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Salman Sajun is the Founder and Executive Creative Producer at SSS, a production studio specializing in design-driven animation. With over a decade of experience, Salman has worked with top brands like Oreo, Barbie, Pepsi, and Lego, creating compelling visual narratives that captivate audiences. He transitioned from a background in economics, anthropology, and history to pursue his passion in the creative industry, demonstrating a unique blend of problem-solving skills and artistic vision. Salman’s journey includes notable work at Mattel and a commitment to fostering a collaborative and respectful company culture at SSS.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [0:22] Salman Sajun shares his entrepreneurial journey from economics to becoming a design animation whiz
  • [3:37] SSS’s unique process for creating attention-grabbing animation for top-tier clients 
  • [7:38] The significance and dynamics of partnerships in the creative production world 
  • [13:09] Salman explains how SSS tackles complex and labor-intensive design projects
  • [16:07] The intricate artisanship involved in SSS’s stop-motion work for government and commercial clients 
  • [19:07] How to keep a creative team motivated amidst high-pressure projects
  • [22:38] The strategy behind staffing up for large-scale animation series and managing vendor relationships
  • [25:29] Reasons Salman left a successful corporate job and started his own agency
  • [33:40] The valuable lessons Salman brought from Mattel to shape the culture at SSS

In this episode…

Imagine establishing a realm where every commercial exudes exquisite design, meticulous craftsmanship, and abundant creativity. What is required to generate visuals that captivate audiences and endure in their memory long after the screen fades to black? Moreover, to what extent can corporate culture directly influence the attainment of such remarkable standards of excellence?

Salman Sajun, an experienced professional in the creative space, delves into the secrets of excelling in the creative industry or entrepreneurship in general. He shares his evolution from working on the corporate side at Mattel to spearheading his creative hub specializing in unforgettable design animation. Additionally, he uncovers how the company works, the process behind its most intricate projects, and his dedication to cultivating a culture that allows creativity and respect to flourish. Salman also provides an insightful look into how SSS has become a melting pot of talent, with each member bringing a unique contribution to the table, ultimately solidifying the company’s reputation for delivering top-notch content.

In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Salman Sajun, Founder and Executive Creative Producer at SSS, about design-driven animation. Salman shares how SSS handles diverse and complex advertising projects that span from whimsical stop-motions to sophisticated 3D visualizations, how to motivate a creative team amidst high-pressure projects, and staffing strategies that foster client relationships.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable moments:

  • “We live and breathe design-driven animation; it’s what we do to make visuals pop off the screen.”
  • “Our mission is to eliminate all sorts of bad design out there.”
  • “Surround yourself with the right people who challenge you and allow you to grow.”
  • “Stepping back and allowing other voices to be heard has been a game changer.”
  • “Leaving a stable job to pursue a creative agency may be risky, but it has to be done if you seek greater fulfillment.”

Action Steps:

  1. Cultivate a productive company culture rooted in respect and collaboration: This ensures employees are motivated and have a safe environment to contribute their best work.
  2. Implement a “sips” program to vet potential vendors or project talent: It allows for quality and synergy checks before undertaking larger commitments, reducing risk and promoting excellence.
  3. Encourage creative teams to pursue self-driven projects for skill development: It fosters growth and innovation while preparing teams for client work, reflecting SSS’s approach to maintaining creative excellence.
  4. Proactively address signs of staff burnout with open communication and support: Salman’s attention to team dynamics points to the importance of mental well-being for sustained productivity and creativity.
  5. Make calculated decisions when scaling project teams; prioritize expertise oversize: Salman’s practice of scaling based on expertise ensures efficient resource allocation, timely delivery, and high-quality output.

Sponsor for this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr Jeremy Weisz here, founder of, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today, is no different. I have Sal from SSS, you can check them out at Sal, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes of the podcast people should check out. This one was a really good one with Tom Kalinske, who was CEO of Mattel. He’s been CEO of Mattel, Sega and Leapfrog, and Sal actually had a lot of learnings and experience at Mattel, and also they’re a client of SSS, so we’ll talk about that. Also since this is part of the top agency series, I had Adi Klevit on. Adi Klevit has an interesting niche. Sal, she helps companies.

