Infiti makes beautiful cars, but car ads, across the world, are interchangeable, predictable and patronising. I do the odd bit of brand consultancy and regularly explain this to clients, who take it on board, then carry on peddling the same bollocks. Car ads use the same words, the same gruff male voiceover, the same angles of studio car-shots placed out in the open then re-touched to buggery.
The twin peaks of my Advertising career were car ads, made at TBWA, where Elisa Arienti and I were the creatives behind ‘Inspired Light’, and ‘Chromatic.’ With a team of talented, insanely-hardworking individuals, we were able to create something iconic, and world-reaching. Across Facebook and Youtube, Inspired Light received over 300,000 views, while Chromatic is currently at about 1.22 million.
“Inspired Performance” was our brief, and after the success of Inspired Light, we pursued a route that would fuse design, music and animation, where the cars were not simply instruments, but made up a new kind of audio-visual fabric, one that would ebb and flow into new characteristics. We wanted to achieve a collaboration that would beautifully mess with your mind. A slow, electronic acid trip that was Suitable-For-Work. And if we could apply Chromatic to a 3D projection experience, I’m pretty sure I’d implode.
Cars have made music before. Honda’s Cog, Volkswagen’s choir. it’s hard to make something listenable, but not new. Our client Francesca Ciaudano bravely took the gamble with the three opinionated ladies sitting opposite her in the conference room again, and it paid off. Two Italians, two Egyptians and an opinionated brit sat down and figured out how to make this work, and then to recruit a German and Australian to make some magic.
There’s something to be said here for the fact that beside the composer and motion-designer, the team was all female. It’s no secret in the Business world, and particularly Ad-Land, that while men are very good at talking the talk, and ‘bigging up’ their part in proceedings, women tend to get their heads down and get on with it. It’s why Sheryl Sandberg needed to write “Lean In”. It’s why you don’t get many female Creative Directors, and it’s why for the past two years I’ve been working on a book aimed at women from 16 – 25 called “Big Up Yourself” (- watch this space). It’s also why we were able to roll up our sleeves and make this happen, among ourselves, without two many cooks filling the pot with egos.
It’s rare that big brands root global projects in the creativity of this region; this ’emerging market’ that is both evolved and incredibly complex in beautifully segmented ways. Once we’d figured out how to describe what we intended to do, (and storyboarding what was essentially a moving abstract piece, reacting to sound was an absolute nightmare), we set about finding the right people for it. UAE-based producer Megadon Betamax created a dance track in his own distinct style, entirely from scratch, from the sounds of the cars of the Infiniti range. We knew he could compose it, and make it listenable. It was hard, and he was inspired in his process of collecting the sounds just as much as composing them together, but as a classically-trained musician and just as passionate as we were, he was our man.
Motion Designer Misha Shyukin, who had recently created visuals for Amon Tobin, was the perfect candidate to task with creating a hyper-responsive video to articulate this sound literally, and unpredictably. Take a glimpse at the visuals on his site and you’ll see this was a brief he eats for breakfast. His task was to route the visuals entirely on arabesque patterns of Islamic Art, in monochrome, because, you know, Chrome-atic. (See what we did there… but also – Monochrome always looks badass). The results were a feat of design that, if you pause at any point in the video, gives you a stunning composition worthy of a framed poster. And Shyukin’s skills are made even clearer in black and white.
I recently watched Chromatic in an office playing ‘Billy Jean’ simultaneously – and they worked beautifully to that too…
When we first heard the finished music our hearts were pumping. When we first saw the visuals we felt shivers.
Chromatic is one of the most precious projects I’ve ever been part of. It’s also the reason I left Advertising for Art – because if something as tangible as this; a long-running, arresting visual that now has paid-ads by other car-brands appearing before it when viewed on Youtube… that gets over a million views, not by being sponsored but by being beautiful, can barely make a ripple within the very agency that created it, or by the right applications within the awards industry, (going in for packaging design, which, I’ll admit, was done beautiful too) this was not the Industry for me. The MD never once asked about the project.
While sounding like another in the army of jaded creatives that exit agency life with a bitter taste, it’s hard to understand or feel part of an industry that rewards posters stuck up a month before award season, seen by 25 people, with an expensive video to boot, and overlooks a multi-disciplinary project that gave artists reign to make something new.
Sure I’m biased, but here in the Middle East is a forward-thinking brand, doing what other, bigger brands should be doing, doing what’s preached at awards/creative-events across the world – a CAR brand, enhancing experiences, attracting without invading, and inspiring, with the product still at the heart of it, without being an outright ad, with a story to it, and a conversation around it.
Here’s the project on Behance.
Like any Ad Creative, I work an average 11 hours a day, and at least two weekend days a month.
I calculated that this career choice, albeit in an industry of established long hours, means, in terms of average hours across the board, working two extra months of the year. It means a lot less time time doing things that allow us to be inspired or genuinely ‘creative.’
Ideas, images, copy and tasks that engage, are not a switch that can be flicked on or off. The nature of this job means I can’t turn up at work and simply type typey. Sure, there are tricks, tools, triggers, but if you’re pushing out, and pushing out, and not taking in, you’ll get stale and eventually run out of steam. The Media One Wall of Fame is the Middle East’s biggest painted-portrait project by one single painter. Me.
It’s 14 3-metre-tall, hand-painted portraits of global Dance-Music heroes; Pharrell, Frankie Knuckles, Gilles Peterson, Osunlade, Daft Punk, Jeff Mills, Jocelyn Brown, Diplo, Maya Jane Coles, Rickie Hawtin, Black Coffee and Annie Mac. Painted at night, during August in the desert, for 7 or 8 hours every weekday after work, for 5 weeks, and 30+ hours at weekends. I slept 4 or 5 hours a night, never saw my brand new fiancé, sweated, lost weight, panicked, undercharged, snapped at engineering staff. And loved it. It was all worth it.
Ultimately, the satisfaction, sense of achievement, and autonomy told me I needed to quit my day job. This was a huge piece of positive communication – what I’ve always wanted to do in Advertising too. The 11-hour-days pushing out ideas in the office were not a patch on making something happen with my own hands. As a result of the Wall of Fame, with a good friend, Clare Napper, I’m about to start up an ‘engagement agency’. It will not be TVCs, Prints or traditional advertising. It will be reaching out to, talking to and understanding individuals, groups and networks, with the universal languages of positivity, art and humour. Ultimately saying something big, bright and cool. Something interesting. Watch this space. And a few others too. We have big things planned.
With a little help, figured out how to embed Youtube videos. Here are a few animations made at Art College that now make no sense whatsoever:
We love to Boogie Featuring T rex and my friend Theresa as a dancing cricket:
Fast Face Flash: Hounding the residents of Edinburgh with a camera to the Chemical Brothers
Class Photo: The shadow of your smile.. Featuring Astrud Gilberto and some funny-looking schoolchildren
Below is a selection of published web, brochure, outdoor and press. Click on them to have a read. Concepts are in my book. Which comes with me.
You’ve always got to end with a couple of montages: CLICK ON THEM: