Dropping by the website for Jonas & Co., you are met by a colorful assemblage of recent spots with no identifiers other than their titles, and a contact link for co-founders Jonas Morganstein (creative director) and Hema Mulchandani (producer). Gone are the customary buttons for Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles. Gone is the hip, slightly irreverent take on an “About Us” page brimming with staff photos and humorous personal anecdotes. Gone is even a description of what this company is, and that’s kind of the point.

“If we ever say the thing we are, I think it would be the death of us,” Jonas told Daily Brief by Skype from the Jonas & Co.’s Los Angeles office on Sunset Boulevard. When pressed, he professed to being “an agency/production company hybrid,” but it was clear labels mattered little to him. What mattered was the same thing that compelled Jonas and business partner Hema (the duo requested to be referred to by their first names) two years ago, when they left the realm of much larger companies behind to set up their own, stripped-down operation: the work.

“The ad business is very, very regimented, “Jonas said. “You have the agencies, then you have the production companies that do the shooting. Then you have editorial. Then you have special effects, sound design, music. It’s segmented.” But, he continued, “we’re all artists. That’s why almost all of us got into this—because we just want to make stuff… It used to be Hema and I would dash from conference call to conference call and never had time to focus. Now it’s the flipside… Now we actually get to do things.”

Speaking to Daily Brief right after a painfully divisive election, Jonas and Hema were in a reflective mood, eager to talk about the industry’s potential to create impact in these turbulent times.

“Part of what we’re hoping to do with this company is to create as many things as possible that have a good message,” Jonas said. “I do feel like there’s a cultural war going on the planet. A battle between openness and extremism, and we all are on the front lines. It’s never been easier, thanks to technology, to think and act globally. Now It’s crazy-easy to make an impact on the entire planet. Why shouldn’t we?”

Like many of their peers, Jonas & Co’s aspirations have been altered by recent current events, but a look through their portfolio reveals that a thread of altruism has been there all along: Outreach for Sony Picture Television’s Picture This film festival. An irresistible promo for Nickelodeon’s community service-oriented HALO Awards. A stirringly cinematic Participant Media short drawing attention to the Malala Fund.

“We’re all operating a machine that is tremendously effective at changing people’s points of view,” Jonas said. “We’re a hype machine, but we could, from time to time, just up our game in terms of the level of intention and responsibility. That’s not just about social causes. Sometimes it’s just about placing attention on some shows that deserve to be getting a little more love or putting a positive message out there.”

Jonas is a former art school grad who fell into advertising with “an ad legend” who ran “a renegade, one-of-a-kind bubble of a shop” that he kept open, in part, through lucrative voiceover checks. “It was a wonderfully impossible business model,” Jonas said, and it let his team focus on “creating work that was insanely good whether it was what the clients asked for or not.” It also “affected everything I did after,” he continued, instilling early on a “level of idealism and the firm belief that advertising is art and worthy of our greatest creative excellence.”

When Hema met Jonas, “he was trying to hire me as a designer,” she said, but the Savannah College of Art and Design graduate had other plans. “I went to art school to study design, but ended up a producer. My mentor from SCAD always told me, ‘you can convince people to do anything. You need to be a producer, not a designer.’”

It’s rare for a designer to gravitate toward the producing side, and vice versa, but Hema’s design background has helped her thrive, she said, “because I can communicate with the artists what needs to be done. I love that I can mesh the two together.”

Working as a unit, the duo present a business model engineered for an era of shrinking budgets, increasing deliverables quantities, and shortening lead times. Without a large, complex infrastructure to tend to, they can scale up when and where a project demands it, producing works “that look like the budgets of them are about half of what people guess they are,” Jonas said. “When you have 30 people on staff, guess what? They’re not 100 percent productive every minute, so the clients end up paying for that.”

More importantly, the arrangement provides the flexibility needed to take on the nuanced, meaningful work that Jonas & Co. covets.

“The world is a smaller place now,” Hema said. “We would never have imagined that everything can live in this cloud somewhere. We’re both able to travel anywhere in the world and have access to everything we do, because it’s not living in a space in our office.”

When Jonas & Co. was in talks for the Malala Fund spot above, even Jonas was skeptical they could take the shoot to India. But Hema’s power of persuasion was strong, as was her connection to the country, where she was born and raised.

“When Hema suggested that to me, I was like, ‘India? Really? 35 hours of flying?’ Jonas said, who is not a fan of airplanes. “And she was like, ‘I can make it happen. I can make some calls, I can reach out to some people and we could make this happen.’”

Rather than find a place to shoot in the states that resembled a nation where the Malala Fund’s educational initiative might take root, Jonas & Co. actually went to one, and the result bursts off the screen with vibrant authenticity.

“We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have this company,” Hema said. “We can take calculated risks that help us make a better product.”

Few spots in recent memory seem riskier than Jonas & Co.’s latest promo for Nick’s Halo Awards, whose opening rendering of New York as a mound of pulsating neon is easily its sanest moment.

RELATED: HOT SPOT: Nickelodeon Halo Awards 2016

From there, its delirious journey packs in rapid-fire images such as a speaker cord plugged into an ice cream cone, Nick Cannon jamming with an all-turkey band, and a raccoon lounging in a luxurious man-cave. The polar opposite of Malala in style and tone, the spot was an attempt to “talk about music in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Jonas said. “To talk about the awesomeness of music and the unexpected nature of music to rock your life in an interesting way.”

Unexpected awesomeness is a theme in Jonas & Co.’s work, bolstered by unfettered enthusiasm and positivity. After emerging from 2014’s devastating cyber attack, Sony Pictures teamed with Jonas & Co. “to do something great for the planet,” Jonas said. “They decided, ‘you know what? Let’s take this moment to just do something great, and we don’t care if anybody notices us for doing it or gives us any accolades. Let’s just do something great that globally activates the power of storytelling.‘”

Jonas & Co. proceeded to help Sony launch a campaign to all 64 of its networks around the globe, spotlighting each one’s efforts to address an environmental concern in its respective region. That led to the inaugural Picture This film festival, “a media-based movement and this idea that artists can picture a better world and make it happen,” Jonas said. The aim was to empower “the Youtube people, the people who never realized they could enter a film festival. That’s why we’re in this business and not doing work in a pristine art gallery. We want to connect with people.”

Even for projects that don’t seem directly impactful in a cause-oriented way, Jonas & Co. views the work as a chance to make people’s lives a little better. Collaborating with Syfy to promote its Thursday night movie bloc recently, they worked closely with Syfy creative director Eve Penzer to produce an overall creative strategy including a graphic toolkit and a set of eight genre-based written concepts that the in-house team could put toward building weekly movie promos. For Jonas, the project was a chance to forge a “cultural meeting ground between the network and the fans,” he said, to “find out what fans love about these movies and connect there.”

Offering a framework for Syfy to present beloved films such as Galaxy Quest and Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Jonas & Co. was able to “use our promo knowledge, ad-writing skills, design chops and editorial strategy to help make an emotional connection between one of our clients and their viewership,” Jonas said.

“The things we make are these little connector devices that wire the brand with the audience,” he continued. “We’re welding emotional synapses, whether it’s print, digital or on-air. It could be social or skywriting or semaphore… for us it’s all an adventure in emotional connectivity.”


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