AgenciesD&IExclusive: Cashmere Agency rejects ‘massive amounts of money’ from huge CPG brand

Culture of diversity puts Cashmere Agency on accelerated growth track despite the pandemic.

Cashmere Agency, the lifestyle marketing agency renowned for its work with Facebook, Nike, BMW and Shea Moisture and campaigns for hit shows including “Atlanta,” “Grown-ish,” and “Insecure,” announced new executive appointments after declining a huge CPG brand during the ongoing pandemic and reckoning on racial injustice in Ameirca.

Cashmere grew 40 percent over the past year due to the agency’s foundation of social and culture-first marketing expertise, along with several new offerings, according to a company announcement. The agency’s digital division began producing immersive virtual experiences for clients and consumers under its new Nice Sweater division. Cashmere also launched Dope Data Systems, a proprietary service designed to measure cultural impact and data to provide brands with incomparable decision-making power. Last summer, the agency also formed OneOpp, a coalition dedicated to eradicating police brutality. The group is made up of a mix of partner agencies and civic organizations, including Quincy Jones Productions, David & Goliath, Color of Change and the Center for Policing Equity. The agency also launched a content studio arm, Cashmere Originals. The Originals division is currently developing N.B.A. All-Star Chris Webber’s ‘Fab Five’ limited series based on the retired basketball player’s memoir, “By God’s Grace.”

This spring, the agency promoted Ryan Ford to president and chief creative officer and elevated Rona Mercado to the newly-created role of chief marketing officer. Ford will lead the agency’s strategic agenda, creative vision, enhance the agency’s financial performance and cultivate and expand the agency’s diverse portfolio of clients. Previously, Ford was the executive vice president and chief creative officer and will continue to serve as chief creative officer; Mercado formerly managed nearly all departments as senior vice president of accounts. New hire and industry veteran Sandy Song, previously at Phenomenom and 180LA, now leads as executive vice president of client services, reporting to Ford.

Ted Chung, the agency’s chairman and founder, says Cashmere Agency wouldn’t be where it is without Ford and Mercado, “We started as a passionate group of five in a Venice, California loft and have expanded to over a hundred visionaries across the country. Now, with a national footprint, Cashmere is working with the most iconic brands in the world — we wouldn’t be here without Rona and Ryan’s leadership, love, and dedication. Relationships between people and brands are changing rapidly, and 2021 will set the stage for the future of a new global community — requiring more of the innovation and strategy our thought leaders are driven to plan for.”

Representing culture behind the scenes

The newly-promoted pair represent the culture in corporate boardrooms with the same passion they bring to their award-winning campaigns, even if it means declining big checks from big companies.

“If you want to be about the culture, you really actually have to authentically care about the culture,” says Mercado, as she recalls a challenging situation last year that led to the

Rona Mercado, chief marketing officer, Cashmere Agency.

agency declining a huge CPG client. “If you’re not really invested in this and being a long-term commitment and truly wanting to make change, we’re not really interested…that kind of is a little bit of a risk with us in that relationship because they were trying to engage us for massive amounts of money. And, during that time, of course, business is changing, we’re losing production and experiential dollars. And I think that seeing a check of that size could be very appealing. But we just had to really keep it real and just stay true to who we are and what we’re about. And we said, ‘no,’ if you’re not truly invested in making this change and really taking a stand and speaking up or doing anything, if this is just a one-time, like, ‘we’re done, check the box and thank you, and can we use your name in a press release?’ We’re not interested. So, we walked away from that situation.”

Cashmere Agency remained steadfast in their integrity and who they are as an agency and in an extraordinary twist, the prospective client returned to engage in a transformative conversation. Mercado tells Marcom Weekly, “So interestingly enough, they’ve circled back here in 2021 and we’re having a conversation and you know, it’s some real heart-to-heart talk happening now. And the key stakeholder had said, ‘you know, you really challenged us to take a look at us as a company and how we’re doing things and just systematically here.’” The agency declined to name the CPG company.

