In conversation with

Natasha Collie

Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK

Natasha Collie

Introduction

Introduction

At the start of the year, Ladybird Books approached Sonder & Tell with a dream brief. In 2021, a year that’s been particularly challenging for parents and carers of young children, they wanted to shift the focus of their summer brand campaign; to launch a photo series of 21 parents that celebrated parenthood in all its forms.

We brought an editorial lens to the brief: crafting the campaign story, interviewing parents and carers across the UK and beyond, and collaborating on its execution from start to finish. The result is Love Unfiltered, a photo series shot by talented young photographer Aliyah Otchere.

Behind the scenes of this campaign at Ladybird Books was Natasha Collie, Senior Brand Marketing Manager for Penguin UK. “Honestly, I feel like I’ve glimpsed 21 new outlooks on life,” Natasha told us. “I’d expected to be moved, entertained and inspired by the parents’ and carers’ stories – but it was deeper than that. Talking about parenthood is really talking about selfhood, and as a result this collection of stories is truly compelling.”

We spoke to Natasha about the intention and outcome of the campaign, what she’s learnt through listening to all 21 stories about parenthood in 2021, and other Penguin campaigns that have felt similarly memorable.

Question and Answer

Ladybird Books is a brand that makes growing up the best story ever. Why did you feel it was time to switch the focus of your brand storytelling from children to parents with this campaign? What were you hoping to achieve?

Ladybird makes books for 0-7s, so while we’re always connecting with parents and carers as our primary audience, our content naturally quite often centres around children: they’re our end users and the next generation of readers.

This year, we wanted to do things a little differently. During 2020, we had launched an initiative called Little Big Moments which reunited young children with the loved ones they couldn’t see during lockdown, by sending pairs of matching bedtime stories to separated duos. It really struck a nerve with families and we received thousands of heartfelt nominations from grandparents, separated parents, the families of key workers, extended family members and more, telling us about their situations. This strongly compounded what we already knew: that so many parents and carers of young children had had a really tough year for all kinds of reasons – and many without access to their crucial wider support networks. In 2021, we knew we wanted to find a way for Ladybird to celebrate those incredible humans raising humans.

How did working with Sonder & Tell shape your brief and storytelling?

Sonder & Tell were vital creative partners for our Love Unfiltered series. When we approached them, we already knew that we wanted to create a celebratory photo story that captured portraits of parenthood, but we were looking for an agency with editorial expertise, to help us shape the tone of the photography and to interview the 21 families to create accompanying captions. The richness of S&T’s conversations with the featured families was incredible: full of warmth and vulnerability and joy. I spent many hours both smiling and shedding a few tears at my desk reading all of the transcripts and trying to choose which bits to feature in the final series: wonderful families, wonderfully captured.

Ashleigh, photographed by Aliyah Otchere
Huma, photographed by Aliyah Otchere

What does Love Unfiltered mean and why does it work as a title?

Love Unfiltered nods to the photography at the heart of the campaign, it enables us to encompass lots of different types of love, it has an emotive seam, and we liked the ethos of something ‘unfiltered’: real, honest, joyfully imperfect, like the 21 families’ experiences documented within. Photographer Aliyah Otchere also captured the photos on film, rather than digitally, which fit that sentiment perfectly.

What do you feel like you learned throughout the process and having read and listened to the longer transcripts from each interview?

Honestly, I feel like I’ve glimpsed 21 new outlooks on life. I’d expected to be moved, entertained and inspired by the parents’ and carers’ stories – but it was deeper than that. I realised that discussions about parenthood are innately philosophical: what do you want to pass on to the next generation? What can adults learn from young children’s perspectives? What happened in your own childhood to make you who you are today? Talking about parenthood is really talking about selfhood, and as a result this collection of stories is truly compelling.

“I realised that discussions about parenthood are innately philosophical: what do you want to pass on to the next generation? What can adults learn from young children’s perspectives? What happened in your own childhood to make you who you are today?”

Are there any other Penguin campaigns that you've worked on that are particularly memorable to you, and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to work at Penguin for nearly a decade, within the Children’s publishing house, where I’ve worked on campaigns for books and authors as varied as Malala Yousafzai, John Green, Peter Rabbit, and Peppa Pig. Gorgeous picture books right through to heart-stopping Young Adult titles via kids’ super-brands.

One highlight was leading the 50th anniversary celebrations for Eric Carle’s iconic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Among many other things, we lit up London with huge urban projections that shared messages of hope for today’s children alongside Carle’s inimitable artwork. Seeing these ginormous illustrations glimmering across the Thames was incredibly moving and befitting of such an exceptional author and artist. I also had a lot of fun working on the campaign for Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter’s The Dinosaur that Pooped series, because it’s so anarchic and mischievous and witty – and I got to say the word “poop” a lot in serious meetings!

We've asked parents this in each interview for Love Unfiltered – but who are you outside of your role at Penguin?

I’m really curious about people (AKA nosy) so love anything that lets me glimpse inside people’s minds – from spoken word poetry to reality TV. Working in Brand Marketing has been brilliant because it’s effectively made it my actual job to learn about people! By moonlight, I’m also a playwright, make noise in a DIY band, and have a fascination with anything to do with urban planning, architecture or public space – I think they’re massive vehicles for storytelling that we interact with every day.

Natasha's Storylist

Books

  1. Severance by Ling Ma
  2. How To Be Both by Ali Smith
  3. Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
  4. Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
  5. We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen

Magazines

  1. Fourteen Poems
  2. The White Review
  3. Untitled Voices

Podcasts

  1. The Royal Court Playwright's Podcast
  2. Making It With Temi Wilkey
  3. This City with Clara Amfo

Websites

  1. Climate Change Solutions Simulator
  2. WePresent
  3. Noisli
  4. Penguin.co.uk
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