Talk about sentimental

Video

Of the many times I’ve seen this ad, it’s never failed to give me the feels. Maybe I’m “just being a girl” or that I’m generally on the emotional side, but the way this ad makes me feel is sure evidence that Wrigley’s Extra Gum and Energy BBDO fabricated a purely emotional architecture to represent a brand and its product.

I think it’s safe to say that it’s not often you can view a piece of advertisement and say, “wow that was good.” For me, this was downright beautiful and I don’t even chew gum.

It’s predictable from the start: two teens fall in love, get jobs, attempt long distance, fight, and ultimately get married. Sound about right? Whether you know that rare someone with this story or you’ve read it in a book, it’s what we commonly know as the “high school sweethearts.” Since we all know life is typically far from this fairytale, while the story fails to relate on a personal level with its viewers, it’s the familiarity of the story that sits with us.

It punches you right in the gut with a love story most could only dream of (if you’re into that kind of thing). It’s disgustingly cute. To top it all off, the captivating sound of Haley Reinhart’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” pulls it all together with sentimental vibes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I would personally like to applaud Energy BBDO for this phenomenal piece of work. In continuation of the “Give Extra, get extra” campaign, the planning and creative teams pieced together, yet again, another compelling story for the world to enjoy. They seamlessly placed the insight behind the campaign at the forefront by telling a story instead of selling a product. “Sometimes the little things last the longest” – a tagline allowing each viewer to designate their own meaning, unique to themselves. What’s funny when you take 10 steps back, is that the tagline taken quite literally, refers to a simple piece of gum with long-lasting flavor – I haven’t forgotten, but maybe you have. This is precisely what I love about advertising.

Creative insights don’t happen over night. As a new student to Planning, I envision the research process behind this campaign warranted a deeper understanding of pure human emotions. Asking the basics: Why do people chew gum in the first place? Then figuring out the behaviors attached to the act of chewing gum and ultimately the emotions tied to that action. Taking seemingly simple information and attempting to present it in a truly compelling way.

It doesn’t scream advertising. What resonates isn’t even the product itself but the wrappers, the doodles, and most importantly, the final scene where each memory combines in that single notable moment of every couple’s life. That’s the punch. That’s what’s memorable. They discovered the small, the unique, the silly and used it to tell a story. It’s the little things that resonate.

What resonates with me most, is the fact that something as mundane as gum can be transformed into a compelling love story that even I will admit would be the most precious proposal ever.

My creative process…

needs serious help.

I’ve had a 30×40 blank canvas sitting at a friend’s apartment since last summer. Whenever I come over I walk into that room and it stares back at me, taunting me with its blank vacancy. If anyone is afraid of a blank page it’s me.

But “afraid” isn’t exactly the world I’m looking for. It doesn’t quite capture the conflict of emotions I face when assigned a new project that requires some level of creativity. One would think, well isn’t that supposed to be fun? It is, but it’s also stressful for someone like myself. Something I’ve discovered about myself just in the last year, is that when faced with a blank page the following happens:

EXCITEMENT! -> burst of inspiration -> brainstorming and lingering on seemingly good ideas -> blankness for days or weeks -> anxiety -> S.O.S.

During the first three stages I’m on top of the world, anticipating a challenge, equipped to creatively solve a problem, and most of all, ready to show others what I’m capable of doing. Then it just stops. Once I reach the hour when all of my ideas must be structured into some coherent, tangible form, I draw a blank and the fear settles in. It is so frustrating, mainly because I have proven to myself time and time again that what I finally output is usually something to be proud of.

So what do I do? Let it sit, especially if I have the time. I’m not admitting this because it’s a good thing. It’s something I am working on for the sake of my work and sanity. I have a few personal mechanisms I have tried this year when pursuing challenging creative tasks.

To explain these mechanisms and my general creative process, I’ll take you on my journey as a new graphic design student. This semester I was tasked with designing a logo, stationery set, brochure, website, poster, and brief promotional clip for an education consulting company. It might not seem like a lot, but for someone new to this stuff it is. I initially began doing what Twyla Tharp calls “scratching,” which is essentially seeking out ideas in any way that works best for you. I began by thinking of every word or phrase I could think of that related to this company.

Passion, learning, relationships, team-building, children, growth, etc.

