The new MD at Stink Studios LA talks working for Adult Swim, her obsession with the beautiful game and Stink's workplace culture
Marlina Fletcher has worked for some of the biggest brands on the planet. She was embedded in the early days of digital marketing at Nike and, for the past four years, has been responsible for driving Beats by Dre’s global communications and brand strategy. But she has since shifted from working within brands and is bringing her wealth of client-side knowledge and experience to the team at Stink Studios LA, where she is now managing director.
The Stink Studios LA office is just a few years old and Marlina is excited to help the business take shape and brimming with enthusiasm when quizzed on her first weeks in the office. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with her to find out more.
LBB> You joined Stink Studios from Beats and prior to that have a wealth of client-side experience - what was it that tempted you over to the creative side?
MF> At Beats, we worked within a non-traditional brand model which allowed me to work closely with creative teams, both within Beats and with external agencies. Knowing I enjoy the non-traditional and knowing Stink Studios to be a different kind of non-traditional; this excited me. But more than anything else, what really drew me to the creative side at Stink Studios were its people.
LBB> And more specifically Stink Studios - it’s an interesting set up, as a kind of creative studio as opposed to traditional agency. What was it about the business that appealed to you?
MF> The experimental nature of the people who make up Stink Studios really appealed to me. Everyone has a curiosity to learn more. This means our producers are learning code, our developers are exploring visual arts, and our directors are making beats. This curiosity makes the work better and has created a true camaraderie in the office. In fact, all of our teams came together to create and play a game called TOAD, a spin-off of Wall Ball where the goal is to kick a soccer ball through a square hole. Our team is also quick to embrace new technologies and make mistakes. Stink Studios’ LA office is only a few years old, the energy within the walls is contagious and the business is still taking shape. I’m lucky to be a part of creating what we’ll be a year from now to ten years from now. It’s an exciting time to be here.
LBB> How are you bringing the skills you learned as a marketer into your work at Stink Studios? Do you think it stands you in good stead and offers an alternative view compared with someone that has only worked on the creative side?
MF> Working on the brand side has shaped the way in which I look at projects. I know what it’s like to develop a brief or create a marketing plan to launch a new campaign, or product at a brand which might not be known by those working on the other side of the table. This point of view may at times not necessarily bring an alternative perspective, but it does provide a complementary view to a project. As such, I might be able to anticipate needs or read between the lines on certain topics. On the inverse side, I get to learn more about that other perspective or view. I am being introduced to a different way of thinking from the other side of the table.
LBB> More production companies are working direct to client - did you have much experience of this way of working when you were at Beats?
MF> Yes. Beats can be very non-traditional in its approach to work. I often worked directly with agencies or creatives. Some of my favourite and best projects were direct to client.
LBB> Stink Studios was set up to tackle the changing landscape across production, digital and advertising… What do you see as the biggest changes affecting the way companies like yours must function?
MF> The landscapes are no longer separate. We must be able to speak to each part of the landscape collectively, not necessarily independently. For example, during my time at Nike, I worked within the digital team, and the digital team at the time operated as an independent function of marketing. When I moved to Beats, I also started within the digital team and the setup was similar but digital was evolving and Beats needed to adapt. I, as well as all the other members of the digital team spent countless hours educating, ensuring that digital was included at the beginning of a brief, not at the end.
Fast forward to now, and digital is no longer an extension of a campaign, but at the forefront. A TV spot might be part of the mix, but multiple pieces of content will be planned and executed to launch around key moments and across varying channels to really extend a campaign or idea for months. This makes the work really resonate with the consumer, making it a helpful communication, rather than another campaign targeted at them with no personal benefit to the audience. Let’s also not forget the role digital and social media can play to increase reach even further.
Additionally, strategy is evolving - how and what digital and social channels we communicate across changes almost monthly, some technology used in recent campaigns is now irrelevant and outdated but was the right tech for that moment. Because technology shifts so quickly, we might need to take a gamble on tech that may never pick-up, but it’s worth the try. This is the biggest challenge for a company like Stink Studios. We must continually adapt, bring new ideas, understand and even develop new technologies ourself. This is also part of the fun and what makes our offering so unique and forward-thinking.
LBB> How are you finding the journey so far and what are your main aims for the business?
