LOS ANGELES—Madheart goes its own way. A producer of artfully-crafted advertising of unusual emotional power, the company is led by executive producer Lisa Phillips who has made a habit of zigging when other companies zag. Rejecting the mainstream production company business model based on a “stable” of directors, Phillips has stubbornly maintained Madheart’s boutique status. She and Catherine De Angelis, the company’s national sales manager, prefer to direct their laser-like attention on a small number of directors in whom they passionately believe.
“We identify as being unconventional and nontraditional, and we don’t just talk those things, we are those things,” says Phillips, who adds that her decision to remain boutique has evolved into one of Madheart’s core strengths. “It opens new possibilities and it makes us extremely nimble,” she says. “We have relatively no overhead and no need to manage those components. Most of all, it allows us to focus our efforts entirely on managing our talent and producing the work.” Phillips is rarely behind a desk or at the head of a conference table. Her “office” is wherever her directors are.
The advertising that Madheart creates is also outside the mainstream. There are no retail, by-the-numbers spots on the company’s reel. Its work is emotionally-driven and human-centered, hand-crafted advertising that is the organic product of an intense collaboration between Phillips, her directors, ad agencies and their clients. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not for everyone, but the results have found favor among brands such as Target, Kraft and Hallmark, seeking a deep, instinctual connection with consumers.
“Our aim is to elevate the branding space with culturally relevant commercial art,” Phillips explains. “Early on, we determined that we wanted to be part of that conversation, and it’s how we branded ourselves as a company.”
One beneficiary of Madheart’s unique approach is Jan Gleie. The Danish director and fine art photographer had a busy European career when Phillips began representing him, but in the States, he was a virtual unknown.
In the U.S., Gleie was initially a tough sell. His methodology didn’t easily break down into a set number of casting sessions, shoot days and set ups. Phillips was asking agencies to trust her director and they were reluctant. “Working with Jan involved a degree of risk, and not everyone was willing to take it,” Phillips recalls. “Today, his style of work is in vogue, it’s sought after, but at that time, he was a pioneer.” Agencies, says Phillips, are now seeking to book time with Gleie as much as a year in advance.
The work that Madheart produces is not only artful, it’s effective. “The spots we produce work because they make people feel something and they connect those feelings to the brands and products,” Phillips says. “At a time of chaos and uncertainty, people are looking for a visceral experience. Advertising that delivers that type of experience is effective.”
Phillips is similarly devoted to the other creatives on her roster, who include the director Thor and creative collective Brainstorm Club. She and De Angelis employ unique strategic positioning in order to align agencies and brands that fit the personalities and aesthetics of their talent. “I have a vested interest in partnering with our directors to focus on creative development and success,” she insists. “It’s a blast!”
Phillips is currently looking to build on Madheart’s success by adding directorial talent, at least within limits. She wants to retain the company’s boutique culture so that she can continue to fully commit herself to her directors. She is also very clear as to the type of filmmakers she wants to work with. “We are looking for a few directors who share our creative and work ethics,” she explains. “We are seeking directors who are already successful, already billing, but want to be more successful, who want to develop their talent and are looking for an experienced partner to help them meet their goals.”
Directors who join Madheart need to be a bit like Phillips herself: autonomous, ambitious and willing to challenge themselves. “We want to work with people who want to create every day,” Phillips says. “And what we offer them is a reciprocal relationship: we will bring them fresh opportunities and they bring us their creativity. We want them to be alive, all the time.”
Madheart is based in Los Angeles. For further information, call 310-421-4441or visit http://www.madheart.com/. The company is represented on the West Coast by Lisa Gimenez (firstname.lastname@example.org), in the Midwest by Hot Betty (email@example.com), on the East Coast by Dana Dubay (firstname.lastname@example.org) and in the Southeast by Sarah Lange (sarahLange@cox.net).