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Making Mischief: How Greg Hahn and Zach Math Teamed Up


The unique and versatile director, who recently signed to Suneeva, sits down with legendary Mischief CCO and co-founder Greg Hahn to talk LBB through their collaborative creative processes

Making Mischief: How Greg Hahn and Zach Math Teamed Up

Creativity is a slippery concept. There’s no sure-fire method to deliver that spark of an idea which can ignite a project or make something great. That’s why, particularly in the context of recent locked-down years, our industry puts a high value on collaboration. The notion of two or more great minds bouncing off one another to bring wonderful creativity to life is a tantalising one. And for a great example of precisely that, look no further than the relationship between recently-signed Suneeva director Zach Math and the team at the award-winning agency Mischief, led by co-founder and CCO Greg Hahn. 

In recent years the pair have collaborated on eye-catching and creatively diverse projects, including Kraft’s playful ‘Send Noods’ campaign and a series of innovative ads for the grassroots anti-corruption campaign RepresentUs. “It’s always such a pleasure working with Zach”, says Greg, “because his range means that he’s one of those directors who you can kind of throw anything at, and you know he’ll grab the concept”. 

Zach, for his part, is similarly complimentary. “One of the first things that strikes you when you work with Greg, as well as the ECDs Bianca [Guimaraes] and Kevin [Mulroy] is their fearlessness”, he says. “The culture they’ve cultivated at Mischief is truly one where the best ideas win out, and as a director it's your job to help bring those ideas into the world”. 

To dive deeper into the campaigns which resulted from Zach and Mischief’s collaboration, LBB sat down with the Suneeva director alongside Greg. 

The Deep Fake Dictators

In the context of modern American politics, the idea of reaching out with a unifying message seems close to impossible. But that was the challenge taken on by RepresentUs, a grassroots anti-corruption campaign looking to speak to and unite progressives and conservatives. 

To achieve that goal in a push to get out the vote for the 2020 US election, Mischief’s creatives landed on a unique idea. Leaning into deep fake technology, the agency set out to create two messages directed to the American public - one from Kim Jong Un, and another from Vladimir Putin. 

Above: Deepfake technology combined with a thorough casting process helped make these ads for RepresentUs a success. 

“There’s so much which is dividing us in the US right now, but our insights showed us that one thing we can still agree on is that there are some common enemies to democracy out there - namely Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin”, explains Greg. “Our objective was non-partisan, simply to get out the vote and drive up turnout. In the event we did see historically high turnout, so I think we were pushing at an open door with this idea. Whatever our own personal views, it can only be a good thing to have seen so many Americans exercising their right to democracy”. 

Bringing the idea to life from behind the lens, of course, was Zach. “The deep fake technology is not without its challenges to work with. For the RepresentUs campaign, a lot of the heavy lifting was done via the casting process”, he notes. “When you want your subjects’ speech to look real and not cartoony, you need to cast actors that have the desired manner of speech and apply the technology on top of their great performances. The deep fake technology, for us, was essentially a kind of digital makeup”. 

That casting process, the pair explain, was uniquely thorough. “We were looking for things like voice, face shape, expressions, mannerisms and posture”, says Greg. “The tech meant that we didn’t need to go out and get perfect lookalikes, but there was still a lot of stuff we had to keep in mind”.  

Zach goes on to say, “The ads were supposed to air on mainstream networks in the US but were banned at the last minute. I’m not sure if it was because someone watched and said, "this is a deepfake and we don’t allow this", or someone just took a quick glance and thought Putin and Kim Jong-Un were trying to buy air time. Probably the former, but it’s kinda funny/scary to picture the latter.” 

Send Noods 

Moving away from deep fakes and political division, it’s hard to imagine a more different tone than the light-hearted playfulness of Kraft’s ‘Send Noods’ campaign - also conceived by Mischief and brought to life by Zach. 

But aside from the amusing pun and brilliantly deadpan performance from SNL alum Vanessa Bayer, the original concept behind the spot runs a lot deeper. “This campaign initially started life in response to a couple of insights thrown up by our research”, explains Greg. “Firstly that people were moving towards comfort food amid challenging circumstances, and secondly that the pandemic had left many of us longing for more connections to others. So, if you can combine those two together I think it’s easy to see how we arrived at the idea of ‘Send Noods’”. 

Above: Kraft’s amusing ‘Send Noods’ ad starred former SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer. 

“I felt like there was something really innocent and uplifting around this whole ad”, recalls Zach. “It was a tough time when we were still getting to grips with the pandemic, so I think to come out with a very pure, light-comedy focused spot like that was the right move”.  

Bizarrely, however, the ad ended up getting picked up amongst online conspiracy theory circles such as QAnon. However hard they might try, it seems Zach and Greg’s work can’t help but spark the public imagination. “Look, I have no idea what the thinking was behind the conspiracy theory, but it happened to come right at the end of the ad’s run on TV and so Kraft decided to end it naturally rather than risking any political controversy”, says Greg. “But, with online media being what it is now, of course it ended up getting a load more exposure with the backlash and the inevitable backlash-to-the-backlash. I didn’t think I’d end up talking about conspiracy theories and QAnon when I started work on this ad but, hey, this is America - anything is possible!”. 

So, what next for Greg and Zach? There are no projects currently in the pipeline, but that hasn’t stopped either of the pairs’ imaginations from whirring. “The great thing about Zach, which I think you see from these campaigns, is that we can really work together on anything”, says Greg. “I can’t say what it will be for sure, but his diversity means that the sky's the limit”.

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Suneeva, Tue, 01 Mar 2022 08:41:00 GMT