They’re an easy button for a company to produce, SOPs, standard operating procedures. So she’ll go in if they want to smooth out their client onboarding, their staff onboarding, or any part of their operations. They call her and her team, and they come in and they start to document processes so everyone can follow that and smooth out operations. Todd Taskey was a good one. He’s got the Second Bite Podcast. He pairs private equity with agencies. So he helps sells agencies actually, and he finds sometimes they sell more on the second bite than they do on the first. So if they sell to the private equity, they roll some equity in, and that private equity sells again, they sometimes make more off of that. So it’s really interesting to check that episode out with Todd Taskey.

That and many more on This episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream relationships. And how do we do that? We do that by helping you run your podcast. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do the strategy, the accountability in the full execution. So we call ourselves kind of the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for the host and the company so they can create amazing content, develop amazing relationships, and, most importantly, run their business. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. I found no better way, over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if questions go to to learn more.

I am excited to introduce Salman Sajun. He’s Founder and Executive Creative Producer at SSS. Sal lives and breathes design and design-driven animation. It’s amazing what they’ve done. I’ll pull it up on the screen. The work that goes behind some of these things is incredible, and they show some behind-the-scenes videos of this. But his team and roster of specialized creatives are a force to be reckoned with as they what they like to do is kind of cook up fresh, bold visuals that turn heads and grab attention. Over the past decade, they’ve worked with projects on Oreo, Barbie, Pepsi, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lego and many, many more. Sal, thanks for joining me.

Salman Sajun 3:37 

Thanks so much for having me. Jeremy, that was an awesome intro. I should have you around all this time.

Jeremy Weisz 3:42 

I’m just gonna be your wing person. Talk about SSS and what you do. And if you’re listening to the audio, there is a video and some amazing design. So I encourage you to check out the video as well. So sell talk about what you guys do over there.

Salman Sajun 4:02 

Absolutely. So we’re a production studio, and like you mentioned, we live and breathe design-driven animation, and that’s really our core so taking on majority commercial projects. So we take on stuff for advertisement across the board, be it web TV, theater, static, moving, and everything in between. And our big thing is solving those problems for our client, ensuring that we’re putting our best foot forward in breathing as much life and pushing those visuals so that they pop off the screen. People want to know more, and they’re not just created to look pretty, but they have an impactful message. And people want to keep coming back to see more.

Our goal and our vision is to ensure that everything we touch has a certain standard, and we kind of continue to keep pushing that. And eventually want to eliminate all sorts of bad design that’s out there, all sorts of, we feel that everyone watching ads or commercials across the world should be watching it at a high level. They should be seeing things that are good and sound in design. And that’s kind of our mission as we as we see stuff, we roll up our sleeves, put on those white gloves, and get very meticulous in creating some amazing content that we are proud to show.

Jeremy Weisz 5:32 

We’ll talk about why and how you started the agency. I know you were working at Mattel, but before we do, one of my favorites of your works is this what we’re looking at here, which is Lipton Kombucha. I love kombucha. I thought you captured the essence of what people think kombucha drinkers should be like, I think, perfectly in some of these videos. So I love to hear your process of coming up with this. And I encourage people to check out. If you go to, and you go to their projects, you can find this under there, Lipton kombucha, talk about your process for coming up with some of these, the storylines and animations and videos.

Salman Sajun 6:22 

Absolutely. So I just want to let you know the way that we work. So we have a roster of directors. This one is directed by drop bear. He’s down under in Australia. In fact, we had him here in Montreal not too long ago for a commercial we were shooting for Dare Veggie Chris, however, we represent a bunch of directors. So this one is by dropper, and so this was one of his creations. Since we’re representing him, we showcase his work as well. So I won’t be able to talk as much on this one, because this wasn’t produced at by SSS. This was more done by drop bear with his team down there. So we can talk more about.

