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September 2017

Creativity Culture


Unlocking the Power of Multicultural Influencers September 2017


Letter from the Founder Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder and CEO, The BrainTrust


.A. is glamorous, which is what pulls everyone in the first time, but there’s a lot of character and depth underneath all of that. Coming from a 14-year career in New York, I was certain I would miss the NYC street culture, the subways, the creatives who could start an impromptu subway concert way better than any trained performer I had paid to see. But moving to L.A. opened my eyes to a different realm of culture, of creatives that you can only discover after being here for a little bit. It’s special. We recently moved into our new office, on Robertson and Melrose in the heart of culture and creativity. For over a year, we called Neuehouse home and were inspired and empowered by the artistic charm of the building, the detailed artwork and the Creative Class that we worked alongside of. Our new space is a refreshing twist on our individual personalities and the brand complete with our own small creative studio for impromptu photo shoots and brainstorms.

making a difference and leading through their own personal lense of what being a cultural citizen means. Such as Paige Pope, our community specialist and new editor-in-chief of BT Quarterly who is taking four months to explore culture from Fiji to Cambodia. Her experiences will forever shape how she views the world and how she looks at her career both as an executive and a global citizen for good. Or Aly Nagel, our first employee who launched “Don't Call Me Pretty” to challenge how women are portrayed in media and culture. Not only do we sit at the epicenter of L.A. culture but we also strive day-to-day to be creative and conscience of the ever-changing role of media and the impact technology and creativity will have both in the short term and long term on our growth, our future and ultimately our mark and impact on society and our clients. In this issue, we introduce you to The Creative Class and beyond.

From the start it has been my mission to merge culture and creativity with a keen eye toward the female lifestyle vertical at The BrainTrust. Our BrainTrust or Creative Class is now full of people


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There are few cities quite like Los Angeles. From Tokyo to

London, New York to Paris, the unprecedented centralization of artists and creators found in L.A. has allowed it to stand tall among its famous counterparts. Due to both its history as being a launchpad for the world’s biggest stars, and its mystique as a metropolis built on the backdrop of a dreamy, urban-tropical landscape, L.A. occupies a sort-of mythical status as being the lynchpin of today’s entertainment industry.” —Jasmine Perri

The BrainTrust is a social media and digital agency committed to helping the world’s most beloved fashion, beauty, lifestyle and celebrity brands develop and execute strategies and campaigns that drive awareness, demand engagement and impact the bottom line.

Our approach is rooted in partnering with our clients to uncover their value and unique positioning in the marketplace. We identify their story and point of view and leverage the most modern forms of communication and storytelling to bring their perspective to life at scale. We define the digital ecosystem as Community, Content and Conversion.


September 2017


Letter from the Editor Paige Pope Editor-in-Chief, The BrainTrust Quarterly


n this fourth issue of BT Quarterly we explore the topic of Culture & Creativity. These two crucial concepts are at the pulse of everything we do at The BrainTrust. From social media campaigns, to photo shoots, to influencer events, our work doesn’t happen without accounting and celebrating the culture around us and infusing a healthy dose of creative thinking. The driver behind all of this culture and creativity is of course daring individuals, their work and their ideas. In this issue we talk to some of those creatives such as DaVida Smith our former editor-in-chief and constant culture monger, Zarna Surti founder of Tonal Studios and Mordecai whose art meets tech campaign for Apple just launched. We are most excited to share how we are turning the culture and creativity at The BrainTrust into an official business arm with the recent launch of BT Studios. We discuss the launch and speak with two of the driving forces behind the studio on page and I can personally say that these content producers are ready to push creativity outside the box on project after project.


