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.
I’m under a ‘Dragonmart’ ban. Not outright damnation, but I’m not allowed to bring home unnecessary ‘weirdshit’ from the Beijing Outpost 30 minutes out of Dubai – inflatable wrestlers, replicas of wooden ship masts, 3 metre-wide painted fans, Kites… and Mannequin heads. 2-foot bald mannequin heads with a listless, snooty look.
Dragonmart’s where I met Drusilla. Patient, calm, never interrupts, a brilliant listener (although earless). She’s not bothered about who-said-what, never lets the language barrier make anyone feel awkward, (Cantonese is her native tongue), doesn’t take Selfies, instagram her breakfast, pull ‘Ghetto Fingers’ in photos, or send me Fruitloop text messages.
Her hazel eyes are permanently aloof; all-knowing albeit bored, and she’s not ashamed of her alopecia or diminutive height. Wherever she goes, she maintains poise and immaculate repose. Sure, she still smells of the plastic factory she grew up in, and when she goes for a swim, brings half the pool home, and her eyelashes need re-gluing, but she’s loyal, constant. Unperturbed.
I can’t tell you what she means. A statement about the overly hygienic aesthetic of marketing Dubai, a plea for attention, a bald, plastic embodiment of showboating ‘eccentricity’ to others, or a toy I like taking pictures of, but she’s a muse of sorts. It’s fun to see people’s eyes widen when she comes out of the bag at a barbeque. Or the people who try to determine the point, and their friends’ willingness and outright intent to suck her face, have a photo with her and parade her around the dancefloor.
Yes, it’s silly, makes no sense, has no purpose. Particularly in Dubai. But it’s Armless fun. Meet Drusilla. She does Dubai.http://instagram.com/drusilladoesdubai