AFTERGLOW

St-Germain Peep Show

Did that really happen?

That’s exactly how I feel in this moment.

Our team just pulled off six live-streamed "Peep Shows" for Bacardi-owned St-Germain on Twitter’s Periscope—without a single hitch. Your eyes do not deceive you. Those words are in fact “live” and “peep show” and yes, I did utter the phrase “without a hitch.”

There are infinite reasons why our efforts feel like a dream. For starters, Periscope is a brand new live-streaming platform—just launched in March—with functionality limits and boundaries not fully tested. And, despite the brand’s association with 1920s brothel women, Bacardi agreed to let us broadcast (live!) a scantily clad Hannah Simone.

What the what?

In short, we took a big risk with a fully supportive client.

The project was particularly challenging because of all of the uncertainty. Would people tune in? Would they understand how Periscope works? We had to teeter on the edge of failure and success with grace. We had to stop and ask for directions a heck of a lot—and make ourselves experts in uncharted waters.

We fretted about the nature of the content. What about the potential backlash? We felt it imperative that both the client and the audience know that we had the best of intentions. Our vision for "Peep Show" was a sensual, artistic portrait that celebrated the notion that daytime is full of incredible, fleeting moments of beauty.

We walked a fine line in the final crafting of that vision. It had to be sexy, but not too sexy, entertaining without being lewd. And it absolutely had to be captivating and provocative. We feared the backlash as much as we feared not pushing the sexuality far enough. The idea of a sensual woman allowing us to peer into a private moment that she alone controlled was subject to many nuances. But, if the execution felt natural, if the entertainment quality intrigued women from an emotional perspective, we knew it could provoke a feeling of empowerment. With the raging paparazzi and vast Internet leaks forcing famous women into unwanted spotlights, "Peep Show" represented a refreshing twist. The audience only saw what Hannah Simone wanted them to see. That’s powerful—and it appeals to both men and women. Name a man who isn’t attracted to a woman donning lingerie and who knows exactly what she wants.

Due to the live-streaming functionality of the app, we needed creatives and a director who would know what it was like inside a woman’s head and, therefore, give Hannah authentic direction in a real-time moment. Understanding what a woman would or wouldn’t do—in an instant—without research, focus groups, and without hesitation meant all the difference in believability. The need to “think like a woman” on a dime was a real consideration.

Enter our dream team

Nicole McDonagh was the perfect creative lead on "Peep Show" because it felt as if she’d been poised her whole life to deliver this particular piece. She’s a masterful storyteller and there’s a provocative elegance to her ultra-feminine personal style. Carol Chapman’s ability to translate stories for new innovative platforms was immensely important as we embarked on this crazy journey with Twitter. The two felt deeply about finding a female director, and Floria Sigismondi is otherworldly. She offered the team her creative genius, and a down-to-earth demeanor that calmed everyone on set. Hannah Simone saw just how powerful the idea could be. Believe, Floria’s production team led by Liz Silver, gave us a crew who was willing to jump right into all of the uncertainty and pull off a never-been-done-before event. The combination of these elements took a timeless story to a whole new modern and technologically advanced level.

At this point, I should mention that this project was run by women.

Female clients. A female director. A female-led production shop, and an agency team with three female creative directors at the helm.

Even typing that gives me pause.

This effort broke barriers—on many levels.

Catch-22

The agency team and all of the surrounding women were chosen because they had the chops. Period. Though in an industry where the 3% Conference movement is top of mind, in a culture that’s leaning in and questioning every step of our white male-dominated world, I couldn’t have experienced "Peep Show" without telling the part of the story that mentions the staggering number of women (for our industry norms) leading this project.

As a mentor to other female creatives, I have a responsibility to tell the story of "Peep Show." I want to run around the highest mountaintop screaming how proud I am of this work, and of the women who made it happen.

But the moment we celebrate the amazing work and mention it was created by an all-female team, the conversation moves away from the beautiful work and into a different place. And the last thing I want is for award-winning creative to be overshadowed or judged (fairly or unfairly) simply because it was created by women.

This is something I wrestle with personally and far-too often.

When I was promoted to Americas CCO at POSSIBLE, we had a healthy internal debate about whether to discuss the fact that I had joined a limited number of women who held this title. We did not want it to appear as if I had received the promotion for any reason other than merit. Many of my male mentors were protective of me in that situation and I agreed with them. They wanted to celebrate my work and my success in its own right, and I wanted that too.

At the same time, I know that we have to break the gender imbalance. I believe in the notion that different perspectives add to the greatness of ideas. As a creative director, it’s my job to ensure the right team is matched to the job. And sometimes that perfect team just might be all female.

I, for one, yearn for a time when we can truly let the work speak for itself.

And that—in the afterglow—would be the most unbelievable moment of them all. 

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