Ryan Ford, president and chief creative officer, Cashmere Agency.

“At Cashmere, we’re on a mission to move brands forward by moving at the speed of culture. That’s our superpower and what sets us apart from the competition,” says Ford, president and chief creative officer, Cashmere Agency. “We’re razor-focused on using data and strategy to quantify how brands show up in culture and we continue to take a social-first approach to our work. That’s been the foundation of our agency and further proved to be a winning formula when we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic.” Ford continues, “Our goal is to change the way the marketing industry thinks and connects with consumers…We’ll continue to do just that so we can bring our clients to the next level.”

Driving culture forward

Under Ford’s leadership, Cashmere garnered industry accolades including landing a coveted spot on Ad Age’s 2020 A-List Agencies to Watch list, being named Ad Age’s 2019 Multicultural Agency of the Year and winning a 2019 Cannes Lions award for the Google Pixel 3 campaign featuring Donald Glover. Ford also led many of the agency’s most successful programs and campaigns, including Netflix’s Strong Black Lead, Ben & Jerry’s Justice Remix’d, BMW’s diversity efforts and more. The agency has also worked on some of the most culturally relevant film and television projects including: Warner Brothers’ Oscar-nominated “Judas and the Black Messiah;” Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Jingle Jangle;” HBO’s “Watchman,” “Euphoria” and “Lovecraft Country;” Starz’s “P. Valley,” and “Power;” and Disney and Pixar’s “Soul,” to name a few.

The agency recently contended for the 25th Annual Webby Awards for an augmented reality campaign, featuring Snoop Dogg, for 19 Crimes wine brand. The idea aims to stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other wineries and their brands by adding an experiential element to selecting and purchasing wine.

Cashmere also helped Facebook drive its $25MM+ commitment to support Black creators with the “We the Culture” campaign. “Facebook, like everybody’s, getting into the culture game right now,” Ryan says. The culture-driven agency signed Facebook’s new campaign as a client in  October of last year and is responsible for full-service strategy, creative, social, virtual productions and influencers. The “We the Culture,” Black Creators Day event kicked off March 1 with a live stream event on Facebook Watch which Ford and his team produced.

Facebook’s website describes the program’s intentions to empower the next generation of Black storytellers to become successful. By participating in the initiative, creators receive the support they need to help them propel their careers to the next level, grow their community of followers and build a business across Facebook Inc’s family of apps.

Cashmere specializes in identifying trends to create and execute campaigns that resonate in and drive culture. Cashmere utilizes social media, creative strategy, digital trends, experiential, influencer and public relations strategies to provide full-service support for campaigns and brands.


More Growth & New Hires

Cashmere announced today the promotion of Jesse Nicely from strategy director to vice president. Nelly Acevedo, JeWayne Thomas, Juliette Geraghty, Mayumi Tatsuta and Kevin Green also join the agency’s growing team. As group account directors reporting to Song, Acevedo and Thomas will lead the agency’s growing portfolio of brand work. Acevedo spent three years at Conill Advertising working on Denny’s, Audible, and Nationwide. She also held positions at Mythic, Mullen, and Red F. Thomas joins from Equator Design where he led up packaging design for ALDI.  He also worked at Burrell Communications and Walton Issacson.

Geraghty, Tatsuta and Green will lead creative campaign strategies in their new roles as Group Creative Directors and report to Ford. Geraghty comes from Ticketmaster and Live Nation where she focused on a wide stop of work including brand, digital, out of home, and experiential for B2C and B2B. She also held positions at OPI Products, VaynerMedia, and Magnani Caruso Dutton. Tatsuta most recently was the consulting Chief Marketing Officer for a luxury, all-natural candle brand backed by Gwyneth Paltrow called Heretic Parfum. She also worked at The Wonderful Agency where she oversaw accounts for FIJI Water, JUSTIN Wine, and Teleflora. Green joins from RAPP where he worked on PNC Bank, McDonald’s, Toyota, US Army, and Palo Alto Networks.

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