Introducing Petting Zoo, DNA’s In-house Production Studio

If you are familiar with DNA, then you probably know Gabe Hajiani, our Head of Creation and Content. Gabe is notorious for wearing shorts year-round and taking outdoor sports to an extreme – granting him the 2019 DNA superlative of ‘most likely to go to the emergency room’. All stitches and reconstructive knee surgeries aside, Gabe is most notably the creator and leader of DNA’s in-house production studio, Petting Zoo.

Responsible for some of DNA’s most celebrated work of 2019 (Rainier Beer, TacoTime NW, and BECU) Petting Zoo’s creative and collaborative approach to production has been hugely successful for DNA and our clients.

Learn more about what makes Petting Zoo different from other in-house production studios, from our interview with the man himself:

An Interview with Gabe Hajiani

Q: What is your background in the world of production and how are you tapping into your experiences in creating a new model production entity?
I learned about bringing ideas to life in architecture school. I found there is something special about taking what exists in the mind’s eye and making it real. In architecture school we used to call it frozen music. During that time I came into something that was termed design/build. Design/build, not a new idea by any means, is the notion that the architect is also the builder and the builder is the architect. They are comfortable wearing both hats simultaneously, living in that in between area of the two. In doing so they are able to maintain more creative control as well as use the construction process as a way to develop and enhance the concept.

I eventually dropped out of graduate studies at the Architectural Association of London to open my own design and fabrication business, which I ran for 10 years. During that time I was also promoting pop up parties, raves and events with this same notion of bringing concepts to life using everything as a touchpoint to enhance the concept. Funnily, this was happening at a time when the advertising industry was looking for more ways to vie for consumers time, attention and money. For me, it was a seamless transition into the grass roots, on the street interactions called “Guerilla” at that time, I think the term now is “Experiential”. I started talking to advertisers, and the idea that they would hand their idea off to someone else to execute seemed crazy to me. We don’t know if that is different or not, but that is what it is.

Q: A lot of agencies have production companies, can you explain how Petting Zoo is different?

Petting Zoo is a maker mindset and a culture of learning, a production company is a milestone. A production company often implies an entity that is separate from the creative, or strategic, entity and there is some hand off between the two. Petting Zoo is a culture and a mindset, not a company, where everyone at DNA is encouraged and expected to contribute to bringing ideas to life. This doesn’t just apply to “content” or something meant to be consumed on someone’s screen, it applies to events, concerts, online and offline touchpoints, etc. It is important to mention Petting Zoo is not separate from our agency, with its own website and brand. It also wouldn’t exist without my creative and strategic partners or our integrated relationship.

Q: What have you recently produced at Petting Zoo that is not a traditional ad?

We recently completed a product launch, for Rainier Beer, in which we hatched the new product from oversized eggs using a 5 day, 24 hour livestreamed nest, built in our office. As the stream went on we programmed live interactions with the eggs. As the days progressed fans could vote on the which live interaction they wanted next, eg. a live ballad from a local Seattle musician vs. a visit from a fishmonger.

Q: How does Petting Zoo participate in the creative process?

Petting Zoo is a maker mindset, if we can think it, we can make it. Once we understand that, it flows from there the mindset IS the process. The culture where everyone is encouraged and expected to create defines the process. That being said there are some actionable tools we like to use in our everyday process. You have to be brave, willing to take risks and not be afraid to fail. You have to bring your inner child, open, curious and wanting to have fun at your job, doing your job. You have to be committed to making the work great and to each other.

Q: What other work do you have coming out soon?

We have been working closely on the best way to bring our new agency brand to life through-out our office. So I guess the easiest way to describe it is an interactive entry sign in our lobby.

In terms of client work, we just produced a launch event for a new Taco Time NW initiative, and we in the midst of creating some really cool, funny assets from that for our client.

Q: Do you work with clients beyond the agency?

At this point we are aligned that Petting Zoo really exists as part of DNA, and integrating with or “producing” work that is not part of our process is not the idea.

To learn more about what DNA and Petting Zoo can do for you, click here.

To ask Gabe for the best reconstructive knee surgeon in Seattle, click here.

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