From there I picked out some of my favorite words and simply googled them followed by “symbols.” I.e. educational symbols. I do this because it keeps me from looking directly at other company logos and provides breathing room to coordinate all the images I see in a way that is unique to my taste. Then it’s straight to the sketch book – pen, paper, and too many thoughts. Sketching is my favorite method because I’m still very new to Adobe programs and am therefore much slower at making ideas come alive directly on the computer. The final product never ends up being exactly what I draw out, but it sure does give me a great starting point.

Naturally, things don’t always go our way. Design can be so frustrating and terribly discouraging when nothing you do seems to look even half good. That’s when I stop. It gets exhausting looking at the same thing for hours on end. The more you stare at the screen, the harder it gets. I promise it’ll still be on the USB if you walk away. Guilty as charged, sometimes my walking away constitutes a full day or even days. If there is not time, I simply go outside. I’m not really looking for shapes or inspiration, I’m seriously just getting fresh air and resting my eyes and mind. I also just love the outdoors. Another thing I love to do, which happens to help in creative funks, is talk to people. I love getting another person’s opinion, particularly someone who is completely unrelated to the project at hand. It’s my means of getting an outsider’s perspective. I constantly remind myself that this may look totally different to someone who hasn’t looked at it all week.

The reality is, funks don’t last forever. Maybe not the best explanation, but when deadlines start creeping up, something in me clicks and I get it done. And I know I’m not settling for less because I’m annoyingly nitpicky about doing the absolute best job I can do (and then days later realizing I could’ve done something even better). But I know things won’t always click, and that is why my creative process is something I would like to add some kind of structure to. So that I always have some mechanism guiding me back to the path, helping me to be successful in future creative pursuits.

Briefly

If you’re interested in planning or are simply curious in how ideas become tangible results, you should watch this brief documentary on Vimeo.

What I loved most about this documentary is not only its short length, but that it reaches beyond creative briefs within advertising agencies. There are book illustrators, architectural designers, and creators of all kinds that are receivers of creative briefs. I didn’t actually realize briefs were applicable beyond ad agencies.

The creative brief has a number of important duties, the most important of which is inspiring the people who have been tasked with solving the problem. A brief should be a thought-starter. It should be concise and constrained to a particular fixed medium, while simultaneously providing breathing space for Creatives. “A brief has to leave a lot of room. You have to be given a lot of runway, a lot of runway so you can take off,” President at GX John C Jay explained. This truly highlights the role of the brief as something that will continue to change as time goes on. The more brainstorming that is done and the more conversations that are had, the more the brief will transform. The reality is, creative briefs are meant to be challenged and changed.

I was particularly intrigued by Illustrator Maira Kalman’s take on the creative brief as something that has somewhat of a dual identity. “The nice thing about the brief in my world is that it’s both extremely pragmatic and concrete […] and then the brief is fantastically elusive and completely romantic,” she said. It is both a limitation and an invitation.

One thing that stuck with me from this documentary is that the term “Creative Brief” is in a sense contradictory of what a brief truly is. A brief is the establishment of a relationship between creators and clients, and this relationship is one that is intended to be far from brief. Relationships build trust and confidence, which in turn gets things going the right direction. Briefs don’t serve the purpose of ordering Creatives what to do and how to do it. Rather, they explore where clients want to go, what they dream of, and what their vision is – that goes much deeper than a request for an ad. “We say no to clients that come to us wanting a campaign. We say yes to the ones that are really great, have exciting problems and opportunities, and want a long term relationship,” CEO of 72andSunny John Boiler said. No matter how much this concept of building relationships is drilled into my head, I will always believe it makes the process that much more enjoyable, meaningful, and efficient.

On a final note, I learned a great deal from the discussion on the role of truth. Not every creative brief hits a home run on solving the problem. As Jay explained, if it’s not true then just stop. “You always have to be protected by truth. You’re naked without the truth; there’s nothing left. Cut the marketing bullshit and get to the truth, and then we can go from there,” he said. A brief forces you to question everything and to ask why you are being asked to do anything at all. “It starts with why and it just keeps why-ing the hell out of you endlessly,” Frank Gehry, founder of Gehry Partner said. It requires a deeper understanding of how people live with their products and what role culture has in the life of the consumer. It’s “letting the process of being alive inform what I’m going to do,” Kalman noted.

So with all of this in mind… I will proceed to make my first creative brief for a project next Monday. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

I watched a documentary last night

Popular criticism aside, I would like to make commentary on Banksy’s documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” I aim less to discuss my personal opinion, but to rather give insight on what I took from the piece as a story.

