Evin Shutt, M.Ed. '04
Chief Executive Officer and Partner, 72andSunny
Just across Central Park from LMU Playa Vista Campus is the Los Angeles office of 72andSunny, the renowned advertising agency recognized as one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies for two years in a row, and a two-time "Agency of the Year" winner for Advertising Age and Adweek. CEO and Partner Evin Shutt MA.Ed. '04 is a global marketer with an entrepreneurial spirit who believes shared values and a people-first approach lays the foundation for big creative leaps and impact. She was the first employee of the company and represents a significant piece of the foundation that creates cultural impact on behalf of their client's brands. During her tenure, 72andSunny has grown from 5 people to 700+ and expanded to 5 offices on 4 continents. In helping to architect the growth of the company, Ms. Shutt has led the development of innovative practices and companies including 72U, an in-house talent incubator; Hecho Studios; a development and production company, Brand Citizens, a consultancy aimed at helping brands find their purpose and make the world a better place and Sundae, a performance marketing influencer company. Ms. Shutt is responsible for helping further 72andSunny's mission to expand and diversify the creative class and continues to foster their long-term partnership with Da Vinci Schools, a Los Angeles-based network of charter schools, among other initiatives.
What day-to-day operations have been most impacted at 72andSunny by COVID-19 and how have you creatively overcome those challenges?
Luckily we're a company that is used to Google Hangouts and Google Docs as a way of working already. That said, our ability to put work up on the wall and all come around it, physical production (eg. film shoots) and client meetings in person have all been affected. The reality is clients are also calling in from their homes, so we are just finding new ways to communicate more frequently with each other besides in person. And on the production front, it's been technology to the rescue - remote feeds for video villages in the early days and then again now that some areas of the world are open for shoots again combined with remote editing software that allows us teams to feel like they are in the room with an editor. We also continue to evolve what a "digital work wall" is for collaboration on ideas. And sometimes it's less digital and it's people hanging work on their bedroom walls. There's a fun scrappiness in a lot of it that also acts as a great neutralizer.
Which revenue stream will suffer the most as a result of the COVID crisis?
Various clients are affected more by the current situation - obviously those in the travel industry are being hit incredibly hard where as many technology and gaming clients are seeing upticks.
Has this new way of life/doing business resulted in any unexpected wins for 72andSunny? Do you expect that any changes you've made to your way of doing business due to COVID-19 will remain in your company's normal practices moving forward?
Absolutely. In many ways, I think we'll be an even better and more modern company. I say that through a very narrow tunnel as overall it's very top of mind, the suffering taking place all over the world – both in physical health and in terms of the economic impact affecting people's livelihood during this crisis.
TImes of crisis and restraint though do often trigger or unlock creativity - we're seeing that all over the world in many ways and we're definitely seeing it within our company at new levels.
As a company, these new realities and ways of working are really opening the aperture for how we think about talent and real estate. We're leveraging our global talent roster across 5 offices on 4 continents more fluidly than ever before because "place" isn't a variable. And in many ways, I think our creative output has never been better as a company. It's definitely not lost on us that this more fluid talent approach is allowing us to have more of the best people on the right projects and it's creating even more of a global community within 72andSunny. This will continue even when our offices are open again.
Further, it's brought into question the role of real estate. Agency perks of the past are not necessarily agency perks of the future. We're evaluating the footprint we need in each city and how we use our space ongoing. It won't be the same it's been in the past and that's exciting for all of us.
What will be the lasting impact of COVID-19 on 72andSunny — your most optimistic answer and most pessimistic?
My hope is more modern, more diverse, more global and even better creative output - even more creativity that drives wins for our clients. Space and location are not limitations as they were before in our ways of working. Barriers like living in NYC on an entry level salary might not be as big of a barrier moving forward because you might not have to live in NYC to work for 72andSunny NYC. I hope this opens up the possibility of entry into the creative class and 72andSunny to a more diverse group of people.
On a pessimistic level, I think the changes and evolutions are going to challenge our strength of culture and connection. It's not insurmountable but it's going to challenge us to redefine human connection in a more virtual era and ensure we still have those powerful connections that enable collaboration and ultimately our creative output.
What effect do you think COVID-19 will have on opportunities for near term college graduates, has it changed your views of this generation? What advice do you have for young people?
Obviously, the job market is slimmer and that's really tough. That said, startups tend to come out of recessions (creativity and innovation!), so be open to jumping into start ups. 72andSunny was born during a recession, I started here at that time and took a pay cut from teaching, just after I finished my Masters in Education at LMU (true story). The lessons learned during that time at 72andSunny are invaluable and a big part of how I do my job today.
What has COVID-19 made you appreciate?
Health, healthcare workers, teachers, strong partnerships. The first 3 are things we all need to value more often and all the time, not just in global pandemics. In regards to strong partnerships, no one has been through this before and it takes a village to survive and thrive. I'm so grateful for all of the leaders in 72andSunny and the support we have for each other to guide the company through this moment.
Once the Safer at Home order is lifted and we get our city back, what's the first thing you're going to do?
In all honesty, probably nothing different than right now. I'm definitely a believer in learning from others and as we look across the world, there's been a spike after each reopening. I'm erring on the more cautious side for myself, my family, our company and the broader community. Once we feel it's safe, I can't wait to hug friends and family!
How do you navigate the question of when and how to re-open your office?
We're actively discussing it already. We are not a business where being in our office is essential, so we're evaluating the hardships that work from home is creating for some people and sorting how to address those first and then the business "nice to haves" of being in an office. We are putting health and safety first and just because "Safer at Home" gets lifted, that doesn't mean our offices open. Health and safety first.
How does your team balance personal life with professional life while working from home?
We've implemented a few process things like "screen siestas" each day for people to step away from screens, make/eat lunch, feed their kids, etc and also implemented "One day in May" where everyone is taking one day of PTO in May. We can all feel the burn of the last 8 weeks. But overall, we've emphasized compassion and empathy during this time for everyone. We can always get better at this balance, but I think the reality is it's more of a pendulum that we need to ensure keeps swinging and doesn't rest on one end too long. The best way to monitor this is constant communication and check-ins with people and adaptations on a personal level.
What is the most effective way for companies to use marketing to stay connected with their customers during this challenging time?
Start with your own brand truth and interact with consumers in that way. We all saw the uptick in Covid commercials that started to look the same. Brands need to be true to themselves and understand that their consumer's needs are changing and meet them there.
How have these times changed your creative approach to marketing?
Everyone's lives have changed - what we consume, how we consume, what we watch, what products we need. Any data we had that is now more than 2 months old feels irrelevant. So the mediums, the message and the data informing how we approach challenges and identify opportunities for clients have all evolved. It's a really exciting time from that standpoint and the role of creativity feels even more important in the world to help find those solutions and in how they come to life..