It was a rather gruesome animation video of the TV show Game of Thrones that led Antonia Bonello to land her dream job at BuzzFeed. The 29-year-old is now an Associate Creative Director at the company’s London office, after working her way up to the coveted position over the past five years. But how she got the job is a little unorthodox.
“BuzzFeed had commissioned me to do an animation called ‘Game of Thrones: 14 Most Brutal Deaths’ as 8-bit Gifs. It went viral and HBO, the makers of the show, contacted BuzzFeed in the US asking for my details. Our office there decided not to give HBO my number as they wanted to hire me for themselves.”
After being snapped up for her talent, Antonia – whose grandfather is from Valletta – went on to win a litany of awards for her work. Most recently, she was included in a list of 30 Young Innovators within Media and Marketing on Forbes’ European ‘30 Under 30 for 2019’. She’s also worked on content campaigns for huge names such as Google, Nike, Netflix, Sky, Amazon, Diageo and Nestlé. The modest girl from East London says it’s good old-fashioned determination that has got her to where she is today.
“- I worked hard and kept doing side projects and what I loved on top of my day-to-day jobs in retail and as a post-production runner. It was my side projects that got me noticed by BuzzFeed and started off my career. They helped me turn my hobby into my job. I love what I do, and I enjoy how much the industry of content creating has changed, even within the five years I’ve been with the company. I work with businesses who want to reach their audience in a different way and bridge the gap from traditional advertising to making that real connection.”
“For example, I worked with the dog and cat food company Purina last year. We did a series of posts and made-for-social media campaign which encouraged more workplaces to allow people to bring their dogs to work,” she continues. Google ‘Purina’ and ‘BuzzFeed’ and you’ll find more than a dozen articles written by BuzzFeed content creators which also advertise Purina. Titles include ‘11 Reasons Cats Are Actually The Perfect Companion’ and ‘10 Ways You Can Tell Your Dog Is Your Best Friend’. So, is this the future of advertising? Antonia believes so.
Her and her team worked on another campaign for the UK car insurance company Churchill, where a stuntwoman jumps from one moving car to another. Antonia got to meet with that stuntwomen, Jessica Hooker, who’s starred in films such as Justice League and Tomb Raider. Afterwards Antonia wrote about it for BuzzFeed saying: “She took me through my paces with various fight stunts and falls, building up to ‘The Leap’ challenge: a two-metre bound from one platform to the other. Of course, I wasn’t going to actually leap between two moving cars like Jessica does in the Churchill ad, I’m not that crazy (yet).This was a great experience that linked my love for movies and filmmaking, with martial arts, and my dream to one day be a stuntwoman myself.” And it’s this type of collaboration and marketing that Antonia believes works for companies that want to stay relevant and appeal to younger generations.
“Technology is changing so rapidly, and there are so many areas that I need to constantly educate myself on. You need to be aware if hashtags or memes are still a trend and what’s working between the different age groups. Older audiences tend to use Facebook, while the younger demographic mostly prefers Instagram. A few years ago, if you wanted to share something with someone on Facebook you needed to copy and paste a link to them. Now you just use the @ sign.”
Ever loyal, Antonia believes BuzzFeed is – and always has been – at the forefront of the online movement. “BuzzFeed was born on the
Internet, and it’s always been part of our DNA. We were the company to start the video food channel Tasty.co, which was the first time a format such as this was ever used, and now it’s been copied time and time again.” Antonia says BuzzFeed is also blazing another trail, with its culture of inclusivity of its staff. “We have a ‘no haters’ policy at work and we really believe in equal opportunities for everyone. Diversity is also encouraged, and the company is extremely welcoming to members of the LGBT community, including myself. It’s nice to be able to talk about my girlfriend out in the open.”
As well as her partner, Antonia’s family have been very much a part of her career. In fact, she used her grandmother as her inspiration for her university project. “The animation was inspired by me finding my gran jumping up and down trying to see herself in the mirror. She turned around and said to me: “that’s the problem with getting older, you shrink!” Antonia is also close to her Maltese grandfather, who moved to England when he was around 19 or 20. “He’s still alive but is very old now, and likes sitting on the couch and watching back-to-back programmes on TV.”
Antonia has visited his homeland of Malta twice. “The second time was when I was 26,” she says. “I came with my mum for eight or nine days and we did all the beautiful sites and scenery there is to see in Malta and Gozo. One day I’d love to have a house there, so I could enjoy all of that sunshine and great food!”
This interview was carried in the April edition of the Commercial Courier.