Deutsch Good’s Lena Khouri pairs millennial values with agency talent
By Shanee Edwards
After Lena Khouri graduated from college, she was excited to begin a career in entertainment. But after nearly two years at Creative Artists Agency, she was yearning to rely less on her thick skin and more on her creativity.
Luckily, Khouri found her dream job at Deutsch L.A., the Playa Vista-adjacent advertising agency widely known for the Volkswagen commercial that features a little boy dressed as Darth Vader, attempting to use “The Force” to start the car. But after just four months at Deutsch, Khouri discovered she had a new yearning — to use her creativity to make the world a better place.
“I knew Deutsch did some big things, like Habitat for Humanity, but I just felt there could be an initiative to bring people together within the agency because we’re kind of separated by accounts. It could also be a really cool opportunity to use our creativity to give back to the community. So I ran the idea by my mentor [former Deutsch colleague Andrew Dubois],” Khouri recalls.
Liking what he heard, Dubois suggested bringing the idea to Deutsch President Kim Getty. Armed with a PowerPoint presentation and very little advertising experience under her belt, Khouri did just that. And hit it out of
“She loved it. She partnered me with Karen Costello, who’s one of our creative execs who had a similar idea,” says Khouri. “Together, we co-founded Deutsch Good.”
For the past three years, Deutsch Good has been holding monthly events focused on giving back to the community. The entire agency votes on at least one cause (like water conservation or childhood hunger), but anyone can pitch a project they feel passionately about.
The program has been so popular, it’s expanded to the New York office.
But Deutsch’s decision to add a philanthropy arm isn’t just about the warm and fuzzy feelings that come from helping people, it’s also a smart way to attract and keep millennial talent.
Deutsch Executive VP and Director of Communications Theresa Collins says that’s a trend happening everywhere.
“Young talent in all industries want to work for purpose-driven companies. Deutsch Good is an opportunity to give them an outlet for something very important to them,” Collins explains.
So who exactly is benefitting from all this altruism? The environment, homeless youth and school children in need, just to name a few.
For Earth Day, a team of “Deutschers” donned plastic gloves and cleaned up the beach in Santa Monica.
Before that, they gave a makeover to the new the homeless youth drop-in center in Venice, operated by local nonprofit Safe Place for Youth.
“The building was very plain looking,” says Khouri, “so we made it look more alive by painting murals on four walls. We did all the planning at the agency beforehand, involving our Target team and their art directors. We also spent time talking with the homeless youth and brainstormed ideas with them.”
For Khouri, volunteering with the homeless kids was an eye-opening experience: “Sometimes I couldn’t tell who was youth just there to volunteer and who was youth that was actually homeless. It made me really think about the people walking down the street around Venice. Sometimes, you can’t tell they are homeless.”
But the experience that impacted Khouri most came when Deutsch Good wanted to help foster kids.
“Most of these kids, when they go into the foster home they just get a trash bag to put all their stuff in. We purchased duffle bags and decorated them, then we wrote handwritten notes to each recipient. The duffle bag also comes with a blanket, books and other things we put in there,” she says.
Inspired by the duffle event, many people at Deutsch revealed to Khouri that either they were adopted or that they had adopted a child. This is just one of the ways Khouri thinks Deutsch Good can bring the agency together.
And it’s not just people and the environment benefiting from Deutsch Good.
“I’m a sucker for dogs,” says Khouri, who, last December, coordinated an event called “Santa’s Good Shop.” Not only did it benefit children who needed books, there was also a canine component. “We worked with Kombucha Dog, a company that puts photos of shelter dogs on their bottle labels to encourage people to rescue a dog. They brought in a shelter partner, and they brought five dogs who needed to be adopted.”
One of the dogs had been severely abused and had grim prospects. Much to Khouri’s delight, the dog was adopted by a friend of a Deutsch employee.
Khouri says her time at Deutsch has been a tremendous growth experience.
“To go from knowing nothing about advertising to running this initiative — it’s been pretty awesome.”
A version of this story appeared in the June/July issue of Playa Vista Direct, a sister publication of The Argonaut. Explore a digital version of the publication at playavistadirect.com.