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So what is culture and creativity? Zarna: “Creativity is culture and culture is creativity. They're really one in the same.” DaVida: “...engage in creative and cultural discussions to encourage us all to contribute to our collective stories. Our world is so diverse so our art and culture must reflect our society.” Founder, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: “From the start it has been my mission to merge culture and creativity with a keen eye toward the female lifestyle vertical at The BrainTrust. Our BrainTrust or Creative Class is now full of people making a difference and leading through their own personal lense of what being a cultural citizen means.” It’s engaging in the world, it’s finding what you love, sharing it and then some, and it's at the core of what we do. We hope this issue inspires your own spark of culture and creativity.

Table of Contents 2 Letter from the Founder 4 Letter from the Editor 6 The Creative Influencer: Breakthrough Creatives Changing the Way We View Influence 8 DaVida Smith: From One Editor-In-Chief to Another 10 Mordecai: Ideas & Inspiration 12 'It's The Real Me' 14 Introducing: BT Studio 16 Zarna Surti: Creator & Innovator 19 The Agency of the Future: The Evolution of the Ad, PR and Marketing Agency


The Creative Influencer

Breakthrough Creatives Changing the Way We View Influence by Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder and CEO, The BrainTrust

Instagram has reached a stage in its

maturity when users are starting to wise up and these influencers have risen to the challenge.


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There's been a flurry of articles preaching the virtue of an Insta-purge, aka unsubscribing to the vacuous, cookie-cutter types whose style can best be described as beige; with feeds containing an offensive amount of flat lays, Aperol Spritzes and the word 'squad'. What has emerged in this context of the savvy social media consumer is an appetite for authenticity, boldness and individuality. Enter the creative influencer. Working across the gamut of artistic vocations from fashion to choreography to DJing — what they have in common is a generous sprinkling of swagger, a style that doesn't pander to trends and a sassy, entrepreneurial spirit. They are the sparkliest of souls who dance to the beat of their own drum and aren't afraid to do the tango with left-of-centre life. The DJ, filmmaker and social influencer, Vashtie Kola has done a lot. Starting her career in New York just over a decade ago as a music video director, Kola has been at the helm of some of popular culture’s biggest moments. From turning NYC’s hip-hop scene upside down through her work as a DJ and party organizer to comasterminding Drake’s infamous ‘Hotline Bling’ music video in 2015, the Albanyborn creative has established herself an indisputable force. In the City of Angels, everyone has a dream. Photographer Lloyd Pursall has made it his mission to capture those turning their aspirations into reality. Pursall has been putting together a project that captures the essence of the ambitious go-getters in L.A. From dancers to actors, musicians to athletes, his upcoming exhibit, ‘To Live and Try in L.A.’, delivers stunning, intimate portraits and jaw-dropping, editorial-style spreads of some of the city’s biggest rising stars.

Liu Wen publishes an Instagram feed featuring off-the-cuff snaps — and no shortage of selfies — documenting her peripatetic life for her 2.9 million followers. But Wen is not just any model: She is China’s most successful supermodel, a runway fixture, the face of countless major advertising campaigns and Estée Lauder’s first-ever Asian global spokesmodel. Pam Lau is an independent photographer based in Toronto, for whom the entire city is a backdrop for her portraits and lifestyle shots. We’ve been following her work for awhile, but absolutely fell in love with her style after getting our hands on her selfpublished photo book, “bbblue”. She seeks the calm and uncomplicated in her work, which has attracted clients such as Nike, American Express and VICE. Photographer and creative director, Taylor Reynolds has a new creative women-centric production that is a podcast/digital zine project, Best Practice. The theme is simple: leveraging a space that’s predominantly run by men, Reynolds facilitates conversations with female creatives to share their experiences, their obstacles, and most importantly, their wins, in hopes of inspiring and motivating others. If there's such a thing as the Godfather of Instagram, Seb Lester is surely it. The British artist and designer stole the show with his hypnotic, short videos reinterpreting the world's most famous logos – Nike, The Gap, Star Wars, The New York Times and more – using calligraphy. He aims to reward his one million-plus Instagram followers with a new post every day, so you'll always find something new.

