THE BIG HUNDRED: A GRASSROOTS PEP TALK FOR AMERICA
Interview by Mike O'Donnell
WNW Members Julia Markiewicz and Jera Mehrdad are in the midst of a social good Instagram project, co-created with comedic power couple Paul Scheer and June Diane Raphael. It's called The Big Hundred. As Julia and Jera describe it, "We like to think of this as a pep talk for America. You can barely get away from the insanity, so we really want The Big Hundred to be a nonpartisan, grassroots social media project for good. We are putting out 100 positive actions on social media during the first 100 days of the presidency. Each post is being created by a different comedian, artist, or influencer. We're all just doing this out of a labor of love. It's been our therapy since the election."
Below we interview the duo on how they came to co-found the Big Hundred, how they've gotten such big names involved, and what the project has meant to them and the project's followers. They also discuss the role of creatives in addressing political and social issues in their work. As Jera puts it, "Not to toot our own horns, but creatives are pretty much the ones to bring messages to life. Whether it’s trying to sell 200,000 cars or get people to vote. We are the people that help make others want to do something or care about something. One of the most inspiring and liberating things I’ve discovered on this journey is that we ultimately decided we needed to get more activated in what was going on."
Want to see more and find out how you can help? Follow The Big Hundred on Instagram.
Tell us a little bit about your creative backgrounds. Who are Julia and Jera and how did they get here?
Julia: I started in New York at Publicis, moved to California to work at Wongdoody LA then Saatchi LA. Since my son was born, I went freelance and started doing more personal projects - mostly funny writing for things like Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, and McSweeney’s.
Jera: I started in Las Vegas at R&R Partners, moved around a bit, moved to LA to work at TBWA\Chiat\Day. I’ve worked at Innocean and Saatchi and went freelance after my 3rd child was born. I’ve been known to take on a design project or two outside of advertising that are more for the soul.
How would you describe your creative style? Is there often a political or social edge to your work, or do you feel a certain immediacy these days?
Julia: In advertising, I like to find what’s true about a product and connect that to people. I love when there’s friction. Same goes for my personal writing - I love to mine what’s true.
Jera: I like to think I can answer a creative brief in any way that makes sense to the project. Ultimately, I like to make work that makes people feel something. I always try to do this in the most creative way possible that is also authentic and relevant. But sometimes it’s fun to just make work that’s fun. In other words, I have a range...going from silly to really meaningful.
What is The Big Hundred and what do you hope to achieve with your latest project?
We like to think of this as a pep-talk for America. You can barely get away from the insanity, so we really want The Big Hundred to be a nonpartisan, grassroots social media project for good. We are putting out 100 positive actions on social media during the first 100 days of the presidency. Each post is being created by a different comedian, artist or influencer. Follow us on Instagram!
How did you come to connect with comedic power couple and Big Hundred co-founders June Diane Raphael and Paul Scheer?
We met June in an all-women post-election meeting. We all came together to kind of grieve and then activate each other. It’s been amazing to be in a group of such engaged, strong females. We’ve all been lifting each other up. There are a lot of inspiring projects coming out of that meeting.
Since we’re in LA, there were some talented people in the meeting with social reach. As ad people, we thought we could use the talent in the room to amplify a campaign about positive change. We pitched the idea in one of the follow-up meetings of doing a social media project using influencers about one positive action every day for the first 100 days.
On the phone with Paul and June, we mentioned that if we were doing this at an agency we’d do a teaser video. They said, “Well, let’s email Funny or Die and see if we can make it happen.” And it did. Paul and June are amazing partners. They are just doers - they make stuff happen and have amazing, super smart feedback.
What have been a few of the challenges in bringing this idea to life? What have been your proudest moments so far?
There’s been a lot of back and forth with creators and non-profits so we had to build an infrastructure and team out of nothing in a short amount of time. It’s been a lot of “fix it as you go.”
Luckily, we’ve had an amazing team of people helping us and cheering us on along the way: Damara Dikeou (Social Content Strategy), Yunilda Esquivel (Production), Mitzi Young (Project Management), Mona Lipson (Nonprofit Outreach), Adrienne Fragatos (Influencer Outreach), Tana Lauritsen (Design & another WNW Member). A friend, Anna Patel, edited a manifesto video and another friend, Mark Byers, wrote the music for it. We even had the PR team at the amazing Raconteur PR come on to write a press release and pitch for us.
How do you go about getting such an impressive list of artists, comedians, and influencers involved? Or has it been a pretty easy sell?
Part of the idea is to make each positive action more sharable, so we’ve been reaching out to people who create content we think is awesome and fits with our tone.
Paul and June reached out to their Hollywood contacts. An amazing art producer friend (Deb Rosen) helped us reach out to artists who she thought might be interested. Then we just started reaching out to people whose feeds we liked.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We never expected to have so many amazing people contributing but it’s been a labor of love from everyone working on this and also from each creator. We have been so lucky to have connected with so many talented people who are also good humans. Most of all, Paul and June, who have completely put their faith in us to pull this thing off.
The Big Hundred brings a lot of positivity to social media feeds. But it also promotes positive action. What has been your take on social media’s impact on the election and the ensuing three months?
When we started working on this it was right after the election and we were scrambling for things to do. Now it seems like every day on our newsfeeds we are being handed different action items and numbers to call. There’s definitely a sense of action fatigue. We wanted our project to have a different kind of tone - that was nonpartisan and positive. Almost like your social media respite from all the negativity swirling around the rest of our feeds. Instagram seemed like the perfect home for that.
Who is one celebrity you would love to see get involved with the Big Hundred?
Lin Manuel Miranda.
What do you see as the role of creatives in addressing these political and social issues through their work? Any advice you can share with creatives looking to do their part?
Jera: Not to toot our own horns, but creatives are pretty much the ones to bring messages to life. Whether it’s trying to sell 200,000 cars or get people to vote. We are the people that help make others want to do something or care about something. One of the most inspiring and liberating things I’ve discovered on this journey is that we ultimately decided we needed to get more activated in what was going on. We rallied some people. We got a lot of them to say yes. We’ve created stuff and we’re making it happen. So, I’d say, find a cause you care about, lend your creative self and make stuff. I think we’ve been seeing a lot of that and it’s been so amazing.
Julia: Whether you are a writer or artist or someone just good at getting people together, you can use your talents for good. Find a cause you care about and put some time aside to make that your client.
Who and what are your biggest creative influences?
Julia - Amy Poehler, Joan Didion, and my husband (WNW Member) Marcin Markiewicz.
Jera - My aunt Debbie, Caravaggio, Andy Warhol, rock-n-roll posters & album covers and Margaret Keene.
What do you do when Not Working?
We’re both moms. We’re also both very, very slow runners.