2 Minutes With ... Rick Williams and Marcel Yunes, Founders of fable.works
Rick Williams and Marcel Yunes have taken their 15-year creative partnership to the next level with the launch of a new agency, fable.works. An "entertainment incubator for brands," their mission is to bridge craft, culture and speed so that brands entertain versus interrupt.
Formerly, Rick and Marcel were group executive creative directors at R/GA New York with roles across Verizon, Ally Bank, Jim Beam, LIFEWTR, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify. In addition to freelance stints at Mischief, Netflix, Wieden + Kennedy, and fruit-themed tech monoliths, they previously served as creative directors and 10-year veterans at BBDO New York, leading campaigns from Procter & Gamble's "The Talk" to Bud Light, HBO, AT&T, 9/11 Memorial & Museum and more.
We spent two minutes with Rick and Marcel to learn more about their backgrounds, their creative inspirations, and recent work they've admired.
Rick and Marcel, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
- Rick: Rock Hill, South Carolina, a little city about 30 miles south of Charlotte. Now, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
- Marcel: I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and lived there until the age of 6. Since then I've lived in Havana, Cuba; Bethesda, Maryland; Baltimore and New York City. I've gone back and forth between Brazil and the U.S. a couple of times, but New York is the city I've lived in the longest.
How you first realized you were creative.
- Rick: When I was 4, I thought an "artist" was someone who drew pictures with crayons, but an "artiste" used magic markers. So, maybe that's the first time I realized I was just weird.
- Marcel: I became infatuated with drawing and painting from a very young age. My grandmother taught me how to draw and paint. We would always play a game where one of us would make a random squiggly line and the other would have to turn that squiggle into an actual drawing of something.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
- Rick: Jim Henson and Carol Burnett.
- Marcel: Picasso. I know, sounds cheesy, but I was obsessed with him and his range in styles and mediums. His ability to express his emotions through his works always fascinated me.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
- Rick: The South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts. After my summer there, I went from loving art to in love with art, if that makes sense?
- Marcel: I am dyslexic and I have ADD. Elementary school through high school was an incredibly challenging time for me. I never liked getting bad grades so I had to work extra hard to keep up. When I got to art college I got straight A's. For the first time school felt easy and natural.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
- Rick: Prince. Prince. Prince.
- Marcel: Since I've already mentioned Picasso, I'd have to say Warhol and Sol LeWitt. I like Warhol's work because on the surface it seems easy, banal, and not thought through. Only once you understand that he was exploring the effects of mass media on culture and society, you start to understand how powerful and conceptual his work really is. Sol LeWitt's exploration of instruction art reminds me of how digital images are made. A JPEG, for example, is nothing more than instructions for a mosaic of pixels to be arranged on a screen. That's mind-blowing, in my opinion.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
- Rick: The Three Mothers, a book by Anna Malaika Tubbs. It's about the lives and impacts of the mothers of MLK, Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
- Marcel: Book: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Podcast: Talking to Ourselves by Omid Farhang. Omid is a great interviewer.
Your favorite fictional character.
- Rick: Nandor the Relentless from What We Do in the Shadows.
- Marcel: Hodor, Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
- Rick: @floofnoodles. It's pretty much all dancing ferrets. Mental cleanser.
- Marcel: TikTok in general. The way creators are using the tools that the platform gives them is extremely creative and entertaining.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
- Rick: My dog and I transitioned from a father-son relationship to roommates. We also drove about 16,000 miles together.
- Marcel: It's been challenging working in a small NYC apartment with my wife, who has also been working from home, and our two-and-a-half-year-old son, who definitely doesn't mind having both of us around. Working via Zoom and Google Docs was easy and really didn't impact my productivity. Rick and I have been working this way since Skype was around.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
- Rick: Maybe AT&T's "You've Got a Case." Being able to harness the brief—but burgeoning—tech of profile scrubbing to create personalized comedy was so damn fun and felt totally free, creatively. But the hands-down gem of that experience was getting to write and concept with Mitch Hurwitz from Arrested Development. An emotional combo of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and imposter syndrome on steroids.
- Marcel: I have to say P&G's "The Talk." On a personal level, it opened my eyes to the nuances of what it's like growing up Black in the United States. And how we must always check ourselves for implicit bias. On a professional level, I was very inspired by our Black colleagues who shared their experiences and was so humbled to have had the chance to help them express their truth.
A recent project you're proud of.
- Rick: Started searing tuna recently with a glaze of Carolina Gold BBQ sauce. No case study yet, but it's the brand of reckless rule breaking that lands someplace new, like fable.works will.
- Marcel: Co-founding my own shop—fable.works—with Rick Williams, my partner of over 15 years. We finally have a chance to make the type of work this industry deserves without the bureaucracies of working at a big agency.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
- Rick: BMW Films. A product demo disguised as an amazing story. You didn't watch to see the car—you watched to see how Clive was going to get away. It's just one of the mighty shoulders fable.works stands on.
- Marcel: Three Brazilian ad people who inspired me when I was young were Washington Olivetto, Nizan Guanaes and Marcello Serpa. This is one of my favorite ads of all times made in 1988 by Nizan while working at Washington's agency.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
- Rick: "Typecast" for The Atlantic and HBO. This was a few years back, but it made the rounds again when Michael K. Williams sadly passed away. A one-man play, essentially. It doesn't feel like an ad, which is why it's so powerful. Social commentary that was sweet, vulnerable, gutting and so smart. And that line, "Question your answers." Phew.
- Marcel: Wieden + Kennedy and KFC turned TikTok's most iconic angry grandma' @lilihayes into the Colonel over the summer. I also loved the work Mischief did for RepresentUs making deepfakes of dictators to get people to vote.
Your main strength as a creative person.
- Rick: Resilience. It's key to every creative's survival, of course, but I feel lucky to have grown up around mentors (and a partner) who've always fostered optimism and an unwavering trust that there's always a smarter in.
- Marcel: I like fresh ideas and good stories that you can't look away from. I always think big and try to do things that haven't been done before. If it's been done, why do it again? That's why Rick and I started fable.works. So we can continue to make ads that don't feel like ads.
Your biggest weakness.
- Rick: Lower body strength. Also, I'm equally fascinated by and useless in a color correct. I feel like a dog watching two geniuses play chess.
- Marcel: I have a short attention span.
One thing that always makes you happy.
- Rick: Otis Redding.
- Marcel: Making things I believe in. It's what makes me want to get out of bed every morning.
One thing that always makes you sad.
- Rick: Otis Redding.
- Marcel: Mean and selfish people. The world needs more compassion. Also mediocracy.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
- Rick: Doing more to fight for Southern progressives to unseat assholes like Lindsay Graham, Rand Paul and Greg Abbott. And I'd play a lot more music with my friends.
- Marcel: I'd be a fine artist working in every medium possible.