Questlove Makes Headlines in Droga5's Latest NYT Campaign

Celebrating the stories that drive his creativity

The New York Times explores the roots of Questlove's creativity in a fresh installment of the media giant's "Independent Journalism for an Independent Life" campaign from Droga5.

A 90-second film directed by Joshua Kissi follows the Academy Award-winning Roots bandleader (aka, Ahmir Khalib Thompson) to Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, with narration and on-screen text derived from actual NYT headlines and copy.

Sometimes the words mention the man himself. Sometimes they reflect his many passions and interests. In the end, a kind of audio-visual poem describing Questlove emerges, driven by "Black Sugar," a jazzy track from the Three Sounds.

Independent Journalism | The New York Times | Questlove

The work represents an evolution and expansion of the template introduced in February, when the NYT deployed headlines to illustrate its relationship with readers. Now, a celebrity comes into focus—and we get a Wordle plug, too.

In addition to the Questlove spot, which will initially appear in cinemas and online, the Times is launching a digital experience allowing subscribers to create personalized "Story Portraits" based on NYT journalism they consume.

Here's Questlove's portrait from the ad (though subscriber versions won't include a headshot):

Below, the campaign's creators take us deeper into the story:

Muse: How'd you hook up with Questlove? Why cast him, specifically?

Amy Weisenbach, SVP, head of marketing, NYT: In the first iteration of the campaign, we set out to spotlight subscribers who are as dynamic and multifaceted as our journalism. Questlove, who's subscribed since 2020, is an award-winning filmmaker, drummer, DJ, producer, director, culinary entrepreneur and author. He really defines curiosity, continuing to expand who he is and what he brings to the world. He is an avid reader, serious (daily!) New York Times Games player, and he even sketches on the Sunday paper. Earlier this year, he contributed a guest essay about his passion for collecting. He is the perfect example of how journalism can inspire you to pursue new passions and expand your world.

How'd you pick the director?

Laurie Howell, executive creative director, Droga5: Distilling a personality like Ahmir's into any film—let alone into this kind of creative construct—is not easy. It was integral to find a collaborator who was able to capture strong, beautiful images and connect with Ahmir and help push the campaign's next chapter. Joshua Kissi was perfect for this. A Ghanian-American filmmaker/photographer, Joshua has always been drawn tow the topic of identity. That experience showed in this work, where he beautifully captured Ahmir independent life in an honest and poetic way.

Can you talk a bit about making the film?

Laurie Howell: Great, deep, conversations with Ahmir led to a good base to build the story of woven headlines. That has always been the starting point with this campaign—understanding the subscriber and getting into who they are, how they live and what they've read. The film was predominantly shot in and around NYC, showing the sides of the city that mean most to Ahmir, from Harlem to Electric Lady Studios.

How does this iteration mesh with your broader marketing mission?

Toby Treyer-Evans, executive creative director, Droga5: Earlier this year, we launched the campaign with seven subscribers to celebrate the intersection of journalism and readers' lives. Now, we've jumped into the world of someone many of us recognize, who has a lot of interests and stories to tell. Both iterations of the campaign lead us to think, is there a way to create a version of these portraits for every single Times subscriber? Partnering with the NYT creative team and Hello Monday, we developed an algorithm that pulls a reader's most-read articles from their history, and beautifully lays them out, filling a square frame to match the campaign films.

So every subscriber can become a story unto themselves, is that right?

Amy Weisenbach: The in-app experience analyzes reading habits to develop a shareable headline composite drawing from over 50,000 Times articles. The experience customizes a color background, too. The result is a personalized portrait that depicts how what you read reflects who you are. Our internal team became obsessed with the tool as we tested the beta version prior to launch. We think subscribers are going to have fun seeing what their reading history says about them, and it will spark fun conversations with family and friends.

