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Independent Influence: A look back at some of our favorite indie work so far

For this week’s Independence Influence, The Drum's weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies across the US, The Drum is featuring some of the best work we’ve seen from indie agencies this year.

From a clever recruitment tactic that RPA used to find talent at SXSW to Mekanism’s ‘90s-themed campaign for retro drink Zima, we’re showcasing some of the most interesting campaigns and projects to come out of indie agencies in 2017.

Check them out below:

Chandelier embraces Cindy Gallop’s “Make Love Not Porn” with launch of social sex documentary

Earlier this year, NYC agency Chandelier helped Cindy Gallop create and launch a documentary about social sex. The film is for Make Love Not Porn, a user-generated video-sharing platform where people can submit videos of themselves having “real world” sex that Gallop initially launched in 2009.

The agency offered up their creative retreat space in the Hamptons, a house dubbed “Mermaid Ranch,” to Gallop under one stipulation: she’d have to create something tangible during her stay there. When Gallop decided that she wanted to create a documentary about Make Love Not Porn while at Mermaid Ranch, Chandelier offered to fund the costs of creating the film and serve as the de facto agency on the project.

The result is a 15-minute documentary called “The Social Sex Revolution” that was shot over the span of four days and directed by Thalia Mavros, founder & chief executive at The Front. The SFW short film, which was screened at the Ace Hotel in New York earlier this year, features some of the “MakeLoveNotPornstars” who have helped bring Gallop’s vision to life.

Toddlers don Snapchat Spectacles in Brawny’s Mother’s Day spot

For Mother’s Day this year, paper towel brand Brawny rolled out a spot that features clips of footage that were all shot by toddlers wearing Snapchat Spectacles.

The spot, created by agency Cutwater and directed by Karen X, aims to show what day-to-day life is like from the perspective of a child. As the Spectacle-wearing toddlers spill milk, knock down books, destroy toilet paper rolls and scrape their legs, their moms never fail to drop whatever they’re doing to help save the day — all moments that drive home the point that mothers are there for their children through thick and thin.

According to Cutwater, four real mothers and their children were chosen from more than 40 applicants to star in the ‘Once a Mother, Always a Giant’ Mother’s Day campaign. The ad is comprised of actual moments in their lives that were captured via Spectacles.

RPA used a simple idea to break through at SXSW

Cutting through the clutter of anything, let alone the cacophony that is SXSW, is daunting. But through the simple use of an existing feature of the iPhone, Los Angeles independent agency RPA made a splash in unexpected ways in Austin this year.

Using the phone’s AirDrop feature, the agency set out to make new friends and build momentum for recruiting new talent. Specifically targeting SXSW panels where a raft of strong talent would be in attendance, RPA pinged attendees who had their AirDrop feature running on their phones with an image inviting them to a musical showcase featuring the band Frenship. Additionally, those in the job market were sent messages inviting them to visit RPA’s talent recruiters on the ground in Austin.

Using the technology, as people may not necessarily have their AirDrop function running, or have it set to receiving media from everyone, was a genuine risk, but appeared to pay off handsomely for the agency.

“Over two and a half days, we must have done literally thousands of AirDrops,” said Annie Elliott, RPA associate creative director and mastermind of the idea.

Mother NY creates tool for LinkedIn that lets moms explain their resume gaps

For Mother’s Day this year, Mother New York created a LinkedIn tool that gives moms a chance to explain gaps in their resume.

Since many new moms are forced to quit their jobs once they have children because of poor maternity leave policies in the US, the agency wanted to create something that would give job-hunting mothers an easy way to address work hiatuses that have cropped up throughout their careers due to child-rearing.

The result was The Pregnancy Pause, a “company” on LinkedIn that counts all moms as employees. Moms can simply add their new job as “mom” at The Pregnancy Pause to their LinkedIn Profile, and voila — resume gap gone. Moms are encouraged to add in job descriptions under their new title as well, like “designer of human life” or “hands-on experience in development.”

Wongdoody launches #IPumpedHere rallying cry for breastfeeding moms

Bathroom stalls, coat checks and storage closets are just a few of the less-than-stellar places that breastfeeding moms have been forced to pump milk in due to a lack of proper pumping facilities.

To draw attention to this issue, Wongdoody recently created a campaign called #IPumpedHere for nonprofit Moms Rising that encourages moms to share the ridiculous (and often unsanitary) places that they’ve pumped in. The goal of the campaign is to urge lawmakers and employers to expand protections for breastfeeding moms in the workplace.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide a “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth” and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”

However, Moms Rising argues that the federal law doesn't go far enough and leaves the wording “open for interpretation.” At, the nonprofit has listed proposed guidelines to help businesses understand what exactly breastfeeding mothers need, like a sink and faucet “deep enough to wash bottles and pump parts” and a “midsize refrigerator for milk storage.”

Zima makes a limited comeback with a retro campaign

Whether you liked it or thought it was a weird beer alternative, there’s no doubt that Zima had an impact on the drinking public in the ‘90s. Now, the drink is back, led by a totally retro ‘Back Not Back’ campaign from Mekanism and PR agency Olson.

With a 90s revival firmly in place – hello Backstreet Boys and NKOTB tours, plus Roseanne and Twin Peaks revivals – the timing seems right to bring back the slightly citrusy “malternative” beverage that went down easy.

The integrated campaign includes a new 8-bit brand website complete with neon wingding arrows, forced background audio bling, flying Zima bottles and lots of Comic Sans – all the things that made the early internet ‘da bomb.' You can research the joys of Zima on there, find where to buy the beverage and even download Zima wallpaper for your mobile.

Spotify makes fun of strange user-generated playlist names in clever campaign

Spotify bid adieu to 2016 with a campaign that cleverly used its troves of listener data to poke a little fun at some of its users (like the person who played Justin Bieber’s Sorry 42 times on Valentine’s Day). Earlier this year, the streaming service rolled out a similar effort, except this time it had some fun with some of the bizarre playlists that its users have made.

Created by Wieden + Kennedy New York, the campaign includes three online videos that feature musicians who are confused as to why their songs have been chosen for certain playlists. For example, in one video, DNCE’s Joe Jonas wonders aloud why his band’s pop hit "Body Moves" was added to a playlist called "play this at my funeral." Another video features a polar bear dancing on an iceberg to Alessia Cara’s "Wild Things" – a nod to the fact that someone added that song to a playlist called "Global warming is real … let’s dance.”

David&Goliath creates Super Bowl ad for Kia starring Melissa McCarthy

Kia kicked off its Super Bowl 51 campaign with two teasers that featured Melissa McCarthy’s voice but not appearance. In the two teaser spots, created by Kia’s longtime agency David&Goliath, McCarthy gushes over the 2017 Niro using her usual quirky sense of humor.

A third teaser featured McCarthy decked out in safari gear as she frantically runs through a desert. The spot ends with the message “get ready for the third quarter,” the automaker’s ploy to get viewers hyped up for its post-halftime Super Bowl spot.

When the automaker finally revealed its Super Bowl spot, it proved to be a hit — the ad garnered the number one spot on the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Independent Influence is supported by Choozle, an independent digital advertising platform.

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