Simply put, the infamous, British street artist Banksy tells a story about
Thierry Guetta – a film-obsessed, French shopkeeper based in Los Angeles. It is this story, and the means by which is has been told through documentary, that I am most banksyinterested in. When we think about stories, we envision a beginning, middle, and end. We expect to be introduced to a character with a problem that leads to some climatic incident and ultimately concludes with some resolution. That is what we anticipate, therefore, that is what we must get. If you want to get really nitpicky, a good story typically consists of a theme, plot, setting, characters, an inciting incident, and a resolution. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a story. Not told quite as smoothly as a Disney fairytale, but a story nonetheless.

The theme of the piece was apparent in the first 60 seconds, opening with poor-quality home videos of various street artists adventuring through the city’s night, sirens blaring in the background. The blatantly contradictory choice of joyful introductory music was most memorable of all, setting a tone of rebellious bliss.

Maybe it’s that I’ve long been fascinated by the works of Banksy, or that I’m simply intrigued by the very idea of this mysterious character, but I was personally drawn in when first introduced to who we all as viewers can only hope is Banksy himself. You don’t know what to expect because you’ve never seen the guy. Only his art, only his mark. All that we know from this documentary is that Banksy is a hooded man clothed in black, with only the remnants of paint stains on his knees and a device obscuring his voice. It is simply intoxicating.

We are then introduced to the main character, Thierry Guetta, and quite the quirky guy at that. The story takes on a ride through Guetta’s experience filming major street artists, including Shepard Fairey, Invader, and Banksy himself. “It was like a big adventure every night […] I’m a ghost when I’m with them,” Guetta said in describing the rush of danger and fear. Let’s not forget street art isn’t exactly acceptable. It’s risky and often seen as untruly vandalism, and this story depicts it as a provacative rush. Frankly, I find that kind of cool.

Unlike other stories, I found that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” featured a few scenarios I would deem inciting incidents. One of which was when Guetta finally got to meet Banksy and convinced himmbw to be filmed. The shooting of this component was highly dramatic, and not in a bad way. For, as we all know, Banksy is basically the impossible man – untouchable and unstoppable – and Guetta had the privilege to be graced with his presence. The pacing of Guetta’s knees and anxiety in his voice during interviews about his quest to reach Banksy depict how important this was to him. The reenactment of receiving a phone call from Shepard Fairey saying Banksy wished to meet him, was truly telling of Guetta’s character. His excitement came through in his interview describing his voracious drive to meet Banksy, which was paired with scenes of the sky racing by accompanied by the growl of a car. It’s a simple method, no doubt, but one that had me smiling.

Then there was the twist in the plot that began with Banksy encouraging Guetta to make a documentary with his piles of unused films. Long story short, it sucked. “I’m playing chess. I don’t know how to play chess, but life is a thierrychess game for me,” Guetta explained in response to the making of his documentary. By taking a little piece here and there, like reaching into a hat full of numbers, Guetta finished “Life Remote Control.” Quickly realizing Guetta was far from a decent filmmaker, Banksy described it as 90 minutes of unwatchable material and suggested he set down the camera and take part in street art instead for a while. Guetta was now the subject of the film, and BOY did this twist surprise me. It almost frustrated me that someone who was not previously a street artist had the power to come out on top by hiring talented individuals to basically make his ideas tangible. I am not sure if Guetta, AKA Mr. Brainwash, did any of his own work at all, but I rest my opinion.

Well actually, I don’t rest my opinion. I think the frustration and annoyance I felt from this twist in the plot is exactly what was intended. There was something “off” about the way Banksy, Shepard, and other street artists spoke about Mr. Brainwash’s “accomplishments,” if you can call them that. I expected them to irritated. I expected Banksy to be furious that he blatantly used his quote for publicity. I expected someone, anyone, to speak out and to feel as passionately annoyed as I, but I got nothing. There was definitely a sense of “what the heck is going on, who is this guy” but generally nothing more than that. It was strange and it left me wanting more.

To save you and myself an endless rant, my final comment on “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is this: All in all, Banksy did a wonderful job telling the story of a film-obsessed man transformed into a street artist practically over night. He also did a beautiful job of simultaneously depicting the secret, risky nature of street art and the level of passion it takes to pursue an artistic career such as this. I was drawn in on many levels from the abrupt nature of the plot twist, to the dramatic reenactments, to the street video footage. I think a number of individuals’ stories were told in this piece.

