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creative report

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Exploring trends in advertising creative and how it’s being redefined by new technology and ad platforms

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here’s likely never been a more exciting— or daunting—time to be in the advertising business. With an ever-expanding number of media outlets for telling great stories, there’s greater potential to engage and entertain consumers— but also greater challenges. Technology is driving innovation in creative and the way it’s distributed. Where once there were just a few examples of progressive creative thinking, today marketers large and small are embracing outlets like YouTube, mobile phones, iPods and video-on-demand to get their brand messages to consumers who are just as likely to be checking their e-mail as watching American Idol—or doing both at the same time. On the recently aired Super Bowl telecast, for instance, major brands including Alka-Seltzer, Chevrolet, Frito-Lay and the NFL embraced consumergenerated content, airing spots crafted by amateur brand ambassadors. Budweiser launched bud.tv, Rick Boyko Managing Director an online TV network featurVCU Adcenter ing comedy, sports and reality programming, after the Super Bowl. OfficeMax last year unveiled Schooled, a reality series that aired on ABC Family, and Unilever’s Axe produced Gamekillers, a reality special that served to launch the deodorant brand’s ad campaign. “You are no longer confined to a page or thirty seconds,” says Rick Boyko, managing director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Adcenter, in Richmond, Va. “An idea can be taken to so many different places… [It] intersects with a consumer in a new way, making it something culturally relevant because the consumer finds it involving, and they are spreading it. It’s much more interesting than doing
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a traditional spot that’s forced upon a consumer.” Today’s aspiring creatives need a skill set that includes a thorough understanding of existing media as well as openness to what’s on the Norm Grey horizon. “If a person isn’t Executive Creative Director aware of all the latest and Creative Circus future media – including viral, guerrilla, ambient media, buzz, etc.—then he/she is not up to speed,” says Norm Grey, executive creative director at Atlanta-based Creative Circus, a school of communications. “By future, I mean even inventing new ways and places for ‘ads’ to be seen that the agencies he/she is Cover Image: Shutterstock, Inc. interviewing with haven’t thought of—yet. Ads today are not necessarily meant to be seen on paper or a screen of any kind.” Barbara Riehl “In every class, the Robert Kuwada students are taught Project Directors and encouraged to Anne Torpey think beyond traditional Creative Services Director media,” adds Grey. “Magazines and TV are Ehren Seeland Dena Vorzman not going away, but Art Directors they are changing. Our kids have to be aware Dan McNamee Account Manager of the changes. At the same time, the best and least expensive Wright Ferguson, Jr. Executive Vice President/Sales advertising is, and has always been, word of mouth—buzz, public relations, direct, instant
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sale, one-on-one, relationship marketing, ambient media, promotions, co-op. Admittedly, they’re all buzzwords. But however the student addresses and employs them in his/her samples, they’ve got to show they know about them and are confident about using these tactics, and even creating whole new categories.” To make something relevant to a consumer, so that it becomes viral, gets tons of hits on YouTube, and becomes a part of the pop-culture fabric, there must be a solid idea behind the content. “I think the most important skill, not only for creatives but anybody in the business, including Alex Lankston General Manager/Technical Director the brand management Pacific Digital Image side, is the understanding of ideas,” says Boyko. “We talk about all the different media, but in the end it really comes down to having a good idea, and that’s what we really push. A good idea is always going to be integral to any important communication or brand message. ”

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As more eyes move online “ for video content, rich media becomes even more crucial for effectively capturing and holding an audience’s attention.”

stock imagery. “We’re constantly researching new techniques and mediums, and providing real solutions to emerging technologies.” Existing and emerging technologies abound and are easier than ever for creatives to use. “Widespread adoption of broadband and ease of Christopher Saridakis implementation have CEO PointRoll established online video advertising as a key brand vehicle,” says Christopher Saridakis, CEO of PointRoll, which creates rich-media technology solutions that go beyond the limitations of existing advertising options. The company works with agencies like Moxie Interactive, The Martin Agency and Avenue A/Razorfish. “As more eyes move online for video content, rich media becomes even more crucial for effectively capturing and holding an audience’s attention.” Saridakis also notes that measurement of online advertising is increasingly in demand. “Robust campaign measurement is also in greater demand than ever before,” he asserts. “From interaction rate and time spent with brand to total conversions, video completion rates and site events that measure Web site traffic tied to the ad units, [we are able to] dramatically enhance measurement capability to effectively and succinctly track ROI.”

