessons. Parents of toddlers can spontaneously ‘tag out’ of a meeting 5 minutes beforehand to soothe a meltdown. 

The message we’re delivering is clear: this isn’t a program to shift the timing of work so parents log-on after the kids are asleep. We want parents to take actual time away to be with their families and trust that others will cover the work. It’s an investment in our employees’ well-being because those moments to be truly present with family are getting people through this challenging time. 

2. Normalizing the integration of parenting into work

On our first day of working from home, we sent out a ‘WFH pro tip’ email that encouraged people to find a ‘sacred place’ where they could concentrate away from distractions. We then realized our error: a quiet place free from interruption simply doesn’t exist for parents of young children. So, we doubled down on our empathy for the reality that family time is now interspersed with work time. Kids are welcome to be on team members’ laps during video calls, and it’s okay for us to hear them jabbering and screaming in the background or foreground. 

In our all-agency weekly video call, we’re now inviting staff to introduce their kids and pets. It’s about normalizing the fact that we’re all working while family members depend on us, but also about showing dimensions of our lives that we may not have felt comfortable sharing before. Plus, the cuteness is a great mood booster. It’s been heartening to see how our staff has leaned into sharing more about their families, whether emailing photos of their kids or having kids pop into video call screens. 

3. Giving parents permission to disengage  

To create moments of connection for our agency, we’ve launched online meditations, virtual happy hours, and ‘Think & Drink’ video gatherings where any staffer can host a discussion on a topic they’re passionate about over drinks. But, every single one of these virtual gatherings is optional. Talented people tend to be overachievers, so it can be easy to see these gatherings as ‘one more thing’ to do to prove your engagement. That’s why we’re repeatedly emphasizing that there’s zero pressure to join a virtual happy hour if you need to get your kid ready for dinner, or just need some ‘me’ time. 

We considered hosting a virtual ‘DC Kids Hangout,’ but decided against another event when parents’ energy and time are already overstretched. We think it actually shows more empathy not to add to parents’ already overflowing plates. 

As agency leaders, there’s a limit to what we can do to ease the burden for working parents. At a time when parents are being asked to ‘do it all,’ the most important thing we can do is to allow people to decide what is OK not to do. And, to remember that our empathy should be limitless.

A mother of two lays in a hammock in her backyard. In the hammock with her is her two children. She appears a strong mother balancing work and motherhood. Her two daughters are smiling.

Cotteleer talks COVID-19 in Adweek

As we seek to chart our way through the uncharted, DC’s Amy Cotteleer shares her thoughts on brands’ best course of action during the pandemic.

You can check out the story here or to save you the click, here’s what she had to say.

ADWEEK. A scene from the Disney movie Frozen. Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Sven are posing on a purple background.

The coronavirus crisis has upended the way we live and do business with record speed. Schools are closed. An unprecedented number of people are working from home or are out of work entirely. Bars, restaurants, theaters and churches are suspending service in growing numbers as Americans are urged to stay home.

For marketers, it can feel like the sky is falling. Every major TV network has shelved its in-person upfront. NCAA March Madness, the NBA playoffs and The Masters are officially off the spring sporting menu. SXSW and pretty much every other conference is canceled. In-person experiences are verboten.

Despite a devastating cost to brands, media and small businesses, this crisis has the potential to propel us forward as more human marketers. 

This unprecedented new landscape serves up a challenge to brands to embrace the realities of modern marketing in a digital world. It’s a world where brands must put people, not products, first; where consumers crave connection, not commercials; where technology must deliver better experiences, not just broadcast information. Here are three ways brands can answer the call to be more human in this time of crisis:

1. Act like a first responder, not a marketer. Make no mistake, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global emergency, not a marketing opportunity. As such, brands need to act like first responders, convening their own situation rooms to determine what resources they have to meet urgent community needs now. For companies that have technology or products that are critically needed, it’s time to donate, not sell.

I’m heartened to see several companies stepping up as early responders. At a time when we’re more reliant than ever on the internet with people forced to work from home, Comcast, for instance, is offering free broadband to low income households and increasing speeds. With thousands of K-12 schools closed for the foreseeable future, Zoom is offering schools its video conferencing tools for free, with no time limits for video chats for any affected school in the U.S., Italy and China. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan set up new free accounts for a handful of schools personally as a gesture of support.

Even brands that don’t have game-changing technology to offer can think about how they might contribute to reducing real pain points. For example, KFC is offering free delivery through its site, Grubhub and Seamless through April 26 to get food more easily to households that are staying home in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

2. Seek to lift spirits, not sales. This crisis has made us realize that we are, quite literally, all in this together. As the impact of COVID-19 is felt across country, race and socioeconomic lines, we’re compelled to let go of outdated distinctions between marketers and consumers or between brands and target audiences. In this moment, we are all simply human.

