Advertising from the World of TBWA, by Holly Hodges

KARIM is a new film by TBWA\Chiat\Day alumnus, Carl Seaton

Carl Seaton, Director

Carl Seaton, Director

If you worked at TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles between 2010 and 2013, you know Carl Seaton: By day, mild-mannered greeter; by night, crusader on the streets of Echo Park, directing a movie. Carl is a member of the Screen Director’s Guild and has directed three features:  ONE WEEK, SACRED IS THE FLESH, and OF BOYS AND MEN starring Angela Bassett.


I asked Carl about his short film, KARIM; his soon-to-be released web series, “Front Seat Chronicles”; and his upcoming feature, OPEN.

@chiatdaynight: Carl, for the benefit of our audience, please describe your short movie KARIM.

Carl: KARIM is about a man who witnesses a traumatic event and takes action to rectify what he saw.

@chiatdaynight: How many people worked on KARIM?

Carl: Just my cinematographer and myself. We were a 2-man crew on a 2-day shoot. We used a style known as “run and gun”. Locations (in East LA neighborhoods Echo Park and Los Feliz) were scouted well in advance. Shots were composed in advance to allow us to move quickly.

@chiatdaynight: What are the cast and how did you find them?

Carl: Fred Thomas Jr. is the lead character, Grey. Butterfly Rose Elise plays the little girl. Anthony B. Phillips is Karim. The cast was comprised of actors I have worked with throughout the years. I met with each actor individually to flesh out what we were going to doing, so there would be total clarity once we were shooting.

@chiatdaynight: How did you finance the film?

Carl: I spent $200 on the movie, including paying off a homeless guy to get out of a shot. I guess my brother is the producer, since he gave me the money for my birthday.


@chiatdaynight: What were your challenges directing a movie, while working a full-time job?

Carl: Having to wait everyday until after-hours and using my weekends to work on the production. Because I had to wear multiple hats on the production, I had to prepare every step and troubleshoot early into the process.

@chiatdaynight: Where can we see KARIM?

Carl: It’s currently on iTunes  http://ow.ly/o8zUV

@chiatdaynight: Have you entered KARIM into any Festivals?

Carl: Yes, it screened at several film festivals. It won an audience award at the Hollyshorts Film Festival http://hollyshorts.com/festival, and it was Runner-up for Best Short at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. http://sfbff.org/wordpress/

@chiatdaynight:What are you working on now?

Carl: I just completed an episode for a web series called “Front Seat Chronicles.

@chiatdaynight: What is that about?

Carl: Those transitory conversations around, life, death, divorce, or love, that often propelled us, ready or not, into the next chapter of our lives. This is Front Seat Chronicles. My episode should be online soon.

@chiatdaynight: Are you working on anything else?

Carl: I am in post production of a film with no dialogue call OPEN. It’s a seductive con, much lighter in tone than KARIM. We’re working on the score, a vital part, right now.

Why direct?

@chiatdaynight: Why did you want to become a director?

Carl: I was fortunate to grow up in the age of the videocassette recorder (VCR) so I could watch movies repeatedly. My love of movies lead me to want to create my own.

@chiatdaynight: Where were you raised?

Carl: I grew up in Chicago. I majored in film directing and screenwriting at Columbia College. I moved to Los Angeles over 10 years ago.

@chiatdaynight:Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your work behind a camera. We look forward to seeing your name in lights.


Written by Holly Prine

Friday 6 Sep 2013 at 16:02 PST

Posted in Interviews, TBWA

Tagged with

Larry Lac, Director of TBWA, LA SMARTSLab

BY HOLLY HODGES. LOS ANGELES (@CHIATDAYNIGHT) –Larry Lac is TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Director of the SMARTSLab. This is a guy who loves Vine but hates Kale. If you understand what that means, maybe you need to get to know Larry.


Since you just arrived at TBWA\Chiat\Day, where did you work before?

I was an integrated strategist with a focus on digital at 72 and Sunny. A place that produces an amazing amount of work in a collaborative atmosphere.

Did your career start off in digital?

Not really. I went to school in New York and majored in film. From there I did the production-assistant thing, until I realized I needed to eat. So, using my minor in creative writing, I started covering entertainment-marketing partnerships, where advertising and branding meet entertainment. This was before anybody really knew what blogs were.

From there I got into PR. Again, I was one of the kids who kinda understood digital. I could go to events, take photos, edit them and put them online. It was the shift between reporting, getting it edited and publishing in real time. This insistence on content creation helped me segue into PR because I was able to be that younger digital voice.

Working for ESPN, I was able to update their digital practice. I would use Twitter to talk to reporters. Sum up the pitch in 140 characters and add a bit.ly link back to the release. I started getting hits from that. The old-school PR guys who were still sending e-mail blasts out to journalists were wondering how I could get in touch with The Post or The Times.