Cultural Context Is Key to Content
In many ways, advertising has shifted, now inviting consumers to sample brands. To that end, content must resonate and stimulate a real desire for participation. “I think it is becoming vital to have content that has context to culture, not only inspired by culture,” relates Jacqueline Bosnjak of Idealogue, New York, a new media entertainment agency she cofounded with Mark Beukes. “The market has evolved and is extremely media-savvy. [Consumers] recognize the original and seek out the authentic.” Idealogue last year created
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—Saridakis

As the ad landscape changes and grows to encompass new mediums and ways of thinking, adaptability will be key. “Flexibility and innovation are key,” says Alex Lankston, general manager/technical director at Pacific Digital Image, San Francisco, a pre-press trade shop that has worked with agencies TBWA/Chiat/Day, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and McCann Erickson, and dabbles in Web design and
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a series of podcasts for adidas’ adicolor shoes. The agency worked with top directors and production companies, giving the directors total creative freedom to direct a short film, with only one requirement: that a specific color be the theme of each film. The podcasts were made available on iTunes, Google Video and YouTube. “Advertising is a different world right now,” agrees Loretta Jeneski, executive producer of Nonfiction Spots, Santa Monica, whose director, Academy Award winner Jessica Yu, recently directed a series of spots and webisodes for Arnold, New York, chronicling people’s efforts to quit smoking with Commit Lozenges. “It’s very much a new frontier. While traditional spots and their TV placement aren’t going away, what we’re seeing is a major move towards authentic This Webisode for Commit Lozenges, chronicling one woman's effort content. Clients are no longer happy with an to quit smoking, exemplifies the move to authentic content. approximation of ‘real’, and authenticity is something that really does reach an audience.” In addition to having authenticity, brands that want to reach consumers must do so in a way that’s not intrusive. “Clients are starting to realize that their priority, if they want to get the audience’s attention, is to be necessary and entertaining,” says Patrick Milling Smith, partner/executive producer at Smuggler, the production company behind “Still Free,” the successful viral project from agency Droga5 for Ecko Unlimited and designer Mark Ecko. The viral, which very realistically shows what appears to be Air Force One being covered in graffiti, garnered the Cyber Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival—as well as an inquiry from the Pentagon. Milling Smith reports that the agency team and Smuggler began working together very early on in the process, concepting and producing “Still Free” in three weeks. “Agency and production companies seem to be collaborating earlier in the process,” he says. “[‘Still Free’, directed by Randy Krallman] is a great example of how effectively different companies can work together if everyone is involved from the get-go.” “I like to think we have formed much more of a partnership with agencies,” says Jon Kamen, chairman/CEO of @radical.media, a pioneer in both the traditional and emerging spaces. Among its many accomplishments is the aforementioned “Gamekillers” project, for which a sequel is now in the works. “Agencies often are very happy to bring us in at an early stage of a project and work with us as a team. While there may be more channels and outlets than ever before for advertising content, it’s unlikely that one or another will be dominant. “I believe in the mix,” says Kamen. “I don’t believe any one particular medium is going to outweigh another. In all of our lives, there will be a place The "Still Free" viral, which appeared to show graffiti on and a time for each and every one of the devices.” Air Force One, drew an inquiry from the Pentagon.

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lunch and snacks daily, creating a restaurant-style environment within the company where agency producers and creatives can mingle, brainstorm, and talk to artists and musicians who stop by the offices. Wagenberg finds that getting together over food helps the creative process flow, allowing people to relax and share ideas, which can lead to future projects. “We wanted to create a place where anything’s possible,” she explains of the changes. While cutting traditional spots remains a cornerstone of Mad River’s business, the editing shop is constantly on the lookout for projects in new spaces and media. Case in point: “Celebhead,” a new series airing on VH1 Mobile and VH1’s VSPOT, the network’s syndicated media player. The series, cut by editor Tom Duff Will Znidaric and created and President, Optimus directed by former Deutsch creatives David Rosen and Cheryl Van Ooyen, gets “inside” the heads of celebrities like Paris Hilton to show the audience what they’re thinking.

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Editing shops rally talent and technology to craft for multiple formats
As reality catches up with theory, and agencies and their client partners increasingly execute ad campaigns that cross several media channels, editing companies are having to adapt and be open to new forms and capabilities. “We need to provide talent and technology that can be adaptive and multi-use–capable,” says Tom Duff, president of Optimus, which has offices in Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif. “We’re challenged to deliver basic spots, webisodes, print, design pieces, long-format branded content, billboards, interactivity, and even some shooting, both live and graphics-driven.” Optimus counts among its most recent projects the launch campaign for the wildly popular Nintendo Wii gaming system. The ads, out of Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, comprised traditional spots like “Big City,” “Welcome to Naperville, IL,” and “Middle of Nowhere,” as well as a two-minute documentary for the brand. Jan Maitland edited the spots, while senior assistant editor Vern Cowles cut the documentary. Projects that encompass both a traditional ad campaign and content for the Web are becoming increasingly common. Krystn Wagenberg, who heads up the New York office of commercial editorial house Mad River, reports that a recent Kleenex project out of JWT, New York, included spots (the currently airing “Anthem,” for one) and a series of webisodes. Last year, Mad River moved to a new location in New York designed by Wagenberg and her team to foster collaboration and creativity. Wagenberg has re-envisioned the editorial house as a sort of creative clubhouse, with a four-star chef on “Wii for all,” the short Web documentary that staff who prepares helped launch the Nintendo gaming system.
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In Sync
As agencies are crafting projects that encompass a wide range of media, they are forming closer partnerships with their creative partners. Editorial shops report that, increasingly, agencies and production companies are coming to them earlier in the process. “We find more upfront collaboration,” says Duff. “Clients are seeking out information from us and feedback on ideas they have. We are experts in technology and deliverables, and they are using us for that [as well].” Though collaboration may be greater, “content creation is still the same,” adds Duff. “Projects may