CREDITS

Agency Droga5 NY
Co-Chief Creative Officer Tim Gordon
Executive Creative Director Laurie Howell
Executive Creative Director Toby Treyer-Evans
Sr. Copywriter Lorne Heller
Sr. Art Director Justin Luu
Sr. Copywriter Sara Muchnick
Sr. Art Director Jessica Pester
Designer Hua Chen
Designer, Story Portrait Samantha Lee
Co-Head of Film and Content Ruben Mercadal
Senior Producer, Film Volney Guzman
Associate Producer, Film Hugh Copeland
Director of Innovation, Story Portrait Justin Durazzo
Interactive Producer, Story Portrait Dakota Brockman
Associate Director, Business Affairs Dan Simonetti
Senior Talent Manager Sunny Valencia
Senior Business Affairs Manager Ann Marie Turbitt
Senior Traffic Manager Mary Thornton
Senior Music Supervisor, Film Mike Ladman
Music Supervisor, Film Brandy Ricker
Director, Art Production Cliff Lewis
Executive Producer, Print Alyssa Dolman
Sr. Art Producer Caroline Fahey
Chief Brand Strategy Officer Harry Román-Torres
Strategy Director Carmen VonPatterson
Group Communications Strategy Director Justin Schneider
Brand & Communications Strategist Katherine Lee
Executive Group Account Director Lea Mastroberti
Account Director Amanda Lederman
Account Manager Anoria Safadi

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
Director, Head of Earned Media Marketing Holly Harnisch
Brand Strategy Consultant Iain Newton
Head of Photo and Art Buying, Marketing Brenda Hutchings
Director, Project Management, Brand Marketing Blair Ecton
Project Manager, Brand Marketing Janelle Whitehurst
Associate Creative Director, Marketing Jordan Jacobson
Senior Brand Writer, Marketing George Chapman Jr.
Brand Writer, Naming Lead Dash Turner
Designer, Marketing Jessica Huang
Senior Manager, Brand Media Marketing Alison Carlson
Graphic Designer Alex Van Dorp
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
Software Engineer, Media Innovations Claire Cecil
Web Developer, Email Solutions Megan Allas
Senior Analyst, Brand Marketing Analytics Sammy Stolzenbach
Manager, Email/Landing Page Solutions Julio Vela
Senior Program Manager Alannah Spaulding
QA Manager Alena Burava
QA Analyst Marina Sukhova

Production Company, Questlove Division 7
Director: Joshua Kissi
Co-Managing Director/EP: Kamila Prokop
Co-Managing Director/EP: David Richards
Producer: Saul Germaine
1st AD: Donna Imbarrato
Director of Photography: Michael "Cambio" Fernandez
Production Designer: Madison Hatch
Wardrobe Stylist: Kah Li
Hair Stylist: Elliot Simpson
Make Up: Maria C Scali

Editorial House, Questlove Cut+Run NYC
Editor: Beau Dickson
Assistant Editor : Eli Beck - Gifford
Senior Producer: Diana Méndez
Executive Producer: Ellese Shell
Managing Partner: Lauren Hertzberg

Post Production, Questlove The Mill
Executive Producer Luis Martin
Production Supervisor Matthew Engel
Associate Producer Claire Stiefel
Finishing Lead Anton Anderson
Finish Artist Ruairi Twohig
Design Lead Laura Nash
Designer Yimeng Sun

Color Studio , Questlove Color With Primary
Colorist Kya Lou
Producer Diane Valera

Sound House, Questlove Wave Studios
Sound Designer & Mixer Aaron Reynolds
Executive Producer Vicky Ferraro
Producer Eleni Giannopoulos

Music, Questlove Black Sugar by The Three Sounds

Photography, Questlove
Photographer Joshua Kissi

Production Company, Story Portrait Hello Monday
Senior Producer Nicole Maisonville
Senior Creative Technologist Terkel Gjervig
Creative Developer Virgil Spruit
Designer Toni Größchen
Senior Designer Casper Holden

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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