If your brand’s product or service is not essential during the crisis, I challenge you to consider how you might spark a bit of joy, connection or laughter at a time when it is so needed. Lin Manuel-Miranda showed us the way by releasing a free, never-before-heard Hamilton song to lift spirits after Broadway shows closed. The Walt Disney Company followed suit by choosing to stream its blockbuster Frozen 2 three months ahead of schedule.

Chipotle is doing its part to fight feelings of isolation with its “Chipotle Together” virtual hangouts on Zoom. For a week, 3,000 fans will have the opportunity to mingle with celebrities, such as The Bachelor’s Colton Underwood, in online chats. Chipotle will win if it can deliver a real dose of togetherness, not just a lightly dressed sales pitch.

3. Reimagine access to experiences. From museums to concerts to Disney theme parks, we’ve seen so many sources of wonder disappear in the wake of coronavirus. While social distancing will certainly boost binge-watching, Netflix alone won’t cure what ails us. In today’s experiential desert, brands must create innovative ways for people to connect with their passions online.

Google Arts and Culture has partnered with more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world, including Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to offer virtual tours and online exhibits. This initiative didn’t launch in response to coronavirus, but it’s getting a major boost from press offering resources for readers seeking culture from their couches.

In New York, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it would stream encore presentations from its Live in HD series on its website for the duration of its closure. California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium is currently streaming live cams from its underwater exhibits so virtual visitors can see what’s happening in real-time.

While cultural institutions are leading the way in opening digital pathways to arts and science, more brands and event organizers can reimagine how to deliver enriching digital experiences beyond the traditional livestream. The moment demands it, yet digital innovation can now set a new precedent for access and engagement in the years ahead.

In this time of extreme uncertainty, one thing is clear: This pandemic leaves no room for opportunists. Instead, let’s seize the opportunity to respond with humanity. It’s likely to make us more empathetic and innovative marketers for years to come.

Another sweet new client

Black Forest, so juicy, so good. The Black Forest logo appears with a red gummy bear hanging over the top. In the background is a lush green forest. Sunlight peaks through and shines on a patch of green plants.

If you missed it in Adweek and Ad Age, DC went to the Black Forest and hit the gummy bear motherlode. 

That’s right, the wonderful folks at Ferrara Candy, who last year awarded us the vaunted SweeTARTS account, invited us to pitch for their Black Forest gummies brand, too. And we’re proud to say that, after a spirited pitch with illustrious competitors, they were kind enough to pick us again. Their marketing director, Kate Adams, even had this nice thing to say:

“It was clear throughout the pitch that Duncan Channon put Black Forest in their heart. Their insightful creative ideas and passion to help build Black Forest into the next great Ferrara brand stood out and matched our ambition. We’re excited to have such a collaborative partner in making Black Forest both beloved and well-known.” 

Expect to see an integrated TV campaign coming this summer. And if you haven’t tried the juicy deliciousness of Black Forest gummies yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

New business and beyond

Noel Johnson, Director of Marketing & Client Engagement at Duncan Channon, poses for a headshot in front of black and white vintage wallpaper.

DC is pleased to announce the arrival of Noël Johnson as our first director of marketing and client engagement. Noël’s here to help us secure and onboard new clients, but also to continue engaging over time as a true client advocate. Her hybrid role offers clients additional senior leadership involvement as part of DC’s commitment to building close, productive long-term relationships with clients. Our CEO Andy explains it this way:

“Noël’s addition to our leadership team reflects our ambition to reach the next level as an agency. For us, the next level is about much more than a larger team and larger revenues – it’s about intentionally establishing and building client partnerships that are based on a shared desire to use creativity to impact business, culture and even social change. I think every successful independent shop reaches a point when you shift from organic growth to a more purposeful approach that reflects your creative aspirations.”

Noël joins us after helping build startup agency Most Likely To into a fast-growing boutique as partner and head of client services. She previously spent three years as Group Account Director at MH VCCP (formerly Muhtazik|Hoffer), where she led HP, SoFi, OXO and AAA accounts at a time when the agency doubled in size. She helmed the new business effort that won the SoFi business and oversaw the brand’s national launch during the Super Bowl.

Vegas: Howard Hughes vs. the giant shoe

See more photos on Flickr.

Every year, my husband and I join friends on a trip to the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. We go for the music. We go for the shopping. We go for the chance to not have passersby ask, “Hey, are they filming some kind of ’50’s movie around here?” when they see us gathered with our cuffed jeans and archaic hairdos. But one of our favorite reasons to go to Vegas are the strange museums.

This year, we made a stop at the Neon Boneyard, the field where old Las Vegas signs go to die. It was pretty amazing from a “I pretend I live in the past” perspective, but also from the perspective of a typography lover, because some of these signs are the very place where these typefaces were created (House Industries, I’m looking at you).

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