From there I worked at Weiden on ESPN, SportsCenter, ABC and Heineken. They sent me to Burbank where I fell in love with the California weather and outdoor lifestyle.

Gadget you can’t live without?

 My iPhone. I’m an Apple fan for life.

What’s your favorite app right now?

Vine. I love it. It has the perfect combination of all of my interests. I make most of my Vines on my bike, riding in Manhattan Beach. I open Vine thru SIRI and record this video while I’m on my bike. Use SIRI to add a description and send. I think Vine is teaching this young generation how linear editing works.

Name something that your friends love, that you would not care if it disappeared tomorrow.

 Kale. I just feel like everybody’s into kale. There’s a lot of passion for it.

What’s your creative outlet?

Riding my bike, as strange as that sounds. After spending so much time in front of screens, getting away on a 6-hour ride helps me come up with new ideas. It’s like inventors who say they came up with an idea in the shower.

Written by Holly Prine

Friday 14 Jun 2013 at 12:02 PST

Posted in TBWA

Carol Madonna, Director of Office Services, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles

BY HOLLY HODGES. LOS ANGELES (@CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Carol Madonna is the Director of Office Services at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles offices. If six hundred advertising professionals who work at the TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles headquarters make up a small town, then Carol Madonna, as the Director of Office Services, is their mayor. I wanted to ask her how she manages 600 residents, 100 visitors and 150 dogs. I also wanted to know if I could volunteer for her “pet” project at the animal rescue organization, NKLA.

Carol Madonna, Director of Office Services, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, CA

Carol Madonna, Director of Office Services, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, CA

When did you start your career at TBWA\Chiat\Day?

I started out at Chiat in 1984, when they were located in the Biltmore Hotel. I was working at the hotel, doing floral arranging and cocktailing. I had a degree in Ornamental Horticulture/Landscape Design for Cal Poly and realized it wasn’t for me — I quit the first day on the job. I wasn’t interested in advertising at the time, I just needed a job, while I figured out what to do with my life.

Was your first job in Office Services?

No, Chiat only had 70 people. My first job was travel coordinator, then broadcast secretary and then Nike/Yamaha secretary. Chiat was working on their 1984 Olympics campaign and the epic 1984 Apple ad. (Note: Chiat was on their way to being Agency of the Decade.)

Eventually, I found myself working for Jay Chiat for the next 8 years. I did everything from taking care of his art collection, properties, and cars, to helping his best friend, Frank Gehry, build the Chiat\Day binocular building in Venice. I even tutored Frank’s kids with their computers. Frank is still a dear, dear friend.

How does it feel to be in charge of so many people?

Are you kidding? Our department deals with pissed-off neighbors, escapee dogs, birds in the building, cockroach sitings… it’s never the same day twice. This is why I’ve loved every day (almost) for the past 28 years. It’s like running a small town.

When the TV Cable company HBO came in to shoot, they brought 400 people in the building, who started moving furniture. We had to keep track of everything, so by Monday things were returned to their rightful owners. At least I’m earning money for this department which generally only spends money.

What’s your biggest challenge?

To not take it personally when employees don’t respect our office space. I want them to cherish it as much as I do.

Tell us about Samson’s Garden, the 40th Anniversary gift for Lee Clow. How can we get involved and do we need special skills to help?

Samson’s Garden was the company gift to Lee Clow for his 40th Anniversary of working for TBWA\Chiat\Day. I was working with NKLA (NKLA is a coalition of animal welfare organizations) and went to their shelter over Christmas to take the supplies we collected here. The landscaping looked horrible. So I thought it would be great gift for Lee to have a garden installed and have it named after his favorite dog, Samson.

We’re looking for volunteers to help with the NKLA garden on a Saturday (May 24). You don’t have to have any experience in landscaping to volunteer at Samson’s Garden. We’ll show you how to do everything. There will be digging, planting and weeding.

Samson's Garden, NKLA

Samson’s Garden, NKLA

How would you spend your perfect day?

I love to sail. For my birthday, I sailed around Bora Bora, which was unbelievably tranquil and beautiful. I would love to do that again.

Written by Holly Prine

Sunday 31 Mar 2013 at 12:30 PST

Posted in Interviews, TBWA

Tagged with , ,

Joel Weeks, TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Director of Product Strategy for Nissan and Infiniti brands

BY HOLLY HODGES. LOS ANGELES (@CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Joel Weeks is TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Director of Product Strategy for Nissan and Infiniti — “the Car Guy.” At Chiat\Day, if you have a car question (about any car) Joel will have the answer. But watch out — by the time you’re done talking with Joel — you may not want to buy anything but a Nissan.

picture of Joel Weeks in his yellow Nissan Z car

Here’s how Joel describes some of the fun parts of his job.

