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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.

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Our director of Purpose Practice, MJ Deery, has a byline in the latest Ad Age urging brands to move beyond token diversity to richer, more meaningful “normalization.” If you missed it, you can find a tidy summation here. Smart and important stuff. You’d be wise to check it out:

How Brands Can Normalize America’s New Normal

In advertising, we’ve certainly made strides in showing more inclusive imagery. But in my view, the next phase of equitable representation will have less to do with who brands show and more to do with the stories they tell. Winning brands must capture the compelling and complex realities of Americans, the majority who look, live, or love differently than the people we still most often see on screen.

Here are three takeaways from brands who are doing it right:

1. Embrace nuance.
Consider “The Talk” for example. The Emmy award-winning spot by P&G, widely celebrated for its empathetic portrayal of African American parenting struggles, actually received some criticism for the absence of men. The creative team held that they were aiming to depict mothers’ reckoning with systemic racism. But by leaving men out of the conversation, the brand unwittingly reinforced the absent father stereotype. So P&G enlisted the help of male African American creatives at Sunday Morning and set out to make things right. Their next spot, ‘The Look,” offers a nuanced view into insidious bias African American men face. P&G understood that in order to capture the truth of their audiences’ lives, they had to examine women’s and men’s experiences separately. In so doing, the brand delivered equitable representation not by telling one tale, but by exploring the complexity of the black experience.

2. Commit to more than marketing.
Brands are more willing than ever to surrender restrictive ideals of beauty for the sake of inclusion, from athletic apparel to toy manufacturers (yes, even Barbie). But none commits quite like Sephora. With “We Belong to Something Beautiful,” the brand takes inclusion to the next level, bringing viewers face to face with non-binary experiences across race, ability, body type, age, and transition. It’s equally impactful that Sephora anchors this striking imagery with the gender expansive, “They, She, He, Xe, We,” at a time when the Human Rights Campaign reminds us how deeply personal our names and pronouns are. The anthemic display make the brand’s world view clear: no matter your identity, there is beauty in the freedom of self-expression.

3. Innovate for inclusion.
Microsoft’s latest Super Bowl spot shows kids with a range of disabilities who, thanks to the adaptive technology, can experience the gratification of a level playing field. Microsoft’s campaign tagline, “When everybody plays, we all win,” drives home the brand’s commitment to inclusion from the product level on up. No surprise, Microsoft was rewarded for its social innovation. In a Super Bowl ad effectiveness rating, “We All Win” ran away with the top score in emotional impact and the controller won the top design prize at D&AD Festival.

No matter what business you operate, a percentage of your audience is black, brown, female, queer or many other things that are simply normal. It’s time we take audiences beyond merely seeing underrepresented populations to a place where we can actually consider their lives. Consumers trust brands that understand their complex realities, and are brave enough to use their platform to tell it like it is – like it really is.

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DC’s thrilled to announce that Gary Stein joins us today as our first chief integration officer. He’s here to accelerate collaboration between our strategy, media and expanded creative team, which now includes experiential and influencer experts thanks to our recent acquisition of A2G. We think Gary says it best:

“The team here has this earnest, heartfelt belief that brands can show up for consumers – and our society – in a meaningful and authentic way. They’re not chasing shiny objects to sell more programs. They’re making major moves to help clients make a bigger impact on people, culture and commerce. DC is an ascendant independent agency with the talent, capabilities and desire to take the next leap. I want to be part of that.”

Gary joins DC after nearly five years at Eleven, most recently as associate partner and head of activation overseeing media, planning and data insights. His career includes nearly twenty years in strategy and work on clients such as Nike, Jim Beam and Google Cloud, including the Cannes Lion-winning ‘Know What your Data Knows’ campaign which featured the first-ever live TV spot created from real-time data during NCAA March Madness.

“We promise clients a holistic view on how creativity can move people’s emotions and actions – online and in real life,” said CEO Andy Berkenfield. “With Gary as our first chief integration officer, we’re ensuring that everything we do across paid, earned, shared and owned channels advances a singular creative vision that helps our clients grow.”

Cheers to that.

Tobacco flavors that seem fun and vaping devices that look like tech gadgets have led teens, and even parents, to underestimate the damage of nicotine. Most people know it’s powerfully addictive. But addiction is only the beginning. Nicotine is actually a neurotoxin whose changes to the teen brain could be permanent. And that’s what our campaign sets out to communicate.

New TV spots show teens in familiar adolescent scenes, yet homework sessions, prom and parental squabbles burst with enough tension to make the viewer wonder if there is more going on than garden-variety angst. To create the unsettlingly true-to-life campaign, DC and director Floyd Russ, who is best-known for his award-winning documentary short Zion, allowed teens to inform the action of the spots — which were entirely unscripted.

Complementing the TV and video are arresting outdoor boards running across the state and a website solely devoted to the dangers of nicotine on the teenage brain.

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It’s not just the sugar talking when we say that we’re so fired up about our new client: iconic candy brand and childhood favorite, SweeTARTS. Check out our Be Both launch work designed to speak to Gen Z’s embrace of duality and fluid identity.

The manifesto video above will live on the brand’s homepage and act as a kind of north star for all the Be Both work. New bite-size TV and digital spots begin playing this week on E!, Comedy Central, MTV and others. And the media spend will be fortified with a robust social presence as well as influencer activity.

Said DC ECD, John Kovacevich: “The Be Both idea is such a rich creative territory — the collision of colors and styles is a fresh new look for an old favorite. We’re excited by the first batch of work and the ways the campaign will come to life in the years ahead.”

We even got a little launch-day love from Ad Age.

Rakuten is back with the latest installment of the “Life to the Power of R” campaign, this time featuring a relatively well-known professional basketball player. Poised to continue the successful awareness-building achieved by the first round of work, these spots continue to bring to vivid life just how easy and rewarding using this no-brainer of a service is. Watch for the commercials all up and down your TV dial and across the digital universe.

And see the spots that started it all here.

Created by our own DCLA, the assignment was to convince teens and tweens that Universal was the “what’s next” vacation for them and their families. Our solution was to send a dozen influencers with millions of followers (don’t even act like you don’t know who Baby Ariel is) to the Orlando resort to make original videos and posts. 13 million views and half a million YouTube engagements later, the program is a bona fide success. Check out the case study vid above for all the thrilling details.

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Today we’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of A2G, a widely recognized experiential and social influencer agency. The acquisition extends our reach to two new major markets, adds a robust suite of complementary services to our offering and brings us a powerful new partner.

Amy Cotteleer (she’s the stylish one on the right) founded her agency in 2005 and was a pioneer in the experiential and influencer space. The LA- and New York-based agency created experiences and campaigns with social and digital engagement built into their fabric — from Gap’s award-winning Be Bright campaign, to Nintendo’s Wii video challenge that delivered 900 million earned impressions, to Flo’s Rockin’ Rally for Progressive that engaged a quarter million bikers.

So why’d she sell to the likes of us? We’ll let our new partner tell it: “The last thing we wanted was to be absorbed by a big agency who just wanted to staple us to a long list of capabilities. DC implicitly understood that A2G has an established brand and reputation for a reason. We’re incredibly excited by the possibilities to do great things creatively as we grow together.”

And here’s what our CEO Andy said on behalf of the rest of us: “This move is about a shared vision to help clients succeed in the evolving world of integrated marketing. The days of simply buying attention are dead — and winning brands need to build relationships with consumers online and, ya know, IRL.”

Big thanks to our friends at McCracken Advisory Partners who acted as exclusive M&A advisor on the deal.

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