Elaine Underwood
Dec 18, 2019

Women-led Spark & Riot plans ad shoots around advocacy

The production house exclusively represents international directors who shoot campaigns outside of the United States with in-country crews.

Ana de Diego photographing girls in Chiapas during the Herbal Essences production.
Ana de Diego photographing girls in Chiapas during the Herbal Essences production.

When Ana de Diego started Spark & Riot, the Los Angeles-based production house, she dreamed of a company that would be run a little differently.

Spark & Riot is managed by women. It exclusively represents international directors who shoot campaigns outside of the United States with in-country crews.

Then there is the founding principle to always leave behind a portion of goodwill in the countries where she produces spots for agencies, such as Grey Advertising, FCB and Joan Creative. 

"Productions leave a lot of negative impact from waste to pollution to taking down towns in order to build what they need," said de Diego. "There is something really nice about being able to give back while you are filming."

Spark & Riot pairs each commercial shoot with a regional nonprofit to leave behind something beneficial in the crew’s wake. 

For example, this summer, Spark & Riot shot a spot for Grey and its client Herbal Essences, which will launch early next year, in the impoverished, southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Rather than shoot and run, Spark & Riot took note of the water-borne bacterial infections and related anemia and malnutrition that plague inhabitants of the region. 

In consultation with Grey and Herbal Essences’ parent Procter & Gamble, along with the local nonprofit IXIM, Spark & Riot arranged to donate 20 water purifiers to the region. 

De Diego’s goal is to always support a United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, one being clean water and sanitation. 

Another is to dovetail with the brand’s ethos and CSR platform. Needless to say, for Herbal Essences, clean water is essential to the brand. Now, the purifiers are providing clean water for some 2,000 people in the region. 

Another advertising/advocacy pairing is with Joan Creative. Spark & Riot produced a spot for its client, the insurance company SafeAuto, in Uruguay, along with an Argentinian production partner. Now it is funding soccer fields with proper lighting for an inclusive league catering to young girls with disabilities in the region. 

A project touting the benefits of Clorox’s Renew Life probiotics for travelers was shot in Colombia’s capital of Bogata last year. Sanitation is a brand hallmark, so bringing essentials to the Venezualan refugees that were flooding into the country became the mission of Spark & Riot. 

De Diego packed a suitcase with baby clothes and boxes of food, buffeted by clear rain ponchos. "The clear ponchos looked like bricks of cocaine," said de Diego, who was stopped by suspicious airport security. "They said, we usually see people leaving the country with cocaine, not coming in."   

Spark & Riot funds these projects by taking a cut from its profits. This is inspiring others. "Being able to give a gaffer and a grip the opportunity to do something good is woven into our work," said de Diego. "Our crew members love working in advertising but sometimes it feels a little soulless. Giving raises us all up, not just the communities we serve."

Occasionally, when agencies first hear about Spark & Riot’s nonprofit partnerships, they initially perceive the production house as an added expense for the client.

"We are not asking for anything," said de Diego. "We are really grateful for the opportunity to do this with clients as part of our mandate to give back."

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