New Car Launches 

When a new car comes out, I attend a fact-finding trip with Nissan’s engineers and planners, who give a soup-to-nuts preview of the whole car. I come back to the agency to present the car’s strong points, define the exciting ideas, and tell what to focus on. I don’t want to filter too much; I try to give the team around five-to-ten big features. They take those features and then come back with ideas for discussion. There’s a lot of back-and-forth until final presentations.

Unique Selling Proposition (the gold-plated airbag sensor story) 

Every good advertising campaign focuses on something a car has that is better than the competitors. Occasionally, you find something about a car that is common to many models, but hasn’t been talked about. We call that the “Lexus gold-plated airbag sensor” story. All cars have gold-plated airbag connections, but no one mentioned it, until Lexus brought it up. People thought it was amazing to have gold plating on these air bag sensors, but in reality, all cars have that. It’s age-old now, so there aren’t many new examples, but every once in a while, a nugget like that pops up.

Most Memorable Nissan Event 

When the Nissan GT-R was first launched, we held an event here at Chiat, revealing the car to a group of car fanatics in Los Angeles. There were about 200 cars here, mostly, older GT-Rs. Nissan brought two of the brand, new GT-Rs that hadn’t yet been revealed. It was the first time car enthusiasts could sit in the car and actually talk to Nissan personnel. The owners were extremely passionate about the car and appreciated that we put on this type of event. We also recreated the event for the Nissan 370-Z.

Advice for those who want to work in Product Strategy 

First off — You have to have a love of cars. You also need to be buttoned up and detail oriented. We check all communications for product accuracy; we attend every single car shoot. We make sure everything about the car is right: seat belts, headrest in the correct position, position of hands on the steering wheel, etc.

Second — We work crazy hours. I don’t know if it’s a record, but this spring the Nissan group completed 11 ads in six or eight weeks.

Recently I attended a video shoot for Nissan social media at the test site in Arizona. We started at 5 AM and ended at 3 AM. We made five videos in one day — two crews worked simultaneously. It was a little crazy; a lot of hard work; but it was worth it.

Joel’s cars 

I have a yellow Nissan Z, which is eight years old. I also lease a Nissan LEAF. Everybody knows the Z is exhilarating to drive, but the LEAF is a really fun drive too — in a different way (my husband and I fight over who is going to drive our LEAF). It’s filled with hi-tech goodies: Bluetooth, navi, XM radio. You plug the car in at night, and you’re ready to go the next morning — It’s like charging your iPhone. Chiat has chargers, so it’s easy to plug it in at work.

Perfect day 

I would probably get in my convertible and drive to San Francisco on Route 1, by the cliffs at the ocean’s edge; all the twists and turns are a blast to drive. Another perfect day would be going to a major motorsports event, Indy, NASCAR, or F1. I love the competition and the strategy. Long Beach, Fontana, or go up north to Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma. It’s fun planning the day, packing up and taking a picnic.

From Nissan to Chiat\Day 

Joel had worked for Nissan for 16 years at its Engineering and Product Planning in southern California. When Nissan moved its operations in Nashville, Tennessee, Joel decided to stay in California and do the thing he loves … drive. He jumped in his yellow Z convertible and drove across the USA.

I was going to “diamond” the US, starting in Los Angeles. I headed to Denver; Mount Rushmore; and then up to the upper peninsula of Michigan; through Canada; then, to the East Coast. On the way back — searching for fun, winding roads — I drove through the Smokey Mountains, down to New Orleans, up to Oklahoma City, and back to Los Angeles.”

After that amazing trip, Joel was a just one phone call away from joining TBWA\Chiat\Day. Chiat needed a Product Strategist and Joel took a chance working on the agency side. As a Product Planner at Nissan, he had been on the design end of the car cycle. At Chiat, he is on the exact opposite end, after the car rolls out of the factory.

Written by Holly Prine

Tuesday 23 Oct 2012 at 12:07 PST

Who made Chiat\Day’s “Chaya Playa” the hottest commissary in Southern California? Lisa Kurth, that’s who

Chaya Playa menus on @chiatdaynight

Executive Chef Lisa Kurth creates the breakfast and lunch menus for “Chaya Playa,” the commissary at Chiat\Day’s West Coast headquarters

BY HOLLY HODGES. PLAYA DEL REY, CALIFORNIA (CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Think feeding 600 hungry employees a day is a challenge? How about serving dinner to the president of Pepsico? Or planning a client presentation with Koji Truck entrepreneur Roy Choi? Lisa Kurth — Executive Chef and General Manager of TBWA\Chiat\Day’s café, Chaya Playa — handles such demands  with panache. Her witty, elegant, and — above all — delicious menus have made Chiat\Day’s commissary the envy of hungry media professionals from Burbank to Hollywood to San Diego and — if the longing tweets from famished TBWA offices in Brazil, France, New York, and farther afield are any indication — even beyond Southern California.