his work as "pop surrealism". Saturated with science references, retro hues and bold, geometric patterns, if you're in the mood for the absurd – and his 76,500 followers suggest there's an interest – look no further. For a hit of color when creativity levels are dipping, try Kate Moross. The director of Studio Moross – and recently named as one of the three most inspiring graphic designers of the last 20 years by Computer Arts – is well-known for her bubblegum pop aesthetic and love of Japan. Designer and letterer Lauren Hom is the founder of lettering blog DailyDishonesty. com. Her Instagram account shares some of the snippy sayings from the blog, as well as her passion for baking and travel snaps. New York-based graphic designer and art director Leta Sobierajski combines photography and art with more traditional design elements to create unique visuals across all kinds of media. Her Instagram feed is eclectic, bizarre and very inspiring. This is just a taste of the new creative influencer whose stark individuality and fiercely independent Instagram spirit stands to inspire and connect with followers in ways so many other “beige” influencers have lost.

Colombian digital artist, graphic designer and illustrator, Daniel Aristizabal describes

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder of The BrainTrust, specializes in partnering the right influencers with brands. With over 15 years social media and digital marketing experience, Kendra has helped change the way that brands work with and engage influencers. As the Co-Founder of Digital Brand Architects (DBA), Kendra saw the white space in the market to launch the first agency to represent bloggers brokering some of the first and premiere blogger/brand partnerships to date. The BrainTrust is currently the influencer agency of record and partner for several brands across the beauty industry. The BrainTrust recently completed a study of the top 100 African American Beauty and Hair influencers leading the industry today. With access to more than 5,000 multicultural influencers, The BrainTrust is paving the way for black influencers and beyond. September 2017


DaVida Smith: From One Editor-In-Chief To Another by Paige Pope

DaVida Chanel Smith, a writer/director/producer and now talent

manager, has served as BT Quarterly’s editor-in-chief from its conception. As a writer under DaVida, I was always impressed by her strong tone of voice, quick wit and above all, cultural curiosity and know-how. As I step into the editor-in-chief role for this issue on culture and creativity, I thought of no one better to interview on the topic than DaVida herself. So from one EIC to another...


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Paige Pope: How was your experience as the editor-in-chief of BT Quarterly been? DaVida Smith: It has been a joy to serve as EIC for BT Quarterly. BT Quarterly introduced me to the many facets of social media marketing and brand influencers. It was a great experience utilizing my editorial background in such a current, on-trend medium. P: What do culture and creativity mean to you and how do they intersect in your life? D: As a creative, I'm always attempting to manifest some concept into a tangible form (whether film/visual or written format). In short, culture and creativity mean the world to me, and the two intersect whenever I'm working on meaningful projects. P: How do you see the conversation around culture and creativity changing recently? D: Recently there has been a shift around culture in the creative world. It's an interesting time and the more we purposefully and thoughtfully integrate culture into our creativity, the more rich and diverse our projects will be. P: Why is it important to stay engaged in this type of conversation? D: It is important, especially in the current climate, to engage in creative and cultural discussions to encourage us all to contribute to our collective stories. Our world is so diverse so our art and culture must reflect our society. P: How do you stay engaged culturally and creatively? D: There is so much great content in the world that it is hard for me to disengage. Throughout the day, I'm constantly exposed to some new artist, art form or material that has the potential to become groundbreaking. I'm constantly on the lookout for what's new in the space.

