For more than a century, entertainment and advertising have shared a symbiotic bond. Present day audiences are more aware than ever of the level to which they are being presented products and services for purchase and rebuke any blatant overtness. The result is a need for a subtle and clever method of informing and endearing the public to products; one which is most positively received when parsed among content they sincerely enjoy. Condé Nast’s Executive Director of Content Development Berry English is the type of modern master who has built a career upon this approach. Don’t label him as a pitch-man, Berry English is a storyteller of the highest level. As impressive as his list of clients and collaborators may be (GQ, Vogue, Cointreau, Adidas, and State Farm among others), Berry’s work speaks profoundly on its own merit. His productions are sublime glimpses into a slice of life of the famous and the remarkable as well as lesser known individuals from all walks of life. A great writer or a great director can take an audience into the story and experiences of anyone and make them deeply invested in that person’s story. Berry English is preeminent in his vocation because he does all of this while also including an undertone which relates the intention of his employer’s business. If we were to be honest with ourselves, this is the apex of what we all want the marriage of entertainment and advertising to be.
“Mind of a Maker: Roger Rodriguez of Cacao Prieto” just might be the perfect four-minute film, Berry created it for Bon Appetit and KitchenAid while at Condé Nast. The film was awarded the industry’s highest recognition of excellence with a Gold Telly Award, this production by Berry English also received nominations from the Clios, Cannes Lions, and Webby Awards. Upon viewing, it’s easily apparent why this film earned such accolades. It presents like a series of moving paintings. Mr. Prieto relates his personal story which is the modern iteration of the classic immigrant to America dream of personal and professional success. There is no hyperbole in the statement that this could easily be adapted into a feature film. Berry and his team are careful to make the Kitchen Aid products accoutrements to the main focus of this Brooklyn via the Dominican Republican chocolatier. Affable and passionate about what he does, Mr. Rodrigues is the story and Berry never left this concept in creating “Mind of a Maker: Roger Rodriguez of Cacao Prieto.” He relates, “With every single client you have to do the dance of delicately advising them on the amount of product placement. Young people now have such acute bullshit meters, they know when they are being sold to and when they do, they instantly switch off or over. This means ads have to be engaging enough for people to want to invite them into their lives. Had the level of branding in this film been overt, it would have been absolutely ruined.” The staunch commitment to this style of content creation resulted in the presentation of Roger Rodriguez as a deep and warm person, authentic and relatable whether chasing chickens around a coop or using modern appliances in his spotless work space.
Sometimes Berry English’s work occurs on a massive scale, as it did for Vice Media’s Michelin PS4S Series which brought 225 influencers and celebrity talent to the desert to experience the thrill of driving super cars. An enormous undertaking that resulted in 225 films in an astounding and curt two weeks, Berry directed and served as showrunner/executive producer to a one-hundred-person crew. Featured in these shorts and sharable content were influencers from sports, Hollywood, architecture, music, and gastronomy including such recognizable names as Keanu Reeves, Brody and Brandon Jenner, Emelia Hartford, Pete Wentz, Adam Richman, and others. In working with influencers as well as celebrities, Berry exhibits a comfortability with the constantly evolving manner of connecting with an audience and utilizes this to vastly increase Michelin’s influence in the marketplace while at the same time bringing the high production level he’s always been known for.
At Condé Nast and throughout his career, most of Berry’s work days start before others have woken and continue long past a normal bedtime, it’s the enthusiasm he has, which drives Berry. He often refers to the inspiration he receives from the subjects of his films. This is palpable in the tone of his productions. The Acuvue Transitions Lenses film featuring 7th all around draft pick Mo Bamba (created by Berry for GQ whilst at Condé Nast), who rose to NBA fame from humble beginnings in Harlem, New York, displays this emotional attachment as does the content Berry English created for Pitchfork a vertical of Condé Nast (in a collaboration with Acuvue) featuring singer/songwriter Gavin Turek. One can sense that Berry connects with the passion of every person whom he builds a story around. Channeling this in a way that the audience can easily receive and similarly tap into is the intangible ingredient that is found throughout all his creations. Perhaps he is able to achieve this because he shares a similar aspiration to challenging his own abilities with each new opportunity. Berry confirms, “With every project I take on I try to raise the production value and make it visually different to everything out there. I feel that the subject of the film deserves the best canvas we can create for them. I don’t just paint by numbers. I have always had a passion for film and advertising. I love the business side, I love the big budgets, and I love the pace and creativity you’re encouraged to have”