Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Annie Granatstein

Head of WP BrandStudio at The Washington Post

Annie Granatstein heads up The Washington Post’s in-house creative agency, WP BrandStudio (explore our portfolio site), shepherding inventive multimedia programs for hundreds of major brands, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Prudential, Paramount, FX, Canon, Allstate, AT&T, Dell, Samsung, Mercedes, Jaguar and Audi. 

 In just the past three years, she has dramatically increased revenue, staff and number of advertisers, garnering a slew industry accolades from leading organizations, including Webby, Digiday, OMMA, Pearl, FCS, min, MarCom and dotCOMM. She has also led talks at numerous industry events, ranging from SXSW to the IAB Leadership Summit.

What piece of video/television has recently inspired you?

I’m loving GLOW (about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) on Netflix. It flips gender expectations on their head with characters and storylines that you don’t see anywhere else. (SPOILER ALERT) For example, the woman who is reluctant to start a family so her husband breaks up with her or the hot guy that turns out to be a male prostitute.  It’s so important to surprise your audience and you may even influence culture along the way.

What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?

Digital storytelling is becoming increasingly immersive as technology develops. The key to creating more immersive experiences is collaboration between different types of talent. As a content leader you must find ways to continuously encourage and improve that collaboration. One way we’ve done this is by creating multi-disciplinary initiatives such as our Emerging Media Taskforce. 

This group of about eight creatives from across the Studio’s disciplines gets together once a month to discuss which innovations in storytelling are most promising, plan for researching and prototyping them, and report back to each other. Innovations such as in-browser AR and development of proprietary emotion recognition technology arose out of this Taskforce. We can then use these innovations to create out-of-the-box content for advertisers. For example, we used emotion recognition technology in a 360 campaign for Mike’s Hard Lemonade where our audience was able to test how good video news affects their emotions in digital content (see The Good News Effect) and at an exciting experiential event.

What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you?

I come originally from the entertainment industry – the heart of Hollywood—working at CAA and Jerry Bruckheimer Films and as an independent creative producer. The audience and story-first mentality of that industry drives the content we create at WP BrandStudio. That methodology is crucial to ensure that our stories uphold the high journalistic standards of The Washington Post and will resonate with our readers.

 What is a piece of work you are most proud to have worked on?

For Optum, a health services innovation company, we created a multimedia investigative feature on the opioid crisis, Working to End the Epidemic, that blended educational elements such as infographics and interactive maps to inform our audience of the scope of the epidemic with emotional, human elements such as video interviews with recovering addicts and treatment providers. 

The program was incredibly successful, garnering high time spent, a flurry of social media activity (including organic tweets from important influencers such as Katie Couric), earned media (named to the top of Ad Age best branded content partnerships list), and awards. This blend of educational and emotional elements on a pressing topic resonates deeply with our intellectually curious and highly intelligent audience.