P: Where do you find inspiration? D: I feel very lucky to live in Southern California where there's inspiration at every turn. Whether it’s the sun’s reflection on buildings when I drive on the 101 or the quiet moments on the beach, the beauty and energy of this city inspires me every time I step outside. P: Do you have any particular moments/memories where you really felt inspired or found culture/creativity? D: A few years ago I moved to New Orleans and was invited to a play. The show was so moving, I went home and began work on my first and most successful (to date) stageplay, "Hip Hop Is Alive". P: Are there particular people who really embody this "Culture & Creativity" idea? D: As a part of The BrainTrust family, I see this company embody the culture and creativity idea in a proactive and enterprising manner. The BrainTrust is a stellar example of a company that identifies the best and brightest, then takes all of that great energy to create culturally relevant and exciting new business models. P: What are some of your favorite places to find culture & creativity? D: New Orleans and Los Angeles have been amazing hubs for my creativity. I'm also a fan of South America, and the beauty and culture I found in Ecuador were quite inspiring. P: So what's next for you? D: I'm currently working as a talent manager and am excited about upcoming production projects with my clients. It is an exciting time!

September 2017


Mordecai: Ideas & Inspiration by Paige Pope

Mordecai of Mordecai Inc. brings together ideas,

influence and intelligence through a technical and artistic lense. Her recent projects with Teen Vogue, The New Yorker and NBA connect publications, art and the device in completely new ways and her latest campaign for the iPad Pro has just launched. A Global Marketer focused on innovative strategies for Fortune 100 companies, she is a queen of partnerships and steward of creative collaborations, most recently on Apple campaigns that brought publications, artists and technology together, and the upcoming ComplexCon pop-up for global nonprofit Skateistan (Mordecai is on the US Board) with Complex, the Skateroom and eBay. It is this connectivity around art, technology and culture that makes Mordecai the ideal candidate to give us that elated, invigorated feeling that can only be described as inspiration.


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Mordecai: Currently my main day-to-day is with two top valley companies at the 5-10 year mark on bringing their brand into the lexicon. It’s exciting brand strategy work encompassing as much awareness and influence as social impact - which is an area I’ve focused on expanding in 2017. Additionally you can see my work in the current Apple campaigns and have projects with Reddit, Live Nation, and for ComplexCon in the works.

M: Billed as a Creative Strategy Consultancy, Mordecai Inc. is a place where solutions come to the table backed by ideas, influence, and intelligence. One of the areas that makes us unique is a strong focus on monetization. I’ve been at the early days of digital video, social media strategy, and now VR/AR, I’m also a passionate activist; all of these buckets are considered poorly funded at the on-set, but don’t believe in short-changing experiences. A skilled producer, I weigh each decision but also look towards solutions that can create new revenue models, alternative ROI, and so on to make each project, start-up, brand as great as they can be. Money should not be an excuse, but it is always best earned.

BT: What brought you to where you are today?

BT: How and why did you start Mordecai Inc.?

M: Early on in my career, when I was writing comedy at MTV, I studied improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Improv highlights that it’s not about being the funniest person in the room, sometimes you are the vehicle for the best joke, the silence that welcomes the laugh. I made a decision at that point to always seek the power of the collective. I’ve had the privilege to be in some of the greatest creative rooms in marketing for Apple, Pepsi, Warner Brothers, and the key to those experiences was to be part of. I’m an expert in tech and culture innovations, trends, and pretty good with the tag lines, but we need communications strategies to make those ideas pop, we need OOH and digital support, visuals to copy. Understanding that we are all in this together not only makes me a better person to work with in room, a better leader to my teams, but it allows me to strategize a launch with the clear understanding that brand narratives are owned by the consumers, it is their engagements that create our campaigns.

M: The beginning of my career is solely entertainment focused; writing, producing, and creating tv, then digital, projects. While working for great companies such as MTV, Endemol, Pulse Films, my work was my calling card. After a particularly successful run of projects that leaned heavily on brand funding, I began to be approached by the ad agencies and brands I had worked with to navigate their digital and branded content offerings. They had great creative teams and marketing concepts, but wanted my strategic POV, specifically the narrative structure and brand engagement strategy. It was exciting to breakdown my work into the nuts and bolts, removing characters and descriptions, to focus on content verticals and multi-platform strategies. This began my consultancy, and has since led to teaching this work at Universities and professional groups. The consultancy, now labels much of this work across innovation encompassing strategies with innovative technology from AR/VR to AI and new cultural trends.

