NY Times Crafts Reader Portraits Through Headlines in Droga5 Ads

This time, subscribers are the story

"We were really interested in the idea of filling a screen with a life, showing the richness, depth and personality of our subscribers through New York Times journalism."

That's how Laurie Howell, executive creative director of Droga5, describes the agency's stylish new campaign for the media powerhouse.

New ads deploy actual NYT headlines and copy to explore its relationship with readers. (To some extent, this marks a change of focus for the client, which has memorably celebrated its reporters and the power of their truth-telling to inform the cultural conversation.)

Howell and fellow ECD Toby Treyer-Evans directed spots introducing five diverse NYT subscribers. Times journalism across print and digital platforms enriches their lives, and the work celebrates the vibrant relationship between the venerable media property and its consumers.

Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Jordan
Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Vera
Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Becky
Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Lianna
Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Yassmin

In each case, the subjects—Jordan, Vera, Becky, Liana and Yassmin—provide the narration. Jordan's :60 features a jazzy score—Colin Stetson's "Spindrift"—recalling past NYT spots with compelling soundtracks.

Throughout, typed lines of text—such as "Choose to Be Grateful," "Rethinking Thanksgiving? and "Grasping French, One Word at a Time," for Jordan—provide insight into what makes these subscribers tick. They are what they read, and so much more. In fact, they're the Times' raison d'etre, fueling a symbiotic fusion of words, images, hopes and dreams.

"The film approach is deliberately dense to show how their lives and interests collide with their readership of the Times," Howell tells Muse. "Just like life, there are lots of layers, meanings and idiosyncrasies. So, the more you watch it, the more you learn and understand about the subscriber experience."

"We started out by making a few prototypes of the films and used these to explore how toggling between the world of the reader and the world of journalism might work," Treyer-Evans says. "We were trying to understand the kinds of images we would need to shoot if they were going to sit underneath a wall of text headlines."

The team then interviewed readers to learn how they interact with the Times every day. "We built their story around headlines that they'd read and subjects they expressed interest in, painting a picture of who they are," Treyer-Evans explains. "We wanted to capture simple moments that would immerse you in the readers' lives, showing how the Times helps inspire who they are in very personal ways."

The word-heavy technique lends itself to print and OOH elements.

"This campaign is a natural extension of the work we've done previously," says NYT SVP and marketing lead Amy Weisenbach. "We're focused on illustrating why readers should care about quality journalism and convince them to subscribe."

Adds Howell: "The goal of all of our brand marketing is the same: to grow the number of readers who believe Times journalism is worth paying for. [Here] we've found a unique way of showing the independence and curiosity that our community has, and how these values are reflected in what they read."

The push arrives as the NYT enjoys a surge in subscriptions, propelled in large part by its recent acquisition of sports news website The Athletic. Having surpassed 10 million subscriptions—with about 90 percent coming from digital products—the company vowed to hit 15 million in the next five years. (The Times also bought uber-popular word-game Wordle a few weeks back, expanding its presence in the online entertainment sphere.)


Client: The New York Times

Agency: Droga5 NY
Co-Chief Creative Officer: Tim Gordon 
Executive Creative Director: Laurie Howell
Executive Creative Director: Toby Treyer-Evans
Senior Copywriter: Nico Baumann
Senior Art Director: Inna Kofman
Copywriter: Sara Muchnick
Art Director: Jessica Pester
Designer: Lee Pozin
Senior Designer: Rachel Hess
Co-Head of Film and Content: Ruben Mercadal
Senior Producer, Film: Samar Zaman
Associate Producer, Film: Matthew Mintz
Associate Producer, Film: Hugh Copeland
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Ann Marie Turbitt
Senior Traffic Manager: Mary Thornton
Talent Manager: May Chee
Senior Music Supervisor: Mike Ladman
Music Supervisor: Brad Nayman
Music Supervisor: Brandy Ricker
Senior Producer, Interactive: Dakota Brockman 
Director, Art Production: Cliff Lewis
Senior Producer, Art: Daniel Jackson 
Executive Producer, Print: Alyssa Dolman
Chief Brand Strategy Officer: Harry Román-Torres
Group Strategy Director: Thomas Haslow
Strategy Director: Carmen Von Patterson
Group Communications Strategy Director: Justin Schneider
Communications Strategist: Mads Murphy
Group Account Director: Lea Mastroberti
Group Account Director: Alex Woods
Account Supervisor: Amanda Lederman
Account Manager: Anoria Safadi
Project Manager: Amanda Cohen

Client: New York Times
Chief Executive Officer: Meredith Kopit Levien: Chief Marketing & Communications Officer: David Rubin
SVP, Head of Marketing: Amy Weisenbach
Vice President, Creative, Marketing: Laura Forde
Executive Director, Brand Marketing: Chanelle Kalfas
Director, Brand Marketing: Peter Lauer
Managing Director, Marketing Audience Insights: Brenna King Schleifer
Director, Marketing & Media Strategy: Jessica Worthington
Brand Strategy Consultant: Iain Newton
Head of Photo and Art Buying, Marketing: Brenda Hutchings 
Director, Project Management: Blair Ecton: Project Manager, Brand Marketing: Janelle Whitehurst
​​​​Director of Writing, Brand Marketing: Taylor Gandossy
Associate Creative Director, Marketing: Jordan Jacobson
Senior Brand Writer, Marketing: George Chapman Jr.
Designer, Marketing: Jessica Huang
Senior Manager, Photo and Art Buying: Miriam Hsia
Manager, Photo and Art Buying: Karen Sutorius
Associate Photo Editor, Marketing: Aaron Tejada
Senior Manager, Social Video, Marketing: Tessa Modi
Associate Motion Designer, Marketing: Tandis Shoushtary
Senior Manager of Audio, Marketing: Matt Lewkowicz
Audio Producer, Marketing: Sam Posner

Directors: Laurie Howell, Toby Treyer-Evans

Production Company: LFR Productions 
Director of Photography, filmmaker: Scott Perry 
Director of Photography: Anthony Carella
Executive Producer: Luigi Rossi
Supervising Producer: Francesco Rizzo
Line Producer: Sean Gordon Loebl 

Editorial: Beau, Cut + Run
Editor: Beau Dickson 
Editor: Jen Dean 
Assistant Editor: Evan Bahnsen 
Assistant Editor: Chrissy Doughty 
Senior Producer: Diana Méndez 
Head of Production: Marcia Wigley 
Executive Producer: Ellese Shell 
Managing Partner: Lauren Hertzberg 

Post Production: The Mill 
Executive Producer: Matthew Engel
Associate Producer: Claire Stiefel
Color: Oisin O'Driscoll
Finishing Lead: Anton Anderson
Designer: Laura Nash
Designer: Yimeng Sun

Sound: Design: Wave Studios
Sound Designer & Mixer: Aaron Reynolds
Executive Producer: Vicky Ferraro
Producer: Eleni Giannopoulos

Jordan — Spindrift from the album "All This I Do For Glory": Colin Stetson 
Lianna — Electronic Fiction: APM Music 
Vera — Forever Friends: Audio Network Music 
Becky — Portofino 4: Raymond Scott
Yassmin — Tiny Sprite

Photographer Yana Yatsuk
Production Co Lost Artist Studios
Producer Bryan McNulty

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