Icons+Innovators

The Mill

Mark Benson, President and CEO, London [left]; Angela Lupo, Managing Director, NYC and Chicago [right]; Anastasia Von Rahl, Managing Director, Los Angeles [centre].

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For over three decades The Mill has remained a byword for creative excellence in post production ingenuity.

Founded in 1990 in London the company now has offices in Bangalore, Chicago, Mumbai, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Shanghai and Seoul, as well as its original London base. As the offices have grown so too has the expertise which the company offers. While VFX and character design and creation still lies at the heart of The Mill’s output, technological advancements have seen it branch out into areas such as real time animation and virtual production.

The top brands, agencies and production companies with which The Mill has collaborated are too numerous to mention but work highlights include Smirnoff Smarienberg, Levi’s Twist, Playstation 2 Mountain and Channel 4’s We’re the Superhumans. More recently, The Mill powered the AI behind Dove's latest campaign, The Dove Code, a project redefining AI imagery of women. At this year’s Cannes Lions The Mill’s has over 60 unique entries, including Michelob Lap of Legends and PSA Driving While Black.

If ever a company has been an integral part of iconic work while continuing to innovate in its chosen field, it’s The Mill.

What’s your favourite piece of work from the last 12 months?

AL: Smirnoff’s Atomic, directed by Sacred Egg and produced by McCann NY, combines dance and pilates balls with Mill VFX magic to bring to life the message that “life is a cocktail”. The spot is just a lot of fun to watch but was also a technical challenge for the over 100 Mill artists that collaborated to bring Sacred Egg’s treatment and McCann’s vision to life.

AvR: That’s like asking someone their favorite child... I love work for so many different reasons and most of the time it’s tied to the process and the people we partnered with on the project. If I had to pick a favorite, I would choose our Dove campaign, The Dove Code, because of its focus on female empowerment and the use of technology for good!

MB: Michelob, Lap of Legends.

How long have you been coming to Cannes, and what’s your fondest memory of the festival?

AL: Longer than I want to admit.

AvR: This is my third year at Cannes. My favorite part is getting an opportunity to hear from agency and brand partners discussing work we have been involved with at the moment of conception. We are brought into the process farther down the line and to hear how the strategy or brief was built is a full circle moment. The evolution of creative can be quite astounding from where it started to what people get to see.

MB: Twenty years. Building life-long relationships, that were built in Cannes, and that would not have happened were it not for Cannes.

Are awards important?

AL: Awards are critical in our industry, driving us to achieve creative excellence, to innovate and collaborate. It is what drives the teams to dream up the impossible.

AvR: I believe awards are very important. The work that goes in behind the scenes to make content is directly connected to Talent. We need to always remember to recognize and celebrate that Talent! Also, I’m a competitive person by nature. Awards keep people pushing the envelope and wanting to make the best work in the world.

MB: Yes, because objective industry and peer recognition provides a great perspective as to what ‘great’ really means.

If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?

AL: If I could change anything about the industry, it would be to prioritize improving diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of advertising. Hearing from different voices increases the range of projects we can complete and fosters more meaningful collaborations among our artists, enabling us to achieve incredible results. Not every creative team is a perfect fit for every project, which is why there are numerous creative studios worldwide. I value this diversity and the freedom for brands to have a variety of options.

AvR: The elusive word in our industry is always time. Making sure that time for craft and the ever demand for content is the delicate balance that we all need to continue to strive to perfect.

MB: Make a more diverse group of people aware of the skill sets that drive the industry and, as a result, make more people aware of the opportunities for a career in the industry.

Who or what has most influenced your career?

AL: My drive to constantly reach the next level and never be content with the status quo.

AvR: I have had the privilege of working closely with some amazing directors over the years. Being able to watch them build what they see in their minds and push the craft of stories has influenced how I think about everything.

MB: Saatchi’s ethos that ‘nothing is impossible’.

What piece of work makes you think, ‘I wish I’d made that’?

AL: The AICP Next Award Best of Show winner, Banned Booked Club, by FCB Chicago and The Digital Public Library of America. We do a lot of work with FCB at The Mill, and I am gutted that this is not one that we were able to collaborate on. We are known for our big visual effects, but developing this technology is something I really wish we could have been a part of because, as a mother, the message hits home. When books are banned, voices are silenced, and that is the most un-American thing in the world.

AvR: I’m a sucker for a good movie IP tie-in. The Coca-Cola X Marvel piece [right], directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, is very cool and the use of 2D and 3D animation mixed with live-action is something I love.

MB: Accenture Tree is that spot for me. I am consistently astounded by the creative vision and execution that Droga produces.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

AL: I started my career as a creative, with the dream of becoming the next Thelma Schoonmaker. I admired her masterful editing in Scorsese’s Raging Bull. However, I soon realised how demanding it was to be in the artist’s hot seat. This led me to shift my career to the production side, where I discovered that strong production support is just as critical as the artistic output.

AvR: I was a swimmer at Ohio State. A love of all things sports and winning is built into my core.

MB: I nearly played rugby for England.

Icons+Innovators

Over the course of this week we will be celebrating some of the people who are at the heart of advertising's creative landscape, those who - whether creatives, directors, producers or other craftspeople - have made a lasting impact on the business.

Alongside specially commissioned portraits, taken by photographer Julian Hanford, we will be asking our subjects about the work they most admire, both new and old, what Cannes means to them, and what they might change about the industry if they could.

This interview series was created with

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