BT: How would you describe Mordecai Inc.? What makes Mordecai Inc. unique?

BT: What is something that consistently inspires you?

The BrainTrust: Before we get into picking your brain, tell us a bit about you! Let's start with a quick rundown of your current projects. What are you working on right now?

M: Beyond the cultural and every person I cross paths, my industry answer is CES. If you would’ve told me 5 years ago I’d enjoy being surrounded by tech talk in a Vegas casino at the start of every year I’d have laughed it off. However, CES is the single most influential few days of my year, it influences my work, my client’s opportunities, my intelligence reporting, and the strategies I will engage. I attend CES for my own research but am there to take my clients on bespoke tours many times brokering deals directly on the floor. From teaser intelligence and through participation in think-tanks on site, along with absorbing all the sales pitches at the top of a particular trend (ie. Robots, security, STEM, VR, autonomous cars) I am able to audit a space in record time without the bias of trade publications or general PR. This experience is beyond influential on a global scale. On average I do 4 walk throughs of Eureka Park and am most intrigued by the start-ups coming out of France and Korea there. BT: Who are inspirations?




M: Without a doubt my biggest personal inspiration is my father, Benjamin. I catch myself living out expectations he had for me, and act on a driving force from lessons he learned along the way. As I am considered an innovator, I see him as one. He brought projects no one would touch at the time to Broadway as a producer. Groundbreaking theater from Angeles In America, to all of August Wilson’s Century Cycle. Watching so much of that work now experience second and third lives reminds me a good strategy - the fusion of that ideas, influence, and intelligence I mentioned previous, in consistently inspiring. I also learn from the new producers touching the works be it the National Theatre or Macro Ventures, having such a granular look at honest works that have reached such acclaim fuels my belief in better, and all that is possible we may have yet to see.

September 2017


'It's The Real Me' The following article was originally published in the Lions Daily News.

Halle Berry knows a bit about arousing

passion. The Academy Award-winning actor, Bond girl and star of such diverse films as Monster’s Ball, Catwoman and X-Men has been one of the most admired women on the planet since Spike Lee cast her in Jungle Fever in 1991.


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But Berry is much more than a Hollywood A-lister: she is also a philanthropist who campaigns for a range of causes, from cancer to diabetes, and an early adopter of technology platforms to build relationships with her global fan base. Who better, then, to talk to Cannes delegates about using new media to connect to fans and their passions? Interviewed at yesterday’s Interpublic session by group chairman and CEO Michael Roth, Berry explained why she launched her fan website, Hallewood, 18 years ago. “In around 2000, I had the idea of creating a site to connect one-on-one with fans, to let people get to know me in different way to how the media was presenting me,” she said. Despite its popularity, the burden of running the site eventually proved too much for Berry and, “much to my dismay”, Hallewood was dissolved after four or five years — around the time that social media skyrocketed into popular culture. Berry sat back and observed the social-media phenomenon for several years while she considered her next move. “I was glad I did,” she said. “I saw some of the missteps that people made and it enabled me to work out how I wanted to enter this space.” The result is Hallewood 2.0, renamed Halleworld, which aims to connect fans to Berry’s world in a variety of ways, ranging from cinematically produced shorts and videos through fashion, beauty, home and family information to discussion forums. “Based on where we are now in America, with this great divide in our country, I think it’s good to provide a place where people can discuss issues, talk things out and maybe get a little closer,” Berry added.

and I think technology is a really fun, interactive way of doing that,” she said. “In order to have a relevant conversation with the youth of today, it’s really important that any artist who has a message or something to say should embrace technology. But it’s also about listening to what our fans have to say. With technology, we really get to have a two-way conversation.” So does Berry approach her social-media presence as she would a film role, or are we seeing the ‘real’ Halle Berry up there online? “No, it’s the real me. Not perhaps the rolling-out-of-bed-inthe-morning me — not that real — but the views and images up there are all things I want to say and share.”

