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Best-case scenario: Kathryn Hempel, Cutters Studios

Generally speaking, on the best days, my job breaks down to a careful balance of art and craft. I’m hoping that this art/craft angle will be an interesting way to talk about some others I admire, and what we’re achieving together. Due to the uncommon success of our joint efforts, I’m choosing Kathryn Hempel and all her colleagues at Cutters Studios as the perfect subjects to explore a new variation on the classic case study, which I’m calling a “Best-Case Scenario.”

With love to director Brad Tucker for putting us all in contact, a lot went into making Cutters Studios a solid fit for me when we joined forces last year. The very first “Cutters” commercial editorial facility had opened in Chicago 34 years earlier, but by January 2014, the parent Cutters Studios group was also operating studios in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City and Tokyo… spanning all aspects of commercial production, post-production and creative development. Relatively soon after partnering up, I learned about the Always #likeagirl campaign that Kathryn was editing for Leo Burnett and Chelsea Pictures director Lauren Greenfield, and I had a chance to counsel everyone on all the ways we might use PR to promote the work and everyone behind it.

By then, I already had a very good sense of what sets Cutters apart: World-class editorial talent and services, of course, but also, real family values that are omnipresent throughout its culture… and leadership that’s truly great.

Moving forward on #likeagirl last July, at the encouragement of all parties, we drafted a news release and routed it through the agency for approvals. What came back was a pretty big surprise for us all. Essentially, we were told that the brand and the lead PR agency wanted to be extremely careful about handling all campaign communications. As a result, our request was respectfully denied. To the best of my knowledge, it has almost exclusively been the brand’s own voice which has driven this campaign’s powerful messaging.

Fast forward to the present, and the rationale for that handling seems easily justified. Among countless world-changing feats, including immeasurably bolstering the self-confidence of hundreds of millions of young girls worldwide, #likeagirl has swept every major industry awards program to land the Grand Clio Award, the Cannes Grand Prix and 11 Webby Awards, among many others. Over this past weekend, it earned the 2015 Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial. Kathryn has been on-hand at most of the award ceremonies with all the other luminaries responsible for bringing the campaign to life, and recently, she was put in the spotlight by SCREEN Magazine, host Melissa Thornley and Daily Planet Productions. That group’s Beyond the Spot video interviews feature creative minds from film and advertising looking beyond their work to the person and their inspiration. Melissa spoke with Kathryn about about making art every day, cutting #likeagirl, and going to the present.


I actually realized just how important art and craft are in my own work by listening to Kathryn talk about her 365-day art project, which was entitled “Make Art. Make Peace.”

“…when I first started posting, I was like, day two of hopefully making art everyday. Suddenly it was day 27 of making art everyday. I switched it and kind of made it not ‘hopefully’ anymore, but I’m doing this… It became one of the life goals.”

What did she learn from it? “For me, making art brings inner peace,” she says. Melissa then comments, “All the sudden, #likeagirl happens. Most people know about #likeagirl because it swept Cannes and AICP, it’s winning like crazy. What was it like to work on that project?” Kathryn replies, “We had goosebumps working on it from the get-go…. It’s just been such a great project to be involved in. I’m thrilled; thrilled for the results and that the message is getting out there.”

Do be sure to watch the full interview, as Kathryn shares beautiful insights into her daily focus in life. All in all, it makes me feel extremely lucky to have Kathryn and everyone in the Cutters family as professional collaborators to inspire and teach me. I’ve come to prize people who work hard to be extraordinary – especially when they also are open, artistic, creative, positive and humble. For me, getting to work with them is a best-case scenario.

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Featured Video: Kathryn on Beyond the Spot with Melissa Thornley

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