2 Minutes With … Mira Kaddoura, Founder and ECD at Red & Co.
Mira Kaddoura is founder and executive creative director of Red & Co., a female- and minority-owned boutique brand consultancy that helps brands make a larger, more meaningful impact on culture, business & society.
Red & Co. created "Made with Code," one of Google's important initiatives to diversify the tech industry, and Netflix's lauded brand campaign, "Make Room," that positioned Netflix as a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion. Red & Co. recently launched the Babyganics brand refresh "Here's to Perfectly Imperfect Parenting" to challenge the category and disrupt once and for all the idea of perfect parenting.
Mira got started at Wieden+Kennedy, Nike's long time advertising agency, creating award-winning work for Nike, The Girl Effect and Travel Oregon being mentored by people like Dan Wieden, David Kennedy and Jim Riswold. Mira is a staunch advocate of female leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion. Her TEDx Talk "How women can change the world by asking 'Why not me?'" received a standing ovation from 4,000 people.
We spent two minutes with Mira to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.
Mira, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I'm currently in Austin, Texas, by way of Portland, Oregon, Richmond, Virginia, New York, Amsterdam, London and Alexandria, Egypt. I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon.
How you first realized you were creative.
First, I believe we're all creative. Second, I grew up in Arab culture, which is inherently creative. We grow up with song, dance, people playing instruments, and creating and sharing food in homes and communities. I first realized I was creative when my two best friends and I—all three of us had afros—decided to re-enact a shampoo commercial at the age of 9 years old. I didn't know it back then, but I was destined to get into this industry.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
My great aunt, Zahia Kaddoura, and her aunt (my great-great aunt) Ibtihaj Kaddoura. Between 70 and 100 years ago, these Arab women fought for justice and liberation. They wrote and published books and were university deans when it was almost impossible for women everywhere. I think of them every time I am faced with a challenge. They are my heroes.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
My first year in college, I studied architecture. I excelled in all the design classes, but got a 65/100 in an important physics class, meaning I failed the whole year. It ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. Failures are the best teachers.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
Mashrou' Leila because they are the voice of a whole generation and region.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
- Series: Black History, Freedom & Love on Masterclass should be required viewing for every person in this country. It's also taught by two of my all-time heroes, Dr. Angela Davis and Dr. Cornel West.
- Movie: Nine Days.
- Person: Anything Michaela Coel touches. Indya Moore for her voice.
- Magazine: Al Hayya is a magazine that publishes literary and visual content on the works, interests and strife of women, bilingually in Arabic and English, led by Maya Moumne.
- Organization: Slow Factory Foundation is a school, knowledge partner and climate innovation lab focused on addressing the intersecting crises of climate justice and social inequity through narrative change and regenerative design.
- App: Mood for allowing us to visualize our mental health over time.
Your favorite fictional character.
Unicorns, fairies and mermaids. I've been heavily influenced by my young daughters.
Someone or something worth following on social media.
Celeste Barber for keeping it real and making us laugh. Slow Factory for open source education and justice and liberation for all. Lizzo 'cause Lizzo. Glennon Doyle for real talk. Queen Afua for being an example of the Sacred Woman.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
It's made me appreciate time even more so than I did before. Having grown up in wars, I've always known the value of time and that no day is ever promised to us. Let's live a life with no regrets.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
I have a few favorites! Nike "I Feel Pretty." Back in 2006, it challenged the idea that women can be only one thing. It was the first time Nike invested so heavily in a solo female pro athlete. A big deal.
Google "Made with Code." To inspire, teach and sustain girls' interest in coding, we created a whole brand and platform from scratch. Our goal was to get 1 million girls coding. Six month after launch, we had 5 million girls coding. A huge deal for the future.
Netflix "Make Room." Back in 2018, before making room was part of the cultural conversation, we recommended to Netflix (as part of a global brand strategy project) that they own the idea of "Make Room" since they have completely disrupted Hollywood and changed how films and content are made both in front of and behind the camera.
As for a personal project, I absolutely loved working on The Wonder Clock, an interactive conceptual project I did in 2012. It created a giant conversation around a topic I care deeply about. I took it to Art Basel, where it was written up in 78 international press articles. Here's a Creative Mornings talk that sums it up.
A recent project you're proud of.
Our work for Babyganics (an SCJohnson brand): "Here's to Perfectly Imperfect Parents." Why? Brands and culture make a hard job look easy, and parents are withering under the pressure. With every new product and piece of unsolicited advice, we raise the already unattainable bar for what constitutes a perfect parent. Our assignment: How do we kill the myth of the perfect parent and show parents that what they're doing is enough? With great joy and respect, we set out to challenge the toxic idea of perfection with a jolly, empathetic spot (created and produced in-house at Red & Co.) that reflects real-life parenting at a time when the wheels have definitely come off the bus.
With two working moms directing, a diverse crew including a Latinx DP and LBGTQ+ editor, we were able to run-and-gun, staying close to lived experience. We recruited creatives with vastly different parenting experiences: a single Black mom, an adoptive mom, a trans dad and immigrant parents. We wanted to be sure the feelings were genuine, the moments believable, and that the production did its utmost to honor the needs of parents and kids. We were also able to help out some real families at a financially unstable time with some much-appreciated production budget.
The film ran on owned and social channels as well as YouTube, eliciting not only love for the brand, but real connections between parents who found they weren't the only ones suffering from the pressure to do everything right all the time. Supported by disruptive print and social, we created a 360 campaign and community that brought parents everywhere much-needed relief and support.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
- Jenny Holzer's Truisms
- Emily Jacir's Sexy Semite
- Mona Hatoum's Home
- Barbara Kruger
- Etel Adnan
- Guerrilla Girls
- Felix Gonzalez Torres
- Miranda July since her early days in Portland, Oregon
Someone else's work you admired lately.
I admire the work being done by my friends Chaucer Barnes, Jason Campbell and Geoff McHenry at Translation.
Your main strength as a creative person.
My gut. It's never failed me.
Your biggest weakness.
I'm a recovering perfectionist.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Dancing or singing with people I love.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Sitting with all the injustice in the world.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
I'd be doing work in the healing space.