The Humanity Behind the Hustle: How We All Build a Creative Community 1347 words · 7 minute read

People are more than just consumers, brands are more than just companies, and agencies are more than just hired pens. We’re all part of the same creative community and, through the cyclical relationship between us all, we’re change agents of something much bigger than just a sale.

While we all have quotas to hit and salaries to pay, we’re all at our desks for a reason. We want to better our community, care for our culture, and create meaningful change in the lives of many.

From the freelance assistant editor up to the founder of a startup, we’re all in it with a purpose, and we’re in it together. And it’s in this collaboration that great work evolves.

In the spirit of the impending Thanksgiving festivities, we wanted to recognize a few of our favorite projects that helped build that creative community, as well as the clients, partners, and artists who are pooling their talents for the greater good.

Put the Guns Down

Partners: Leo Burnett, Chicago Ideas Week, Saba, and more

According to crime stats published by the Chicago Tribune, someone has been shot every 2.84 hours this year for a total of more than 2,300 shootings since January 1, 2015, exceeding those in New York and Los Angeles combined.

To combat these deplorable numbers, Leo Burnett and Chicago Ideas Week partnered with numerous local artists including Saba, Noname Gypsy, and Common, among others with the campaign “Music Vs Gun Violence.” Fueling this campaign is the song “Put the Guns Down,” conceived and produced by Anthony “The Twilite Tone” Khan, which premiered in a music video produced by the team at Leo Burnett.

“At the end of the day, everything we do boils down to humanity,” said Matt Monahan, a Producer at Leo Burnett who worked on the project. “That’s what’s great about Leo Burnett. They’re not about selling things, they’re about connecting a brand with an audience in a way that shows that this piece, this product, or this thing is a part of your daily story.”

The team debuted the video at an event during Chicago Ideas Week, premiering to an audience whose daily stories are definitely impacted by gun violence in the city. Whether directly or indirectly, many of the 2.7 million Chicagoans have been at one point affected by gun violence in one way or another. Pushing the message to put the guns down, the creative teams behind the campaign picked up their pens and cameras to launch a project as impactful as the problem itself.

“‘Put the Guns Down’ was created for such a great cause that editors, colorists, and others lined up to want to help out,” said Matt. “The job of an agency creative or producer doesn’t end just because you step outside the door, and that’s completely true in everything that we do. Everybody is always looking for a new creative outlet because, in my opinion, creativity is an extension of spirituality. When people channel that creativity, they find purpose in their lives. […] All of this is just a desire, I think, to be more connected with the community.”

Combatting gun violence is no small feat and its remedy is no easy solution. It is a cause that requires the participation of many, which is why it’s so inspiring to see people like Matt, Saba, and everyone else involved committing so much of their time and creative talents to contributing to this effort. According to Matt, a week following the video’s launch, it had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times across all of the social media platforms and websites that ripped and shared the video. Additionally, dozens of people have been submitting their own verses for the song every day, proving that music and creativity can truly act as change agents in our communities.


Partners: The Ivorys, Music Dealers, Goose Island Beer Co., Deborah’s Place, and more.

Three bands, four sponsors, and one event partner that was the strategy for the charity bash, Loftapalooza, which pop-rock band The Ivorys headed to raise funds and awareness for Chicago charity Deborah’s Place, a shelter for women experiencing homelessness.

Three local artists The Ivorys, Mike Golden & Friends, and Saba partnered with Music Dealers and sponsors Goose Island Beer Co., Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Baron Chocolates, and Pabst Blue Ribbon to raise cash donations and over 500 pounds of non-perishable items and canned goods for Deborah’s Place.

“With Chicago being the hotbed of emerging musical talent that it is these days, it made sense to bring together our friends in the artist community and advertising world in support of a great local charity like Deborah’s Place,” said Sam White of The Ivorys, organizer of the event. “We thought the eclectic combination of Alternative, Hip Hop, and Rock & Soul of the three acts would really get people excited about the event and raise awareness and donations for the charity. It really amplified the message of the event itself Chicago music coming together to benefit our city.”

By leveraging their combined reach and impact, The Ivorys and their sponsors have created an annual event that brings people together, highlights local artists, and benefits an important cause. As the Local Loop aptly put it, The Ivorys “have provided a great way to bring different elements of the Chicago scene together while benefiting the city itself.”

Lake FX Summit + Expo

Partners: Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Google, City of Chicago, Music Dealers, and more.

The region’s largest free conference for artists, creative professionals, and entrepreneurs, Lake FX Summit + Expo spanned three days and six venues in Chicago’s downtown Loop last spring, and drew hundreds of local talent together in one of the truest manifestations of a creative community. For our part, Music Dealers coordinated with industry legend and co-founder of Sire Records, Seymour Stein, to secure his keynote presentation at the summit. Additionally, we spent most of that time helping steer artists through the modern music industry by speaking on various panels during the expo, including “Why You Matter to Brands / Why Brands Matter to You.”

Music Dealers founder Eric Sheinkop moderated the panel, and was joined by DDB Creative Director Jean Batthany, Creative Director Diane Andreoni (formerly of McDonald’s), and artist Saam Hagshenas of Hey Champ and MONAKR.

Four of the most creative minds from different segments of the industry joined together to discuss the collaborative nature and cyclical relationship between their roles. The key success story they shared was the 2014 Olympics spot from McDonald’s, “Celebrate with a Bite,” which was the result of the collaboration between McDonald’s, DDB, Music Dealers, and No Wyld, an indie band out of New Zealand.

Through this panel, as well as the event at large, attendees saw firsthand how important the role of a creative community can play in developing strong, effective work. By pooling the creative talents of every respective team member, “Celebrate with a Bite” became the most Shamazed ad of the Games. And by sharing their creative insight with the crowd of attendees, the four panelists furthered the impact of that spot well beyond its original airtime – they used it not just as a tool of consumer engagement, but as a lesson in creative education.

“The City of Chicago is dedicated to fostering the development of Chicago’s for-profit arts businesses – in collaboration with our city’s thriving music industry,” wrote Dylan Rice, Program Director of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, in a recent email. “When creatives take an active role in the community, we all benefit. By participating in initiatives like ChicagoMade and the Lake FX Summit + Expo, music companies are helping to strengthen the creative economy, expanding the talent pool and making our cities a better place to work and live.”

For every event, project, and advertisement, there’s a team of diverse creatives behind its production. We consider it an honor and a privilege to work alongside you all in these collaborations, and look forward to creating more stellar work with you stellar people.

By: Zach Miller, Music Dealers