Jeremy Weisz 7:01 

Well talk about collaborations for a second there, because partnerships and collaborations are obviously really important to you and the company. By the way, tie dye not needed. I think it’s hilarious with this one. And this one, I think, is something like goat yoga. This is let’s see, yeah, goat yoga not necessary if you want to drink kombucha, although I have done goat yoga before, but, oh yeah. But talk about partnerships and collaborations, and how you think about them.

Salman Sajun 7:38 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that a lot of it is about ensuring that we’re finding and teaming up with people who have a similar mindset, like I was talking about earlier, right? Pushing that design-driven, pushing, the problem solving, pushing and putting the project in the upfront, throwing egos out the door, and everything kind of sits and stays at making that project the best. Finding other people in the network who think the same way is, is who we’re always on the search for, always, I’m always on the search for and hunt for. And when we find those sort of collaborators, then it’s a lot about, you know, letting their voice be heard, giving them the space and time to kind of do what they need to do.

So we’re constantly looking and when I’m talking about internally, is building our team out, or getting all set and all crewed up for a certain job, that’s kind of our big thing. And then when it comes to clients as well. It’s sort of similar that collaboration and that partnership that we’re looking for from them is for them to be able to trust us and know that we have their best intentions at heart, and we’re pushing to make that project a success. We know that they’re the experts in the field in terms of for their product, but they come to us as the experts in our field, and with that mutual respect, really pushing to kind of make things awesome.

So once we’re constantly, it’s always push and pull, it’s always collaboration. It’s always compromise in some places. But we’re constantly looking for that synergy, to give each other that space to push and grow. And I think my big thing that I’ve learned over the last, even I want to say it’s really set in over the last few years, like, maybe since the last two, three years, is just stepping back and allowing other voices to really be heard. I think for the first 5, 7, 8, years of my career, it was very much, no, it’s got to be this way. And it makes sense to me. It’s clear in my mind, and we’ve got to kind of bull through this, and it works, and it did work, and I found that there was just not as much space left for other really smart people, much smarter than me to be able to come in and add to the whole thing.

So that’s also one of the reasons why SSS has kind of evolved to starting to represent people like dropper, who’s a force to be reckoned with, even like we have Mariana Favier. We have, more and more recently, we’ve got the rocket, Panda and Mammoth and a few other studios, and creatives who kind of come on we collaborate with is by giving them that space to attach them to the right client and be like, run with it. Like, go because it ends up kind of with results that always amaze me and always kind of amaze the client as well, because everyone is kind of pushing towards that same goal.

Jeremy Weisz 7:38 

Talk a little bit, when you say, represent what that means for you with the collaboration or partnership with the other company?

Salman Sajun 10:42 

Are you talking about for our directors, the way we work with our directors, as we represent them. So, I mean, this has kind of been an industry norm for some time now. So agencies like SSS, we have a roster of directors who work with us, and a lot of them, we work with them on certain jobs in certain regions, and what that means is that we’re constantly on the hunt to find work that their creative style matches to. So out there in the world, there’s clients out there that need a certain sort of treatment for a certain type of job.

There’s a ad agencies out there that are looking for a certain treatment for a certain sort of concepts that they’ve already kind of cooked up. And to execute that treatment, we have these directors and artists who are really honed in on their style, and what they do really well is, maybe it’s like a 2d thing or a 3d thing, like they’re specialized in kind of what they do and how they do it. So initially we SSS started off with doing a lot of design-driven tactile in-camera tricks and in-camera treatment for things. And then that kind of grew to being like we had to go do more digital stuff. And as we were doing more of this, we were kind of growing, but we realized that we aren’t specialized enough in them, so we need to bring on people who are really good at doing that one thing.

And as such, we kind of grew into kind of finding the right directors who are really, really good at owning that creative and then we help assemble a solid team for each one of them as we go into that project, so we represent them in that way that we take that we have their work, we work with them, and we’re constantly, kind of finding the right leads to attach to the right creatives.

Jeremy Weisz 12:49 

You know, one example of this Sal is Dick’s Sporting Goods, right? Talk about what you did with that. I’ll pull it up here because, I watched this video, but you can see behind the scenes, there’s just so much that you’re kind of orchestrating to make this happen.

