Martin Agency wins Emmy for documentary on Cuban missile crisis

By Randy Hallman | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Martin Agency has added a new award to its trophy case — an Emmy.

The Richmond agency won the award with an in-depth, interactive documentary – created for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum – about the Cuban missile crisis that had the U.S. and the Soviet Union on the brink of armed conflict in 1962.

The news and documentary Emmys were handed out Tuesday night at the Lincoln Center in New York. The Martin Agency’s “Clouds Over Cuba” won in the “New Approaches: Documentaries” category, besting entries from the New York Times, CNN, the University of North Carolina and the Memphis, Tenn., Commercial Appeal.

The two-hour documentary was several months in the making for Martin — the agency of record for the JFK Library — and production partners based in Los Angeles and Stockholm, Sweden.

With vintage film and audio tapes, the documentary lets users relive the events of October 1962. Taped telephone conversations between President Kennedy and former presidents Eisenhower and Truman are among the audio components.

The documentary also takes an unorthodox turn for its genre, asking “what if” and — after conferring with historians — exploring the possibilities of a world in which diplomacy had failed and the two superpowers had attacked each other.

Images of a devastated U.S. city, a warship damaged and run aground, scarred land where a neighborhood had stood —– underscore the gravity of the standoff.

Martin Creative Director Joe Alexander, along with Brian Williams and Wade Alger, led the agency team.

“We kind of re-invented the documentary for this piece,” Alexander said Wednesday.

The documentary can be downloaded onto a mobile device and taken in at the user’s pace.

“You can experience it on your phone as if you are on JFK’s staff,” Alexander said. “You can listen to him talking to Ike and Truman. You’re getting updates as the crisis unfolds in 13 days.”

The documentary includes present-day interviews with people who were there in 1962, including Sergei Khrushchev, son of then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

“It’s fascinating, really provocative, to listen to him and see that time from the point of view of his father,” Alexander said.

He said the project includes analysis from historians and authors who have studied the crisis for decades.

The often-honored agency had not won an Emmy before, and Alexander said that winning one of the 42 categories in competition with the nation’s great news organizations was a humbling experience.

“When they called our name,” he said, “I was thinking, ‘We don’t belong on the stage with you guys.’ These are great, courageous journalists, risking their lives to do their jobs.”

“Clouds Over Cuba” has reeled in many awards, including 11 Cannes International Film Festival Lions and a host of ad-industry honors.

The Martin Agency — part of the Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. – has been the JFK Library’s agency for 19 years. Previous work for the library includes the award-winning documentary “We Choose the Moon,” about the U.S. moon mission initiated by President Kennedy.

Alexander said the “Clouds Over Cuba” project continues the agency’s mission “to extend and preserve JFK’s legacy through technology, especially the convergence of digital, mobile and film. The lessons we learned … will pay dividends for our clients and our agency for years to come.”

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used by permission.