Is there a typical day for an Executive Chef at TBWA?

My day begins around 5am. I create menus, research the nutritional values and figure out the costs associated with delivering breakfast and lunch for 500 people, 5 days a week. Fortunately, I have a wonderful staff of twelve. I can’t imagine how it all would get done without them.

We also do special catering for meetings and we’re sometimes involved in a pitch.

Working on the Uncle Ben’s pitch

For the Uncle Ben’s pitch with OMD, we prepared a complete rice breakfast. We created omelet stations: omelets made with rice, cheese and avocados. Plus we developed a rice/bran/raisin muffin for them. An artist created a portrait of Uncle Ben out of colored grains of rice. It was amazing.

Prepping ingredients with food truck entreprenuer, Roy Choi

Crate & Barrel was an intense pitch. The day before, I worked with Roy, prepping all the ingredients he needed. It turned out to be an awesome event. We had a mixologist, who was inspirational. Now I want to study mixology. I never knew how exciting that field was.

Liss Kurth and Jr Chaya Playa Chefs

Chaya Playa Executive Chef and General Manager Lisa Kurth, at right, with JR, Chaya Playa Executive Chef, at left

After-hours supper for Pepsico

When we did a dinner for Pepsi, we did up the tables with fine linens and beautiful china place settings. It was a beautiful display. It looked like the Ritz-Carlton. I researched what Indra Nooyi (Presidient of Pepsico) liked to eat and found out she’s a vegetarian, so we had some special vegetarian dishes.

It had been a long day and we were just getting ready to leave, when Rob Schwartz came running up and asked us to follow him. Indra wanted to talk to us. She grabbed my hand and thanked me. I just remember how gracious she was and how soft her hands were.

Did you always want to be a chef?

Pretty much. I grew up back east in an Italian family. My whole life was influenced by my grandmother. Her backyard was turned into a garden. Absolutely no grass. She made her own ketchup, jellies, tomato sauce and pasta. She had these clothesline-like contraptions to dry pasta on.

My mom baked everything from scratch. We owned a restaurant,  Il Dolce Café, from 1994-99 in Whittier. I catered at Whittier College for the faculty master. Whittier had their own caterers, Bon Appetit, but the faculty master always used me to cater for him. (He loved my tuna sandwich, which I still make today.) Eventually, Bon Appetit wanted to hire me and here I am today.

Describe your perfect day

I’d like to wake up in a Tuscan villa with a garden. I’ll make some pasta with my granddaughter, Addie, and relax in a beautiful outside setting. I love the countryside.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to do what you do?

You can’t please everybody. It’s devastating when even one person is disappointed. But you have to know you’re right and keep on. Have a tough skin. Be committed. Be passionate. Don’t take anything personally.

Thank you Lisa. I have a hundred other questions, but it’s almost lunchtime and I think I hear a Pesto chicken melt on Ciabatta calling me.

Written by Holly Prine

Monday 2 Jul 2012 at 11:10 PST

Posted in Interviews

Tagged with ,

Instagram – great while it lasted

I bought my first iPhone in October, so I’m still learning how to navigate the mobile world.

Pinterest? no interest. Words with Friends? nope. Instagram? insta-love. 

OMG, how is it possible to connect with friends in my town AND strangers who live in exotic locales? AND the subject of your digital postcard is limitless…food, pets, babies, sunsets, fonts, cars, shoes…instantly transferred into ART with filters. Paradise. 

Instagram was the Genie in the bottle.

Yesterday, the game changed. And we really have to see what happens now that FaceBook is running the show. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even drink his own kool aid, so why would FaceBook care about the customer experience? However, FaceBook does know how to make money off of our information.

Things will change for Instagram, but who believes things will change for the better?

I feel like it’s 1984 and Apple just sold out to Microsoft. I’m devastated.


Written by Holly Prine

Tuesday 10 Apr 2012 at 12:51 PST

Posted in TBWA

Intern Insight

Trying to understand the appeal of Pinterest, I asked a room full of interns why they would use Pinterest.

“It’s popular because we’re tired of talking about ourselves.” 

Brilliant. I’ve never heard that said before. You read about your friend’s trip to Paris for a month and then you’re left with writing a clever post about your third trip to In-N-Out. That’s exhausting.

Pinterest gives you a place to express your interests…with photos and links… and it only takes a minute. Done.

Thanks Interns. 



Written by Holly Prine

Wednesday 22 Feb 2012 at 11:00 PST

Posted in TBWA