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Meet the Content Studio Playing Havoc with the Rules of Advertising


Havoc Content owner and EP Leslie Harro tells LBB how the prolific studio has adapted and risen to the demands of an ever-changing industry in 2023

Meet the Content Studio Playing Havoc with the Rules of Advertising

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Whatever the connotations of that phrase, in the world of content production it can be applied completely literally. Whereas broadcast used to be the natural home of any ambitious ad campaign, producers and marketers must now contend with a plethora of platforms which are set to continue fragmenting into the medium-term future. This change in our media consumption habits - accelerated but not caused by the pandemic - has long called for a shift in the method and strategy of content production. 

It’s a situation seemingly destined to cause havoc. And one to which a new type of content studio is required to rise. It’s also the context in which Havoc Content, a studio owned and operated by EP Leslie Harro - has truly found its feet. 

“Fundamentally, the act of creating content is the same process as creating a broadcast commercial, or projects across any medium”, Leslie tells LBB. “Advertising is not just broadcast anymore, it is social media, it's web-based, it's streaming. An ad can be six seconds, or it can be ten minutes.” 

As industry norms change, the language we use to describe them is also evolving. As Leslie explains, “we have a spot running on Hulu right now which looks and feels very much like a broadcast commercial to me - but technically speaking we’d describe it as ‘digital content'.”  

For now, however, the industry remains locked inside a period of change and innovation in which plenty of stellar work is being made. “On a recent campaign of ours for Arm & Hammer, together with The Via Agency, our director Moh Azima did an amazing job in working with the creative team to create a :30, a :15, and then three additional :15s which are all aligned but stand alone as completely different spots”, says Leslie. “It used to simply be a 30-second spot for television. Now, we are creating content to be distributed on most platforms per each campaign.”

Above: Arm & Hammer's humorous 30-second commercial, directed by Havoc's Moh Azima

And yet, it’s not just through multichannel work that Havoc is helping to write new rules. To find out more about how the innovative content studio is staying ahead of the pack, LBB sat down to chat with Leslie Harro. 

Changing The Game

Since the studio was officially rebranded in 2020, Leslie has consistently been intentional about the kind of work which Havoc seeks out.

“We aim for all of the work we do to build towards creating our identity”, she notes. “Some of the projects I am most proud of are things like working with Hill Holliday, where we created a Branded Content piece for Kisqali. A big part of that pride comes from the fact that we had an entire leadership team made up of women."

Above: An Image of Dee Lakhani Shravah, a campaign for Kisqal, a Mestatatic Breast Cancer Treatment, from agency Hill Holliday featuring Havoc’s director + DP Svetlana Cvetko as part of an all-woman team

Reflecting on the campaign, Leslie remembers it as a project which represented a positive trend within the industry. ‘It was incredibly empowering to be working on a set of not only women, but diverse women”, she recalls. “The Hill Holliday team and producer Foz McDermott, now the executive producer SVP of Tombras, worked with us to create this important dynamic on set. They originally wanted to hire a male photographer, however, once we talked with them about our approach to keep this a women-led production team, they worked with us to make it happen. Our goal is not only to create great work, but to change the industry by being intentional about diversity.”

That philosophy has been firmly established within Havoc since Leslie became the studio’s owner in 2020. For her, it’s always been a matter of principles and priorities. “As a Latina woman-owned-and-run company, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we are run with empathy first”, she notes. “It’s our goal to work with the best agencies and brands, create at the highest level, and still be intentional in the process. I want to win like everyone else in this business, and we do, but I refuse to do it without tirelessly working towards giving opportunity to underrepresented talent.”

That drive and determination is something which Leslie has been keen to reflect in Havoc’s roster of directors. But, as well as being a point of principle, there’s also sound creative and business thinking behind that philosophy. “The more a person has struggled on their way to becoming a top director, the better storyteller they will be”, she says. “It will be a powerful part of my legacy to ensure Havoc brings on as many diverse directors and team members as we feel we can handle at any given time. We are 65% BIPOC or Female, throughout our entire company, and that number will not go down.”

And, for Leslie, that commitment to diversity walks hand-in-hand with inclusivity. “I want to be clear that diversity does not exclude white men”, she continues. “Diversity to Havoc means giving every person, regardless of race or gender, a seat at the table.”

So, as Havoc reflects on its recent growth and success, Leslie’s attention turns towards the future. The return of more in-person interaction in the wake of the pandemic is set to shake up the culture of many businesses and is an opportunity to accelerate the progress which has already been made. “There is a lot more face time and goal setting together. We’re learning more about and from one another and understanding who we are as filmmakers,” she says. 

“We have TV shows in development, we have directors making films. Look out for our upcoming projects in 2023 for Meta, NFL, Spaceforce, Pepcid, Maci and many more being launched in the coming months."

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Genres: Storytelling, People

Havoc Content, Fri, 06 Jan 2023 10:49:00 GMT