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In the Cut

be different formats, messages and lengths,” but the process of crafting a great cut doesn’t change. Melissa Thornley, managing director of the Whitehouse, with offices in London, New York, Chicago and Santa Monica, concurs. “The ever-evolving media options have not altered what we do as film editors,” she asserts. “Film editors are storytellers, and the new channels available to us now simply mean more opportunities and different venues for the stories to be told.” “I think relationships are more collaboraWebisodes, like this one by Mad River for Kleenex, tive,” agrees Joanne Ferraro, executive vp at are becoming a common brand-message vehicle. New York post facility Blue Rock. “We’re getting involved [in the process] earlier. We’re really partners creatively with agencies; they are looking to us to problem-solve.” Ferraro reports that getting a foot in the door on new media projects has proved to be easier than expected. “I don’t think we have to put a shingle out saying, ‘We can do this.’ It’s just naturally coming,” she says.“Agencies are coming to editors they choose, and it’s not separated out.” Because new media projects are often budget-challenged, young editing talent can get a chance to shine, notes Ferraro. “It’s exciting because they are getting work on their reels that is edgier.” It also works well for agencies: They get their project cut, and they have the assurance that an established Editors say creative for use online can be more risqué, as in "Pole Dancer," facility is backing it. a viral video cut by Blue Rock for Clairol's Herbal Essences. Blue Rock, which cut the consumerBoth Duff and Ferraro contend that the most generated Alka Seltzer spot that debuted on the Super important element on the technology front is to have Bowl, has been busy of late with several online projgood central storage capacity, which allows for greater ects, including three viral videos sharing of files. “We have had to invest in the technolpromoting Clairol’s Herbal Essences for Valentine’s ogy to be streamlined internally so we can have Day. The trio of videos, including “Cupid” and “Pole central storage of data that can be accessed by any Dancer,” is available on YouTube and on of the artists to fulfill their particular responsibility on dumpcupid.com, an Herbal Essences Web site. a project,” says Duff. The ability to deliver to agencies Ferraro reports that because the films (which were in multiple formats is also crucial. “We need to offer cut by Stephanie Hafner) were for use online, the all these services and capabilities under one roof,” creative was a bit more risqué. Other projects include he adds, “for continuity across platforms as well as to “Very Bad Porn,” a series of webisodes parodying be budget-competitive.” online porn, cut by David Lee.
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customers,” says Rick Thompson, vp of sales, North America, for Jupiterimages, New York, a leader in stock photography, as well as footage and music. “Imagery is still the most effective means of conveying concepts Images are now doing more of the 'heavy lifting' for advertisers. and emotions as well as connecting with the audience.” To make that emotional connection, companies need to offer a wide range of products. “Photography collections need to be tremendously diverse so that our customers can identify images that speak to the precise demographic they are targeting,” says Jon Oringer, CEO of Shutterstock, New York, one of the largest stock photography agencies and a provider Jon Oringer CEO of motion footage. Shutterstock, New York In an original survey of 150 advertising agency professionals, Thought Equity found that 44 percent had used pre-shot motion imagery. And the imagery used today isn’t what’s typically been associated with stock footage in the past; collections are growing more sophisticated and eclectic, encompassing a huge range of offerings. “Our clients demand ever-higher-quality and more unique products,” notes Don Wieshlow, vp of products at Veer, New York. Companies that traffic in imagery, whether print or motion, are constantly on the lookout for original, compelling work. Getty Images runs its own trend
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Online projects drive demand for better, faster visuals
As media channels increase, demand has grown for content providers in advertising and entertainment to find and secure compelling, creative imagery. Often, they turn to stock footage and photography companies, who are now providing much more than time-lapse images of the sky or flowers in bloom. “In the past, footage was not really that interesting as a marketplace,” says Kevin Schaff, CEO of Thought Equity Motion, a Denver-headquartered professional licensing firm that provides licensing, rights and clearances, and representation services to the entertainment, creative and corporate production industries. Thought Equity represents collections from the likes of National Geographic, Sony Entertainment Pictures, HBO and the NCAA. “In the past, it’s never been a driver of creative, and that’s starting to change dramatically,” adds Schaff, in part because of the demand for highquality motion footage for use in new media. Thought Equity is active across several channels, including online, cell phones, gaming and television. “Images still do the same job for many customers, but we are continuing to see demand and usage influenced by a ‘move to the visual’ in media,” states Lewis Blackwell, senior vp/group creative director at Rick Thomson Seattle-headquartered Getty VP of sales, North America Images. “The increased use of Jupiterimages visual messaging means images are doing more of the heavy lifting for advertisers and content creators.” To that end, companies that offer pre-produced photography and footage need to effectively interpret customer needs. “We are a service business that must meet and exceed the changing needs of our

