Finding Light (at the End of the Tunnel)

When Spot opened its doors in 1998, Clinton was president, Titanic was the number one movie at the box office and we had just bought our first hard drive for around $5,000. It weighed 25 lbs. Times have changed, and so have we. In light of current circumstances, I find myself reflecting. Spot Creative has weathered its share of storms - 9/11, the 2008 recession - but nothing quite like our current moment. Yet the more I think about now, the more I return to our past and find lessons to glean and stories worth telling. Lessons and stories in which we overcame, learned, grew and inspired.

In 2001, we were still a young company. We built our business knocking out one project after another while being creatively led by our partners with our focus primarily on the execution of production. We offered fewer services and were less efficient than today, but it was working. We were building a client base, a brand and an identity as a company partners could trust. Then 9/11 happened, and as anyone living/working in NYC during that time can attest, everything changed. In the immediate aftermath there was a lot of confusion, it took a long time to figure out what it all meant and what we should do. Some of that confusion came from being split between two worlds. One that was working on local recovery and the other that was business as usual for partners in places not directly affected. It was challenging to do both.  

The one thing that was simple was to give back, so we did a lot of things. Donated money directly to some, paid for hotel rooms for others and went down to Canal Street to cook for the First Responders. The one story I always remember was at a restaurant called Nino’s that closed for normal business and just fed the workers from the pile. I remember I was cooking with someone and they just said “OK, I’ve got to go so you should start breakfast.”  I asked, “how many should I expect” and he answered “...four hundred.” I took a breath and immediately started opening cases of sausage and dumping them into large trays. I put something like ten full trays into the pizza ovens and then got started on the eggs. Right before he left I asked who’s in charge, he took a quick look around and said “You are!” I still remember watching the first responders enjoy those meals. It was the best part, hands down.

From there, we started working on projects like “In Memoriam’ to remember the people who died in the attack. Some others that honored the First Responders and all they risked.  A number of our partners were telling the story of how America had and will continue to come through the hardest times. One piece we produced had America’s top CEOs talking about where America and the World was headed in a post 9/11 world. It was an incredible story of how 9/11 brought us together.  These projects were in many ways a forerunner to our current partnership with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. 

Our business decreased by at least 50% and we survived by not paying ourselves and putting our team and partners first. The work during this time helped get Spot back on track, and as a New Yorker, it was therapeutic.  In many ways, we felt like the same company but looking back now it’s clear we had evolved. Our projects grew more complicated and ironically our dedication to NYC institutions led to filming more out of state and internationally. We began producing independent films, both short and feature length as well. What at the time had felt like keeping our head above water had, gradually, landed us in a really good place. A place where we were able to balance our corporate and commercial work with personal passion projects. Projects that stretched our creative brains in ways that would, in time, trickle down to work with our trusted partners.

Then came 2008. The Financial Crisis was an odd period and in many ways more challenging than 9/11 to weather. There was no one moment to fixate on, no heroes to rally around, just a lot of people struggling, us among them. We had some very slow months but managed to get through it, thankfully. Over the course of a difficult 12-18 months, we got back to normal, but much like 2001 it was a new normal. To compete in a crowded market place, we began expanding our creative and conceptual offerings. They say constraints breed creativity and the economic downturn was certainly that for Spot. It put us on a trajectory that’s grown over the past decade transforming us from production company to creative content agency.

Over the years, our team has accomplished so much and I'm truly proud of them . They listen to our partners and work hard to build an intimate understanding of their needs. They create beautifully designed and inspiring presentations, and most importantly they present a process that’s refined, aligned, and on target for their brand and budget. They’re modular in production and maximize value. They leverage the media across multiple platforms, and deliver optimal content for each. And most importantly, they know there is a deep trust and collaboration at the core of all great partnerships.

Every company goes through cycles.  When you’ve been in business this long, you can easily look back and remember periods that were tougher than others.  The more I reflect (which I’ve had a lot of time to during quarantine) the more I realize that the times that are most challenging have led to many of the best decisions we’ve made over our 20 years as a company. This pandemic raises unique challenges, one’s we’re already exploring from both creative and production angles. Challenges we’re collaborating with our partners on solutions for, things like digital events and messaging to name a few. 

I think we all had a different idea of what 2020 would be like. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions and work towards a vision to get through this period which is unlike any other in the past. We know this too shall pass in time, but the day to day makes you reflect on where you've been and where you’re going. We’re all on a unique journey and these moments can become a transition to something unexpected and potentially wonderful. If we choose to have hope and to remember even when it feels like the sky is falling somewhere there's light at the end of the tunnel.

- Rick Edrich, Co-founder & Executive Producer