Given Berry’s Hollywood status, celebrity is clearly a major driver of her social-media success. “I think celebrity can be used for good

September 2017


Introducing: BT Studio by Iana Kozelsky, Creative Specialist and Content Producer, The BrainTrust Studio


brief history lesson on The BrainTrust: Kendra Bracken-Ferguson founded the boutique agency on the grounds of bringing together creative minds to craft innovative social media campaigns for brands. But due to Kendra’s nature of constantly testing new strategies and ventures to stay ahead of the curve, she opened doors to creative minds who had skill sets beyond social media management but still within the realm of social. Fast forward one year and a half, The BrainTrust, a social media agency at its core, has grown and honed its capabilities to span three arms: BT Network, BT Digital, BT Experiences and BT Studio. The BrainTrust Network provides brand partnerships, influencer outreach and strategic brand representation for celebrities, influencers and personalities. The BrainTrust Digital delivers marketing and content strategies, community management and digitally activated events. The BrainTrust Experiences produces visual content optimized for social media engagement, website development and graphic design. The BrainTrust Studio produces visual content optimized for social media engagement, website development and graphic design. Imagine a social media and digital agency that offers it all: strategy, influencer relations, social advertising — and content creation and production. The BrainTrust is now your one-stop shop for any and all of your social media needs.

Given the focus of culture and creativity for this issue of BT Quarterly, we’re going to bestow a proper introduction upon BT Studio. Have plenty of product shots but no content that quite fits on social media? Need a visual campaign to support the launch of your new product line? Need videos that grab the attention of your followers? Graphics that pull in engagement? BT Studio is our dedicated content arm that helps our clients build world-class brands, produce custom visuals and develop cross-platform campaigns. Whether we’re working on big-picture brand identity and messaging, developing a video series, directing a photo shoot, designing a website or crafting marketing collateral, no challenge is too big and no detail is too small. BT Studio brings together veteran strategists, storytellers, photographers, videographers and designers from around the world to tackle any project fit to break the mold and set the next standard of social content. Turning the gears of BT Studio are two multi-faceted creators at The BrainTrust who are also producers, designers, writers, stylists, photographers, innovators, curators and consumers. In this issue, we gain a sense of their perspectives on social media culture and creativity.


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What is your favorite social media platform and why? Iana Kozelsky Creative Specialist and Content Producer: Instagram. I love how it’s simple and so focused on good visual content. I’m also a huge fan of Stories. I think it’s appeal comes from how the content lasts for only 24 hours — you spend way less time thinking about what you’re uploading so you put more focus on having fun and sharing your experiences in the moment with not a lot of pressure to make it “pretty”. Melissa Donaldson Content Coordinator and Graphic Designer: I love Snapchat. I think it is timeless/ageless. I’ve seen grandparents, toddlers and those who are strongly against social media obsess over the face filters and consume shortform news/video content from their assorted partner brands. It's also one of the more bizarrely designed apps, with lots of fun UX and hidden features, like built-in shazam! a cool, experimental app that really earned its spot in pop culture. What is your favorite type of visual content? IK: Boomerangs. And 3D photos — the ones taken on the Nishika Quadrascopic film camera and turned into 3D moving images. SO cool. MD: I love MOTION, I love a silly little GIF, a boomerang, a stereoscope image, or a bizarre 2-second animation...

