Henry Arlander and Ashlee Flores are husband and wife, on top of being two ad people in between jobs. Most recently they were managing director / head of innovation and copywriter at Pereira O'Dell. They left the agency last autumn after eight years to take a sabbatical abroad and are now in LA beginning to look for the next step in their careers. Understandably, it's an intriguing and awkward time for such a hunt.
With free time on their hands, they came up with an idea that uses creativity to help make families' quarantines a little easier: 'Quarantales'. Parents just tell them a few things their kid likes, such as dinosaurs, mac & cheese or unicorns, and they create a fully personalised children's story just for them. Then they share it over video chat with the hopes of giving the parents a bit of a break. They're offering stories for free but encouraging parents to donate to No Kid Hungry. Addison Capper chatted with them to find out more.
LBB> What inspired you to do something for others during quarantine?
Henry and Ashlee> It's been so inspiring to see people stepping up and giving back during this time. From the nurses on the front line (many of whom we have in our family) to people sewing homemade masks for their neighbors, to retired Italian doctors going back to work. We asked ourselves, "how can we use our skill of creativity to help?"
LBB> And why this idea? Are children's stories something you have worked with before?
Henry and Ashlee> The idea initially sparked during a recent stay with family. Our nephews repeatedly asked us to tell them stories about their favorite things (meatballs, ninjas, dumplings) and we'd improvise elaborate stories they loved. The following week, shelter in place took effect and we saw our parent friends suddenly having to entertain and educate their young kids at home, often while working full-time jobs. We thought we could ease the stress and offer some fun from afar.
LBB> How have you found the process of creating personalised stories for each kid? It's like programmatic storytelling with a heart!
Henry and Ashlee> It's been a cool challenge. How do you weave a clear narrative from a list of random things kids love (for ex: "mac and cheese, playing Uno, and dancing")? Thankfully children's brains are more inventive so it can be pretty fantastical! It's been a lot of work but also super rewarding - we read a Quarantale to a 1.5-year-old yesterday who shouted each word from the brief (Ball! Elmo! Bubbles!) as they appeared in her story.
LBB> Is there a favourite story that you've worked on together?
Henry and Ashlee> Our favourite so far has got to be the first one we made, ‘Margot & the Sunday Meow Mystery’, about a girl's epic journey around San Francisco in search of her missing cat, and the kooky characters she meets along the way. It's not the most polished, but we learned so much about how to distill a complex story into its simplest, most entertaining form.
LBB> How are you finding working together on the project?
Henry and Ashlee> Since we've actually worked together in the past (account and copywriter), we have a great working relationship. We collaborate on story concepting and defer to one another based on our strengths. Ashlee has ultimate say over story and copy, I'm booking appointments, handling outreach to parents, etc.
LBB> You're in between jobs at the moment - what kind of challenge are you looking for next?
Henry and Ashlee> I'm looking to bring my experience developing breakthrough creative campaigns to a senior marketing role on the brand side, especially in entertainment or tech. Ashlee is unique in that she's a copywriter who started out in biz dev. She's looking for a creative culture where she can continue to lead exciting brands; given her background in both creative and business, she'd also be a nice addition to an in-house agency.
LBB> How else are you keeping busy in quarantine?
Henry and Ashlee> We're connecting with friends over video chat, doing some good old fashioned puzzles, and getting real inventive in exercising with everyday objects. I think we've almost hit the end of Netflix but thankfully we'll have a few dozen Quarantales to keep us entertained.