MF> I’m loving it! Stink Studios is truly a unique place. I want to be able to keep the magic behind the camaraderie that exists at Stink throughout our growth. My main aims for the business are to work on projects and with brands that really challenge and excite the team. Here in LA, my first goal is to grow our content team, so I’m on the hunt for people with energy and passion with an insane thirst to learn and awareness of the industry.
LBB> How did you end up doing what you do? Was it always the plan or more a happy accident?
MF> It just kind of happened. When I first started attending school and playing soccer at Arizona State, I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do. After a conversation with my parents, my dad advised me that a foundation in business would be a good skill set to have, so I decided to major in marketing. “It’s more creative,” I would say. One thing led to another and I got an internship promoting Adult Swim which eventually led to my first “real job” at BBC America in New York. Thinking back, I always had a fascination with entertainment and sport.this has pushed me through my career so far, even including a stint within the music industry at FADER, then back to sport at Nike, into branding at Beats and a combination of all now at Stink. Although my path has been a bit untraditional, there’s a theme there - it’s always been rooted in marketing.
LBB> You’ve worked on some huge projects over your career - the launch of the Beats Pill+ and the 2014 World Cup campaign ‘The Game before the Game’ for example. Are there any that stick out as particularly memorable or resonant? Why?
MF> Three projects really stick out over the years:
During one of my most recent project at Beats; we took over Quicken Loans Arena during the Cleveland Cavaliers vs Oklahoma City Thunder Christmas game for a minute. During that time, the entire arena was plunged into darkness, with the only light being Beats light-up wristbands programmed to compliment an on-court 3D projected video, and a humongotron video featuring LeBron as part of the Beats x Be Heard campaign. A clip of the in-arena attendee experience was coordinated to air “live” on ESPN. In addition to a flawless and live execution, it was a true partnership amongst all parties and executed within a pretty insane timeline. The team at the Cleveland Cavaliers quickly became some of my favorite people to work with.
While working at Nike in Sportswear, we coordinated a global creative reporter competition to compliment Nike Football’s The Chance; a search for the top footballers in the world to join the Nike Academy. The creative reporter competition ran in tandem for filmmakers and photographers documenting the footballers competing. The creative reporter finalists came together with the top 100 footballer finalists to capture the finals in Barcelona, as well as participate in the creative reporter awards ceremony. What really made the project special were the connections made between the creative reporters despite language barriers -many of whom have gone on to launch and excel in their careers. It was a special week and everyone is still connected.
Last but not least, my first project with Nike Sportswear while at FADER. We created a real-time digital content series, global mixtape series and on the ground event at Nike Football’s FTC Soweto during the men’s World Cup in South Africa. To this day, I still listen to those mixtapes. They were produced by artists in six continents, each showcasing music specific to the continent. The real-time film series showcased the life, culture and excitement of South Africans and the world as people descended upon the country. My favorite part of the project was the event held at FTC Soweto on Youth Day. During this event, workshops were held with local artists, musicians and filmmakers to teach local youth various creative skills. At sunset, a concert was performed on the rooftop and live-streamed with a set by DJ Cleo and performances by Tumi & Volume, Spoek Mathambo and Seun Kuti with Egypt 80. To end the night, the first match of South Africa competing in the World Cup aired downstairs.
LBB> What are your big passions outside of work? Do you have any hobbies or nerdy obsessions?
MF> Women’s sports is a big passion of mine. Between the ages of four to 18, my name was synonymous with soccer. It may be embarrassing to admit, but I had a stuffed soccer ball I slept with every night and took with me to tournaments for good luck. I also spent many nights playing games in my dreams and would wake myself up kicking the wall. Other than admitting these oddities, playing sports throughout my youth taught me many principals - discipline, teamwork, camaraderie, persistence, confidence, leadership and so much more. I advocate for sports, especially with young girls, for those reasons. The principles instilled in girls at a young age can help them to excel both academically and professionally with self-confidence.
I also have a strong passion for equality in the workplace across both race and gender and am an advocate for people to get out, get involved and vote.
It’s a bit cliche, but I do love travel, hiking/camping/the outdoors and food. I don’t have any current obsessions per se, but I’m easily excited. Well, I listen to a lot of cumbia and afrobeats so that’s kind of an obsession that may or may not irritate my husband, but he still loves me enough to dance together in the kitchen.