What are some of your favorite accounts you follow on social media? IK: @mansurgavriel, @zynp, @sidleecollective, @seblester, @erikalaynephoto, @allisonbook MD: @jessicavwalsh, @crowezilla, @ffembroidery, @cool3dworld, @google_earth_official Who or what is your biggest inspiration? IK: My dad. MD: My Cat, Little Goosie, is the light of my life. She's the kind of woman I'd love to be. How do you stay creative? IK: I journal, I take walks, I play guitar, I read, I go to coffee shops, I go shopping, I cook. But I’ve found most of my creative ideas are born out of conversations I have with people, whoever they may be. Creativity is all about making connections, which is why collaboration (the essence of conversation) is so important. MD: I try to keep in contact with friends who inspire me, I consume content that inspires me, I try to share my skills/learn from others and I am patient with myself. What makes BT Studio unique? IK: We are a content creation and production team within a social media marketing agency. Our content naturally is skewed to be optimized for great performance on social media platforms. If social media is important to your brand, you need high-quality content produced by a team who is immersed in this medium every day. MD: It's not a traditional studio; we don't do conventional production. I love our spider-web network of freelancers and professionals. We have access to the resources to produce anything.

How do brands stay innovative in the social space? IK: Always keep checking out what everyone else is doing — and then take it to the next level. MD: Don't be afraid to get weird!

Learn more about BT Studio's work and capabilities at

September 2017


Zarna Surti: Creator & Innovator by Iana Kozelsky

As a nimble and diverse social media and

digital agency, The BrainTrust is constantly on the lookout for the best and brightest talent. We have been fortunate enough to work on recent projects with Zarna Surti, a creative and content director with a knack for sophisticated branding and editorial strategies crafted to compete in the digital sphere and break through the noise. She founded Tonal Studios, the parent company of Tonal Journal and Tonal Creative, with herself as the editor-in-chief and chief creative officer. The print journal spotlights women of color in a visual playground of monochromatic aesthetics, with each issue focusing on a specific tone and the feelings and stories it evokes. The creative studio is where she collaborates with people and brands who are rooted in conscious content and creative. An inspiration to all of us at The BrainTrust, we decided to turn the spotlight on her and learn more about her own story...


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The BrainTrust: What are you working on right now?

BT: How does creativity influence culture, and how does culture influence creativity?

Zarna Surti: What am I not working on right now?! I have some really amazing clients who I'm so passionate about and I'm finalizing our first print issue of Tonal (it's launching this fall).

ZS: Creativity is culture and culture is creativity. They're really one in the same.

BT: What brought you to where you are today?

BT: What is something that has influenced your career the most?

ZS: Working really, really hard. Waking up to work on projects before everyone else and going to bed way later. I balanced a full-time and freelance career until I could finally start my own company, so it wasn't easy, but it was most definitely worth it.

ZS: Relationships—both personal and professional. It's so important to take the time to meet not only with people you admire, but also the people who reach out to you, the people you meet in passing and your colleagues—it's all about connecting and making genuine, lasting relationships.

BT: Do you see yourself as an artist, director, or something else? ZS: I see myself as a creator. I create things for myself, for other people and for brands. I love developing ideas from scratch and making visions come to life. BT: How would you describe Tonal Studios? ZS: Tonal Studios is a place for conscious content and creative. We have two facets: our creative studio and our print journal. At the end of the day, I want to create a space to celebrate and work with people and brands with a purpose.

BT: Who are your biggest personal inspirations? ZS: My family and my man—they get me through literally everything. BT: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? ZS: Developing Tonal Studios beyond print and creative—expanding into makeup, music and so much more. This is only the beginning!

BT: How and why did you start Tonal Studios? ZS: It started with the idea for the print—I saw a void for women of color in print magazines, on content sites and in the media in general. I wanted a dedicated space for us to celebrate our cultures and our beauty. From there, I created Tonal Studios, which became a hub for all of my creative and content projects.

