Round 1 of 8: September

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Jason Xenopoulos, Chief creative Officer, north america and CEO, NYC, VMLY&R

Deadline: September 30th 2019 at Midnight PST.

Jason is a creative entrepreneur whose media ventures have spanned all areas of the industry from film and television to music, advertising and the Internet.

Jason currently holds the position of CEO for VMY&R New York and Chief Creative Officer for North America.

In 1993 Jason graduated from New York University with an honours degree (summa cum laude) in Film and Television. 

In 1994, Jason founded VWV Interactive, which rapidly grew to be South Africa’s leading web development company. When Primedia acquired a stake in VWV Jason joined the Primedia Group where he was instrumental in driving Primedia's $150 million acquisition of Ster-Kinekor.

As co-founder and CEO of Primedia Pictures between 1997 and1998, Jason was involved in the development and production of various feature film projects including Boesman & Lena, starring Danny Glover and Angela Basset.   

From 1998 to 2000 Jason held the position of CEO at Metropolis Transactive, an Internet Media company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. At the age of 28, Jason was the youngest CEO of a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

In 2001, Jason completed his first feature film as writer-director, Promised Land, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win several international awards. In addition to his work as a feature film director, Jason has directed a host of award-winning TV commercials including one of the first brand-funded feature films ever made (Critical Assignment, 2004). Funded entirely by Guinness, Critical Assignment was selected as the Opening Night Screening at the 11th New York African Film Festival and went on to win the Jury Award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the award for Best West African Picture at the Screen National Film & TV Awards in London.

From 2004 – 2007, Jason held the position of Executive Creative Director at Y&R South Africa where he played an instrumental role in winning several major accounts.

In 2008, Jason co-founded 2.0 Media, a Branded Entertainment Agency, where he served as Chief Creative Officer until 2010. Jason ranked in the Top 5 Most Highly Awarded film directors at the 2010 Loerie Awards Festival where he won Campaign Gold and Campaign Silver awards.

In 2010, Jason co-founded NATIVE, which rapidly grew to be Africa's leading digital marketing agency and part of the VML network. Under Jason’s creative leadership, NATIVE VML has won a host of local and international awards including being named global Entertainment Agency of theYear at Cannes Lions in 2017 and twice being named the IAB’s Agency of the Year.

Jason won the All Africa Entrepreneur of the Year title at the 2015 CNBC Business Leaders Awards and Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2018 Jewish Business Achievers Awards.  

Jason regularly judges local and international award shows including Cannes Lions, and Dubai Lynx (where he served as president of the Branded Entertainment Jury in 2018).

Twitter: @jasonxenopoulos


Hypoconnectivity is like the snake in the garden of Eden.
— Ariana Huffington

My wife and I have teenage triplets, and like many modern parents we spend most of our time trying to keep them off their screens. From Minecraft and Unturned to Tikc Tokc, Instagram, and YouTube the online world is constantly reeling them back in.

I am not a psychologist but many of the symptoms I have observed in my children resemble those associated with addiction. It is confusing to be a parent in a world of ever-increasing connectivity. On the one hand, we want our children to be well-versed in the tools of our connected age. But on the other hand, we are terrified that this digital overload is playing havoc with their mental health and having a negative impact on their development. For the past 20 years society has struggled with this paradox, but it is becoming increasingly clear that excessive screen time is having an irreversible effect on our children’s brains.

We found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and more attempted suicides after 2010, versus the mid-2000s, and that increase was by far the largest in adolescents and young adults… suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages.
— Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University
Here’s the bottom line. Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.
— Melissa G. Hunt Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

You may believe these findings or you may refute them… but regardless of which camp you are in, don’t forget that the algorithms and tactics used to fixate our children have been designed with one primary purpose in mind – to generate commercial value for their creators. Being targeted in this way cannot possibly be good for our children.

Of course, parents also carry their load of responsibility in this - both in letting their kids use screens out of convenience (in restaurants, when they wake up early, etc) or in being constantly glued to email/football/Netflix themselves as the kids watch and learn.

Unfortunately, when parents try to separate kids from their screens it creates conflict. It alienates both parties and widens the already vast generation gap. Kids discount what their parents say, writing it off as old-school and comparing it to a previous generation’s fear of Rock n Roll. But screen addiction is not Rock n Roll and unless we find effective ways to remedy the situation our children’s mental health may be damaged forever. But how do you convince today’s teenagers to spend less time online when society seems determined to keep them glued to their screens?

The Brief

Use social media as a weapon against itself.

One of the few ways to reach these screen-addicted kids is through the applications and platforms that have them enslaved. The task is simple (but not easy) - use social media to make kids aware of the dangers of screen-addiction. Convince and enable them to disconnect… and inspire them to convince their friends and followers to do the same.

Connect in order to disconnect!

Find an organization(s) of your choice - for-profit or non-profit - to work with in order to spread this message.

You can use any channel, any format, any tactic - as long as it is legal!

Let’s make the beast eat itself alive!

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