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How Droga5 Brought The New York Times’ Journalism to Life


The agency’s executive creative directors, Toby Treyer and Laurie Howell, speak to LBB’s Ben Conway about embodying curiosity and evolving the news brand’s storytelling language

How Droga5 Brought The New York Times’ Journalism to Life

The ‘More Than Life’ campaign from The New York Times newspaper and creative agency Droga5 takes the viewer on a world-expanding journey, hopping from topic to topic and revealing more and more information linking to the previous subject.

The campaign features three spots, 'Sneakers,' 'Gravity' and 'Time’, each creating an informative through-line of seemingly ordinary topics and showing how The NYT and its collection of products can help readers to expand their understanding of the universe. Working with The NYT’s photo editing team and German production company BONAPARTE, Droga5 strings together a visually engaging, rapid montage of images and text that leaves the viewer craving the next juicy fact.

Going behind the scenes on this project and discussing the agency’s creative connection with The New York Times, LBB’s Ben Conway caught up with two of Droga5’s ECDs, Toby Treyer and Laurie Howell.

LBB> How did this project come about? Have you worked with the NYT before?

Toby and Laurie> We’ve been working with The New York Times for nearly five years or so, across all its major brand campaigns. We’ve been looking to build a distinct visual language and tone of voice that allows us to tell new stories for any brief or any time, while continuing to push and grow the brand.

LBB> What was the brief like? How does this campaign evolve from previous campaigns?

Toby and Laurie> The brief centred around the new essential subscription that The New York Times was about to launch. The subscription consolidates core news, all the things you can think of that you already love, plus Cooking, Wirecutter, The Athletic and Games into a single place. This new bigger universe of The New York Times was the backdrop of the work, and we wanted to show how this could open up your world as a reader, expand your view and help you dive into a deeper and richer experience.

The work looks to build on the storytelling language we have consciously built over the last few years and evolve it to be a bit more direct and bold, and to incorporate a lot of new textures to show all the new and innovative ways that The New York Times presents a story.

LBB> The spots use keywords from the headlines of NYT articles and links them together before looping back to the original word - how did you develop this idea? What does this concept portray about the brand?

Toby and Laurie> The idea is a behavioural one. We loved the thought of mimicking the curiosity of a reader as they open up The New York Times and dive in, whilst soaking in the bath, on a park bench or in bed on a Sunday morning. We connected this to the visual idea of a single rope of type, pulling you through The Times, from island to island.

We all start somewhere and then we follow our curiosity - this leads to that, and then this thing and that thing, and before you know it, you’re back where you started - seeing the world a little differently and a bit more informed. It also allows us to show off all the rich ways The New York Times can add more to a reader's life, leading to the line ‘More of life brought to life’.

LBB> How does the campaign embody the ‘More of life brought to life’ tagline?

Toby and Laurie> It’s a simple warm piece of language really. Efficient like The NYT always is. We were looking for a nice and personal way to articulate that bigger world idea. Communicating the parallel benefit of the NYT being a bigger experience with the essential subscription as well as the benefit to the reader having more colour and dimension brought to their world.

LBB> How was the process of writing these sequences of words, and linking them together? How did you select which articles and topics to use, and how was the copywriting process?

Toby and Laurie> It’s a long and rigorous process, to be honest. We liked the idea of starting with an article or a word that you know well - ‘Time’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Sneakers’ – it gives you a simple starting place. We then found our way from there into the depths of The New York Times, following tangents, reading every article and at the same time sketching out what a satisfying script might look like to make the best film. Each thread had to be playful, journalistically sound, allow us to be visually interesting and cover enough ground to show the best of The Times.

LBB> Relevant images, video clips or animations appear behind the keywords in the spots - who did you work with to source the visual aspects? Who were your production partners and how did you work with them?

Toby and Laurie> Like all the work we have done before, the photo editing team at The New York Times, led by Brenda Hutchings, are a force to be reckoned with. They are brilliant and vital in the way we work. We develop the visual intention as a team, building huge pools of images, and references from The New York Times, connecting ideas and themes logically and journalistically. In this case, being really deliberate with how one image can connect to the next alongside the type thread. And then we work with them to figure out how to get there, legally and creatively. 

To make this piece we collaborated with Mackenzie Sheppard, together with BONAPARTE, his production team in Berlin. We loved his approach and worked with him to develop new textures and techniques, supplementing with 3D work to create a sense of connection between each headline.

LBB> How did you ensure that the spots included a wide range of topics and cultural touchpoints that would be relevant to - and inclusive of - a diverse audience?

Toby and Laurie> The New York Times’ journalism covers a vast range of topics every day in lots of different ways - words, images, video, data visualisation, graphics, audio etc. We were looking to celebrate this. We wanted this campaign to feel like it played in the world today with subject matter that felt like it didn’t play into any stereotypes of ‘hard news only’ - but show how journalism is closer to the heartbeat of every reader today. Variety and diversity were top of mind throughout - in the imagery, stories and subjects we see and connect, showing the diversity in subject matter, subjects, places and stories.

LBB> What was the hardest challenge you faced on this project? How did you overcome it?

Toby and Laurie> These projects are always filled with lots of challenges, partly because we know what we want to get to with the idea but not exactly how to get there. The hardest thing was that - by design - everything was connected. So every piece affected the next. Journalism is a live animal and the world changes as you make these pieces, so lots of flexibility has to be built into the process. This was a huge team effort, with really complicated image clearance and a really intricate script that meant one change could skittle the rest of the work. In the craft, it was a constant chicken and egg between sound, image, type and voice. 

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Droga5 New York, Tue, 16 May 2023 14:16:00 GMT