Salman Sajun 13:09 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and talking about collaborations, this was also with, we had another partner with this as well, in the US, called Aggressive, so we worked with them on this. But our director, Heston was the one who directed this. He’s on our roster, and it was such a fun project, because…

Jeremy Weisz 13:28 

Fun is one way to put it. I mean, looking at the way you set up this ping pong, yeah, I wouldn’t call it fun. I call it intense. I don’t know what word I would use, but this is a serious system that you’ve set up.

Salman Sajun 13:45 

Yeah, no. Again, it was hats off to our animation team and our rigging team. We had a number of creators on this. Jeremy we had to take on 42 six-second spots or six-second commercials, 42 of them in a span of six weeks. So intense is the right word. I mean, I think that echoed throughout the whole thing. And we had, we had, we had a brilliant team who kind of was extremely switched on and knew exactly what to do, how to do it, and how to figure out the entire logistics around this. Funnily enough, this was one of those projects that happened in the heart of Covid, I believe it was 2021 so Covid was a thing, but all those restrictions kind of still stayed.

And Dix being a US brand, and us being in Montreal, there was a lot of sort of navigating between the borders and trying to figure out how to move a lot of sporting equipment, which was tough to get at the time. I mean, luckily, said a lot of it, so it was challenging, but I think it was one of those projects where you really get to see the breadth of the team and how everyone is just there, problem-solving, figuring out how to get every little detail done. This entire project, this one, was scoped to be done all in stop motion. So what stop motion is, is moving individual taking pictures and moving the objects and moving the things in one frame at a time, and then stitching it together to create a video.

So 42 of these in stop motion meant many different animators, many different stages to be set up, and lots and lots of hours spent manipulating props and making it look like everything is just coming to life on its own. Yeah, it’s honestly, I know you were saying intense. It seems intimidating, but this is what kind of gets myself, and I’m proud to be saying our team really excited and alive to wake up and come to work in the morning, because it’s solving these.

Jeremy Weisz 15:53 

I’d be like, forget it. There’s no way. I was watching these like you actually handcraft these, I don’t know what you call these figures…

Salman Sajun 16:07 

Little puppets. It’s crazy. Yeah. This was also a really fun project. This was done for like, I guess, the government insurance board in Ontario. This was a really fun one. I think we did about four of these initially, then we did sequel to it, and we did four more. We did five initially, and then they did really well. And the agency came back for more, so we did four more of them. But yeah, every little detail in here was handmade. We had a bunch of sculptors and the production design of it. So what you see is what you get like that there was nothing in this one that was done in post-production or CG, and it was fun because everything was scaled down, and everything needed to be made to kind of get a look and feel.

I mean, I’m like, this was back in 2019 but remember, for this one too, we built a bunch of personas and created some rules, and our art team came up with this thing where there was, for each one of these mannequins, they were talking about getting injured at work, summer and everyone’s going to be going back, going to work. And you know, kids from high school and universities are going to be doing these jobs, and it’s about being safe while doing these summer jobs. And so for each one of these personas, we’re like, we want to create one of the items.

Not just paint on these wooden mannequins, but if you can see down there that little guy with his hand on his head, he’s got a little camera that’s sticking out, or the girl with a knife in her head has as a backpack that’s sticking out, and just like that, we wanted to, kind of the rule was that there needed to be a couple of 3d items to help build, sort of a design language for each one of these mannequins, so that we were grounding ourselves in a lot of that pre-production, so that this had longevity. And it came back for a season two, and I believe a season three as well. So yeah, it was really fun. Very meticulous, lots of detail, lots of kind of honing in on stuff.

And I think you see down there, that’s one of the designers who basically made everything from like by hand, from scratch, and used a bunch of 3d and laser cutters and 3d printers and stuff. And yeah, it’s and then all animated by our animators. And you see Anna down there. She’s worked with us a whole bunch in the past, fantastic animator, and ensuring that everything kind of works and moves the right way. But yeah, it was a great series and bunch comedy fused into it?

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