You wouldn’t expect anything less: Stun Creative, one of Hollywood’s top marketing agencies and production companies, is celebrating its 20th birthday with a three-way merger that has led to the establishment of Known, a modern marketing company that says its creative work going forward will be equal parts analytics and art.
The new company was formed in February and combines Stun Creative with the data science, research and strategy of Schireson Assoc. and Blackbird. Known is headed by Kern Schireson as chairman and CEO. Schireson recently returned to the company that bore his name after five years as chief data officer at Viacom, where he was hailed for having led the transformation of advanced advertising for television.
“There’s an explosion of platforms and opportunities to reach consumers, but we also have an increasingly sophisticated population out there that expects their time and attention to be treated with respect,” Schireson says. “If you want to be effective, you can’t just jump up in front of consumers — and that’s where the three legs of our business come together: You have the strategy to identify who you are and what your brand means; the science to decide how, when and where to reach your audience; and the studio that can deliver all of that beautifully and evocatively.”
Stun Creative founders and principals Brad Roth and Mark Feldstein, as presidents of Known Studios, continue to lead the creative charge. Schireson refers to them as “world-class creative leaders with an incredible legacy who are still focused on the future and potential on what creative can become.”
Roth and Feldstein, both self-professed “pop-culture junkies,” say the new company shares the same philosophy behind Stun Creative’s early successes.
“We wanted to do things differently and better than the other creative shops,” Roth says. “What propelled us then, and still propels us today, is telling stories and creative campaigns that people are going to talk about — that are meaningful, and that will hopefully drive some consumer behavior as well.”
“When Stun launched as a creative agency and a commercial production company in 2000 we focused on servicing the entertainment industry,” Feldstein adds. “Key to our successes has been our ability to adapt and expand our client portfolio beyond entertainment into consumer brands. It used to be that you did one or the other. We’ve always felt that great storytelling and world class creative and production could be applied anywhere.”
Stun is a three-time winner of the prestigious PromaxBDA North American Agency of the Year Award (2017, 2014, 2013). “We have had the privilege to be working with a diverse roster of clients, from Google to Citi, from Disney to Microsoft, from Unilever to Rockefeller Center,” Roth says. Known for its smart, funny, celebrity-driven work, the company has produced promotional campaigns starring the likes of Larry David, Andy Samberg, Jack Black, Conan O’Brien, Magic Johnson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Out of the gate, Stun staged a “provocative” cream pie fight between Ginger and Mary Ann to promote the TBS reality series “The Real Gilligan’s Island” at the height of the cable era.
“We crashed the Turner website,” Feldstein says.
A short time later, for TV Land, Stun created a hip-hop video with Mr. T and Tony Randall, both in tracksuits. “Talk about a new odd couple,” Roth says.
The two Stun founders say the merger with Schireson Associates and Blackbird was driven by the same philosophy that helped power the company’s early growth: to bring all of a campaign’s moving parts into one operation.
“When we started this in 2000, companies were much more siloed,” Feldstein says. “We were among the first to combine creative with live-action production so we could control every aspect of creating content.”
“We said, ‘why can’t we combine peanut butter with chocolate?’” Roth says. “And then we started to bring into our ecosystem other services like a design and animation studio, and a key art studio, so as we grew organically everything connected back to reaching people and telling a great story across all consumer touch points.”
Feldstein says Stun, Schireson and Blackbird have been working closely together for years. “We were all in the same circle, working on the same brands, but working independently,” he says. “And we thought we could be so much more impactful if we could combine and service these clients together, in a seamless way. We started presenting ourselves as one group even before the deal came together, and the brands instantly rallied behind us.”
Known, Roth says, “is a modern marketing company built for 2020, not 20 years ago. Marketing has changed so dramatically; everything has migrated into digital, and with
audiences growing more and more fractured, it’s become increasingly difficult to get anyone to pay attention to products or shows. You really need to know your audience, and not just who they are, but how to reach them. So to have the power of data science
and analytics allows us to identify and reach not just an addressable audience, but a persuadable audience. We put data science at the center of everything we do, and that allows us to build campaigns to reach the right people on the right platform at the