 

 

Images:
Paranoid Pictures – Featured on New York Times
http://www.zekefilm.org/?p=4967
http://junkee.com/an-interview-with-mr-brainwash-the-guy-from-that-banksy-documentary/34130

Facts vs. Insights

635897709823275209-2005559702_right-brain-left-brain-ss-1920When defining facts and insights, I find myself in a gray area where each term seems to coincide. To best make sense of this gray area, my immediate thoughts bring forth an image of the left and right hemispheres of the brain; the creative, visual-referencing right brain and the logical, organizational left brain. Of course this is merely a metaphor for thinking about facts and insights, for they do, in fact, involve both sides of the brain.

Facts are like the left side of the brain. In its simplest definition, a fact is something that is observable and indisputably known to be true as evidenced by research and study.

Insights, on the other hand, are a bit more complex, which is why I envision its processes occurring in the right side of the brain. Julia Vanderput, a strategist at Newfangled, I feel beautifully defined insights: insights illuminate what is assumed to be true. This word ‘illuminate’ has really stuck with me. Insights transform dry facts into profound truths. They illuminate the ‘why’ behind decisions and behaviors and make sense of what people say and what they actually do. Insights are new ways of looking at some of the most ordinary things. They make someone say, “I never thought of it that way before.”

So now you’re thinking, Ana, you clarified the difference so what is this gray area you speak of? If facts and insights were in a relationship, it would be a codependent one. Facts need insights and insights need facts. The foundation of an insight comprises a series of facts; the insight’s job is to make sense of those facts in a sensible, compelling way. Without facts, insights have no job. Without insights, facts are, well, facts.

Take the Got Milk? campaign for instance. The facts to consider are that milk is a commonly purchased grocery item and that people typically drink milk with other food items. The insight was that people tend to not have milk when they need it most. Thus, Got Milk?

Fact, fact, INSIGHT!

Why does any of this matter? As planners (though I’m not a planner.. yet), we have to understand the basis of the difference between facts and insights if we hope to ever reach a thought-provoking insight that could change the entire face of a brand. I would suggest taking a moment every day to thank your left and right brains for providing you the tools to produce new and illustrious insights.

 

Images:

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
Left and Right Brain – Lily D’Anieri

A calling

I’ve had two blogs my entire life: one of which I can only hope no one ever finds and the one you’re viewing now. I’ve always thought of a blog as a safe place to express your inner most feelings through a plethora of symbolic images, inspiring quotes, and momentous rants. Blogs are like a public diary, which in my opinion defeats the entire purpose of a diary. Yet, I keep up with my personal blog at least weekly because it is my catharsis.

I am now a senior Media and Journalism student at the Tar Heel capital, UNC-Chapel Hill, and have been assigned the task of creating a blog. Upon being informed of this assignment, I could only think – man, how can I possibly make an interesting blog comprised of my own personal writing when all I’m used to is re-blogging intriguing photos and ranting unprofessionally?

This assignment was given to me on the first day of my last semester of my college career. I have purposefully chosen not to start it until now – February 24, 2016 – on a day I’m trapped in my room under a tornado watch until late this evening. This decision was not made out of pure laziness or the typical assumption that all college students procrastinate (and we all do at some point). Rather, I wanted to learn, to read, and to figure out what this class and what this assignment is all about.

I am in an Advertising Account Planning class, but our professor came up with an exceptionally more appealing course name: Creativity in Strategy. I assumed I signed up to learn how to administer focus groups, ethnographies, and the like. To my complete and utter surprise, I signed up for a class with an incredible adjunct professor who is teaching me how to do exactly what I want to do in life.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but for someone like myself who has struggled the past four years trying to figure out how I possibly fit in the complex advertising industry, and how I can somehow incorporate my second major in anthropology, this was a calling.

I like to tell myself I’m extroverted, yet I find it terrifying to stand in front of a room of people to present anything. It’s like my mind and body are two entirely separate beings – my mouth is saying things that aren’t even present in my mind. I like to tell myself I’m creative, yet I always seem to think I have such brilliant ideas and none of them are executed in exceptional ways. And then I discovered the world of Account Planning.

Our first assignment was a short and totally quirky book by Chris Kocek, The Practical Pocket Guide to Account Planning. And that was all I needed. This job position, this life style, presents the happy medium I have been seeking between the world of humans and compelling advertisements that intrigue them. Between having to interact with intimidating people and getting to work behind the scenes.

All of that being said, I hope you enjoy my blog that has encouraged me to live in color – to see the world and the people in it in ways never before.