While some ad agencies are trying to re-brand themselves as "storytellers" and "branded content creators" and opening small offices in Los Angeles, they'll soon find that Stun Creative is already there and has a great big head start on creating branded entertainment. Situated a skip away from LACMA with equal travel distance to the studios of Brentwood as to Sony's Culver City, Mark Feldstein and Brad Roth have built a company that can create anything from comedy, to commercials, to a branded documentary. With any luck, they'll be coming home with a Cannes Lion this year, to place alongside their countless Emmy awards that barely fit in their office.
"Our offices are at the corner of Madison and Vine, where advertising meets Hollywood."
Brad explains: "We are both the creative and production partners, we like to define ourselves depending on the opportunity, and depending on what those opportunities are. Like you said, the traditional advertising has been staid recently, and what attracts us are things that are content driven, where there are longer pieces from half hour shows, to a three minute mini-doc that lives online or what have you. Often we'll develop a concept for them, and sometimes we'll just do IP on our own. "
"Brands are looking to do something different. And often these things can come from not the agency world, but the media agency world. They don't have to rely on the creative agency, there's this grey area where they able to say 'Well, this is media...' it's digital, or mobile or social, so they're looking to do something that can have an impact there," Mark continues. "Often we get the call because our work stands out, be it comedy or something else."
Are media agencies the banks of advertising? we ask. They have the dough and they have the added leverage on the networks, and can say 'I want some added value on this media buy...' And media agencies can say 'We can do some product placement, or produce some content for you'.
"Right", says Mark Feldstein adding, "...and we do have those relationships not just with the brands, but also with media brands like the networks. We built our company servicing them. We have the relationships. So when it came time for BMW to do the show - NBC Sochi Olympics BMW bobsled team - not only were we recommended by UM studios, but NBC blessed us as well."
Stun creative isn't just the content and creative division, there's also a quirky motion graphic and animation division called Buster. Then there's a digital and print design division called BusterINK.
Brad explains "People can pick up the phone, call one number and get everything, or they can say 'We need a print campaign, lets call BusterINK'. With these divisions they have all the talent they can use, in house.
"It's a really good group. We really can assemble an enormous amount of talent very quickly against any project. A project comes and often they need a very quick turnaround - as they all seem to do - and we can assemble a very diverse group of talent to get it done fast be it integrated or comedy."
I jump in: "...other companies that are trying to do this say that they have a pool of freelance talent they can call..."
"The collective or freelance company idea is inherently flawed. You have to be able to commit, you have to have a base. You can obviously expand and contract to assignments to a degree, but at the core you need a solid creative team to be in a business in any real way. Because the truth is, if you're good, you're getting called a lot." Brad explains.
"The agency model has shifted, and we've been at the forefront of redefining it" Mark agrees, "we can handle a full production no matter how big or how small. If it's content, production, or graphics, it's just one call."
At the base of it all is the idea, and Stun burns for the simple and hilarious idea. To announce Curb Your Enthusiasm TV Guide, Stun knew that whatever they came up with had to convince Larry David it was worth doing. They riffed the "clapper too close" idea, and Larry David liked it, he infused it with his character making it a reality bending cinéma vérité comedy clip.
"We got into content, because we already have the infrastructure. We have the creative ideas, and the skills to execute them." says Mark, and among the content they've created is Gallery Mallory (now named Very Mallory) the most popular series on CW digital. Beyond digital, there's a series that we're developing right now for MTV."
Foregoing the traditional copywriter, art director team structure seen in traditional agencies, Stun works more like a comedy show central. The brief rolls in, and everyone that can crack a joke and hold a pen crowds into Mark & Brads office for a giant brainstorm where there's no bad idea - at that moment in time. There will be lots of ideas taped to a virtual wall, sifted through, weeded out and tightened up before the script is ready. Egos have to be checked at the door as it's all about getting the end result to be as funny as possible. To be a great idea. With their experience they can balance between being an advertising agency, and a show creator - being sensitive both to how the brand wants to be seen, and what makes a good piece of entertainment. They will not "make a 30 minute ad that nobody will watch."
"Right now it seems like more and more, everyone wants you to be an expert at everything. It's a challenge. And we can meet it." Brad sums it up.
Some things STUN have done: In 2013 Stun won a Webby Award for Best Writing. They sent Obama to accept on their behalf in “Presidential Clippings”. They shot Roy Hibbert on his first day in school with The Marketing Arm. They even had Jean Claude Van Damme be Kung Fu Funny in "Welcome to the Jungle".