5 QUESTIONS WITH DAVID KWAN David Kwan is the Managing Director of The Famous Group. With offices in downtown Culver City , CA and SoHo New York, NY, The Famous Group is an award winning full-service integrated production company, handling all aspects of live action filming and editing, CG/motion graphics, digital development and production for broadcast and the web under one roof. The Company recently received a Cannes Lion, AICP Award, two OneShow Pencils and a Clio Award, and has won dozens of Addy Telly, Communicator, ICA, FWA and other awards.
As Managing Director, David brings together directors, designers, storytellers, technologists and inventors to create a broad range of brilliant commercial projects, content, and interactive experiences that are both creative and energizing. The company has worked with the industry’s largest ad agencies and many of the world’s biggest brands. His prior experience includes executive marketing and product management positions. His prior experience includes executive marketing, strategic consulting, and product management positions. David completed his fellowship and graduate degrees at Princeton University and Harvard University.
We had a chance to discuss with David the beginnings of The Famous Group, where he sees integrated production going, and how the New England Patriots didn’t make it to the big game (but David did).
1. What exactly is The Famous Group? And what makes you guys so famous?
The firm provides ad agencies and brands with experienced in-house resources for discovery (market research, analytics, social media monitoring), strategy (planning), execution (live action film and production, information architecture, user experience and interface design, technology development, back-end integration and deployment, Facebook and mobile apps, animation, motion graphics, augmented reality, etc.) and performance (content syndication, social media outreach and tracking, community development and more) services. A major benefit of The Famous Group’s in-house 360º approach to integrated production is the increased efficiencies experienced by clients, who can consolidate project contacts, meeting time and budget management with one partner instead of many. The Famous Group also helps agencies bring a preliminary idea to life, providing production strategy and developing the technology necessary to bring a general concept to fine-tuned completion. When it came time to name the company back in 2006, we felt that the ultimate irony would be to proclaim ourselves celebrities, so to speak, “because that’s the last thing we are.” Our ECD, Greg Harvey, figured we might as well dub ourselves famous. “What we really try and do is make our clients and agencies famous. We’re the ones who aren’t really famous at all.”
2. What was the genesis of The Famous Group? Who are your clients now?
The Famous Group was the collective brainchild of passionate and talented directors, producers, artists, and technologists. We’ve done successful work for a range of top global brands, including AT&T, BMW, Chiquita, Cisco, DreamWorks, eBay, Gatorade, Google, Lexus, Lincoln, Lowe’s, Mattel, Mazda, NBA, Nestle, NFL, Nike, Paramount, Pepsi, PGA, Sprint, Target, Toyota and many others.As one example, we worked on a high-visibility, multi-faceted campaign that re-launched the Gatorade brand as “G”.
3. Where do you see integrated production going? As the media content landscape is constantly changing, what do content creatives need to think about?
There is still room for our directors to produce tried-and-true 30-second broadcast spots, but the nature of technology and the connected world is such that every campaign absolutely must be integrated. One of the most exciting aspects of the new marketing landscape is the rise of digital storytelling. The idea that a reader is no longer a passive observer and can instead have direct impact on a story’s unfolding and, ultimately, its conclusion, is both powerful and engaging. That same concept parallels what technology can do for storytellers today: bring audiences into the storytelling process and, as a result, heighten engagement and build stronger, more lasting relationships with them. It works because stories can elicit heart-felt emotions and create substantive meaning for audiences. The challenge for marketers, then, is how to best use technology to engage the audience in our stories and enhance their experience.
Some recent technologies allow us to tell highly involving and dynamic stories. For example, increased processing capability and mobile device bandwidth now allow for streaming of data-rich content. Marketers can now release dynamic video, and users can easily upload audio, video and photos, effectively interacting and contributing to the program in real time. High-quality screens and audio enhancing software allow for bright, dynamically pleasing user experiences regardless of screen size. Most significantly, seamless and evermore user-friendly interfaces give consumers easy-to-understand ways of being part of the storytelling process. This ease of interaction can result in increased engagement and an enhanced user experience.4. You recently went to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Can you tell us how The Famous Group was involved and what other interesting projects you are working on now?
The Super Bowl is actually a really big deal with us. For the eighth year in a row, we provided edited video highlights, in-stadium and broadcast graphics and display technology for the NFL at this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. The Famous Group has a longstanding partnership with the NFL and various franchise teams, and has expanded its role each year since landing our first assignment at Super Bowl XL in Detroit, where we created and produced the 60-second “Countdown to Kickoff” video shown on video screens in Ford Field. Since then, we’ve used our content creation and developer teams to handle the game-opening video and a range of high-visibility executions including all original graphics and animation used on HD in-stadium boards and custom post-game content. For Super Bowl XLVII, Famous generated more than 300 deliverables in the two weeks since the final two teams were determined. We also designed and developed a special website used by the NFL to send Super Bowl invitations to its sponsors, staff, guests and teams.
For eBay, we recently helped their brand refresh and celebration of 17 years online by directing and producing the “eBay Thanks You” short films, as a way for them to show gratitude to their community of users. We produced six short films, one launch video and three :15 spots for the campaign, and they were touching, inspiring documentary-style films featuring buyers and sellers as they shared their personal stories about the impact of eBay on their lives and businesses. The project took us all over the US, from Nate Victor’s stereo electronics warehouse in Valencia, CA to designer Jonathan Adler’s Shelter Island retreat and Wheel & Sprockets bike shop in Milwaukee, WI, where owners recalled how eBay helped build their businesses. In one inspirational episode, Michael J. Fox shares the story how his foundation used eBay to hold a charity auction that raised $4.7 million for Parkinson’s research. Glenn and Rebecca Fadner of Kingdom Ventures Inc. shared how their import company helped bring positive economic benefit to craftspeople in small villages in Nicaragua and Cambodia.
Looking back, we’re extremely proud to have directed and produced a moving series of emotional documentary-style spots and online videos in support of “The Anti-Drug” program for the Office of National Drug Policy Control. One of the 10 videos and seven :30 second spots, entitled “Harlem Elvis”, was recipient of a prestigious AICP Award last year from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers and will be made a part of the archives of the Department of Film at MoMA. The videos feature unscripted interviews with teachers, high school sports coaches, community group leaders, counselors, police officers and young adults about how parents can deal with kids faced with the perils of drugs, and inspire them to pursue a better life. Using the theme “it takes a community to raise a teen”, the slice-of-life interviews are divided into two groups: those that get to the speakers’ personal story and provide inspiration for kids to rise above the influence of drugs, and the remainder that provide advice from medical and counseling experts on how parents can best confront the issues and deal with problems.
5. Besides being an avid guitar player, are there any other pop culture interests that have shaped who you are?
Kipling’s If, touches upon so many of the challenges and triumphs of life.