Footnote from TONAL is a magazine and podcast platform highlighting women of color and monochromatic aesthetics. For the TONAL podcast, we'll be chronicling women of color and topics that surround them twice a month. Starting in Summer 2017, we'll be releasing two print issues annually—each issue will chronicle a different color and the stories and sounds that particular color evokes. Zarna Surti has interviewed and created hundreds of profiles and stories over her decade of editorial experience. She uses her skills as an editor and journalist to create dynamic written, video, and podcast content—with a personal emphasis on highlighting women of color. Beginning her work at Vogue India and working with brands like Alice + Olivia, Halston, Nasty Gal, #GIRLBOSS, and many more, Zarna has been notably featured on Refinery29, MTV and Cosmopolitan. Zarna is the founder and editor-in-chief of TONAL, where she uses her print and podcast platform to celebrate diverse women and monochromatic color aesthetics. Additionally, she is the Editorial Director of WestwoodWestwood, an emerging video and content platform celebrating creative entrepreneurs.

September 2017



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t doesn’t even take an industry insider to notice that the world of PR, advertising and marketing has undergone a seismic shift and the role of the corresponding agency needs a shift to match. Article after article extols the critical need for companies and agencies to change the way they look at modern PR and marketing “or die”. Morbid? Yes. True? In many ways also yes. Hopeless? Enter the ideas that drive The BrainTrust. Not to fight change, not to chase change, but to embrace and lead change. As a social media and digital agency, we’ve taken a look at the strategies and practices that we believe should define a modern agency in both people and capabilities, and as our website now states, “Our approach is rooted in partnering with our clients to uncover their value and unique positioning in the marketplace. We identify their story and point of view and leverage the most modern forms of communication and storytelling to bring their perspective to life at scale.”

must demand that their PR agency experiment with innovative stories and closely with the emerging “content studios”...” A crucial and traditionally criticized point of the PR and marketing agency is backing up the value of content and work with data. Transparency now is no longer just demanded but expected, and nothing proves the worth of content quite like data. Data has driven our content and strategies from not just the start but through every

Network answers that call as we implement monetization strategies, business and brand development, partnership opportunities and product development with and for celebrities, influencers and personalities. We’ve seen tremendous success with these partnerships for clients such as Sally Beauty and continue to seek new ways to build real, effective relationships. This is a sampling of the current agency formula we use to thrive as a modern agency in today’s ‘modern one minute, ancient the next’ pace. But none of these strategies matter without our team’s commitment to always seeking creative inspiration and spotting emerging trends. We don’t just hire creative strategists and digital marketers who will do this, we hire those who love to do this.

The Agency of the Future: The Evolution of the Ad, PR and Marketing Agency

Influencers, content creation, data--these are all components that make up the evolving, connected arms of the modern agency. The key word here is of course “evolving”. We just launched BT Studio (read more about it on page 14) our content arm that builds world-class brands, produces custom content and develops cross-platform campaigns. It was born out of a need to create cutting-edge content and share brand information beyond the traditional PR byline and placement. As Ben Plomion of Convince & Convert says, “Content takes many forms and marketers

by Paige Pope step of the client relationship. From weekly touch points to monthly deep dives, we find ways to quantify not only our worth but also the progress and evolution of each brand we manage. Data is no longer based on a static formula. For instance, with the launch of more live storytelling platforms and influencer-led programs, we had to reevaluate how to measure true success on social. In the past, brands tried to get celebrities to lead partnerships and endorsements; however, we now know influencers provide quicker and often stronger, more authentic relationships with consumers. Our BT

As National Strategies Public Relations says, “...the public is demanding even more hyper-current details, updates and notice and that might mean relying less on having weeks of planned, prewritten messages, to having yourself or your staff reacting in more real-time...Your PR team (whether in-house or outsourced) will need to be in alignment with producers, bloggers, and reporters but in an even more real-time manner. They will need to know the pulse of what is going on in your business as quickly as possible…” The agency of the future naturally immerses itself in these conversations on a daily basis. On Monday, desk chatter and regroup meetings are full of discussions on emerging trends, latest finds and leftfield ideas. This forward-thinking mentality combined with an appreciation for timehonored techniques and an in-the-moment social calendar and spirit defines the agency of the future.

September 2017



The BrainTrust Quarterly - Issue Four - September 2017  
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