Like many entertainment marketing agencies, Los Angeles-based Create Advertising spends a lot of time thinking about how its culture defines its employees’ priorities. Create spends even more time thinking about that concept in reverse: how its employees define the culture and priorities of the agency.
It’s fitting then that the agency formed a cultural council — Create Better — to allow the team to share their interests and ideas with President Jonathan Gitlin in a way that could make a real impact both inside and outside of the agency.
Gitlin enthusiastically embraced the opportunity as a good way to improve the agency’s cultural competency and to make sure that everyone feels like they have a voice.
“If everybody feels like they’re being heard and everybody feels connected with, then they’re able to listen to one another and see eye to eye. When they are invested in the company and the brand, and they feel like they can make a difference, that’s ultimately when we do our best work,” Gitlin said.
Create Better quickly evolved into much more than just an internal forum. Between 2018 and 2022, it has grown into a more personal and holistic approach to diversity, inclusion and philanthropy. Consisting of eight to 10 employees representing diverse backgrounds, genders, religions, races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, members of the group also act as ambassadors for their departments and represent a cross-section of roles and experience levels. Additionally, commitment to outside interests is not only encouraged, but is a fundamental component of Create Better.
“We want our colleagues to bring the full spectrum of who they are as human beings to work, not just their professional persona. That’s where true passion and unbridled creativity comes from,” Gitlin said. “Of course we work hard. But if work is the only thing we give ourselves to, we risk losing the dimensionality and complexities that make what we have to share with others interesting and unique.”
Create Better is a space where members are encouraged to be better storytellers, creatives, colleagues, community members and change agents. When it comes to activism and philanthropy, Create prides itself on donating its skill, experience and resources to support projects of substance and organizations in need. In the average year, Create Better will take on three such campaigns, which are conceived and produced by the agency with the same level of priority and professionalism as traditional clients. Committed to delivering “creative with a conscience,” clients include non-profits and activists dedicated “to making the world a better place, to helping those that need a hand, to sounding the alarm and a call to action on issues that matter and to protecting human rights.”
The cultural council itself stays evergreen as members rotate in and out. Last year, Gitlin passed the leadership baton to Callie de Quevedo, senior vice president and head of integrated marketing.
Each new mix of members offers the agency an array of fresh ideas and opportunities to support great causes. The group encourages employees to align their personal passions with their professional career goals, and it’s reflected in the pro-bono work the agency has carried out.
“The way we go about choosing the projects we work on stems from wanting to support our employees and get behind the things that they believe are important,” de Quevdo said.
Below are few examples of such projects:
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Create designed a new graphics package and event trailer to support LatinX in Gaming’s three-day virtual event, Unidos. Hosted on Twitch, Unidos aims to improve LatinX representation in gaming and promote cultural appreciation across the industry. A member of Create Better who was affiliated with LatinX in Gaming brought the event to the group’s attention.
Go to the Body
In support of Black History Month, Create Better partnered with writer and director Kyra Jones to produce a trailer for her film Go to the Body. Jones won the trailer by participating in Create Better’s trailer contest, which aimed to empower a young filmmaker in the black community. The idea came from a member of Create Better who had experience creating his own short films in the past, and mentioned what an opportunity it would have been to have a Hollywood-level trailer.
Jones emerged as the winner with a powerful story that follows Sanaa, a rising racial-justice organizer who is sexually assaulted by a fellow activist. She tries to bury her trauma and return to her normal life, while her boxer fiancé, Kendrick, pushes her to stand up for herself.
There were a few factors that made Go to the Body stand out.
“The concept was strong and clear, which was really important,” Gitlin said. “The quality of the production was really high. And also the filmmaker herself – her background and who she is as a person. She’s just a phenomenal woman. It was a combination of those three things.”
Waiting to Explode
An editor at Create had a close relationship with one of the filmmakers of the documentary Waiting to Explode, which sheds light on the dangers facing the citizens of Laos, where countless undetonated bombs lie hidden throughout the land. Not only did Create craft a trailer at the editor’s suggestion, but the editor was able to personally work on the project.
Lights, Camera, Writegirl
In honor of International Women’s Day, Create Better supported WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills among teenage girls. Create Better’s trailer helped promote the organization’s fundraising gala “Lights, Camera, WriteGirl,” where scenes and monologues written by WriteGirl teens are performed by acclaimed actors. “It was important to us to be part of something dedicated to empowering young writers, given how very important they are to our industry,” Gitlin said.