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research product, the MAP (Make a Picture) Report, which, in the words of Lewis Blackwell, “is a unique insight into the drivers behind visual language.” According to Blackwell, the MAP Report aggregates and makes sense of creative direction, and serves as an aid to Getty customers as they concept future work. Another footage giant, Corbis, Seattle, maintains a think tank called The Creative Intelligence Group, which identifies trends both locally and globally, aiding Corbis producers in determining what type of footage to capture. Kacy Cole, vp of product strategy at Corbis, says part of the group’s work is to identify new words in the vernacular, for example, “cosmeceuticals” (pharmaceutical products with cosmetic benefits) and “zerotasking” (a humorous twist on multitasking, meaning the opposite—sitting around and doing nothing). Those new words are then incorporated into Corbis’ search function, allowing customers to use them as keywords when seeking out appropriate imagery. Thought Equity this month unveiled a Web site feature that invites independent talent to upload footage and receive payment based on the content’s use and popularity. Says Schaff: “If you’ve generated some thought Kevin Schaff equity—which is defined by us as CEO something that’s well-thoughtThought Equity through, has re-purposeable value, and is done well enough that people actually want to use it—then submit that footage to us.” In addition to uploading filmmakers’ content, Thought Equity also gives them access to its library of watermarked footage free of charge to encourage the development of new content and new media productions. The online arena, particularly for advertising, is a great growth area for footage. Schaff opines that as the day approaches when Google will perhaps offer affordable pre-roll advertising before clips begin on YouTube, companies who have never had the means to advertise in the past will now have an outlet. And those advertisers will be seeking out high quality, well-produced collections. As that comes to pass, notes Schaff, that phenomenon will happen in other areas, such as video-on-demand from cable companies. “You’re going to see a huge surge in the
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need for high-end, pre-produced content that people can use to build commercials.” Corbis, which offers footage and other content across all media, including online, mobile and print, is constantly seeking out new sources and alliances for imagery. Case in point: This month Corbis begins offering the Thunderdog Collective, a creative partnership with Thunderdog Studios and its president/creative director, Tristan Eaton. The collection offers customers (including those in advertising) the work of artists from the worlds of street art, graphic design, illustration and urban vinyl, among other formats.

The Rights Stuff
As the use of imagery increases—specifically across multiple platforms— simplifying and ensuring rights and clearances are higher priorities. One of the key goals of stock companies is to be able to quickly deliver imagery to clients working on ever-shrinking timelines, with the assurance that the usage of that image has been cleared. There are now several licensing models on offer – rights managed, royalty free, subscription, product-for-sale licensing, celebrity clearance, and flexible packages. “We’ve done a tremendous amount of focus group testing on the agency and commercial side, and a lot of people describe rights managed as being complicated,” relates Cole. “Customers [don’t necessarily] want simplicity of rights managed, because in that case they feel like [they may not be as protected]. Rather, what they are really looking for is a greater ease of purchase.” Thought Equity‘s Schaff reports that his company, in an effort to help clients quickly obtain rights to images, has developed proprietary technology to “safeguard our clients’ use of footage and to streamline the process.” This includes creating a database for an image, tracking its usage as well as releases related to talent, buildings and trademarks, among other things. “Our customers are looking for greater flexibility in terms of license duration and usage across all media platforms,” notes Blackwell of Getty. To that end, the company offers collections like Riser, which is rights-ready, as well as flexible license packs for rights-managed images. “In our rights negotiations, we have to strike a balance between meeting the needs of our customers and ensuring we receive a fair return for our images,” explains Blackwell.
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“We continually strive to make rights negotiations as efficient and transparent as possible.” Corbis, which represents collections such as the Andy Warhol Foundation, MGM and characters from Marvel Comics, also offers its customers flexible licensing, something that has proved attractive to advertising clients. “We offer new products that have various rights bundles associated with them,” notes Cole. For example, via Corbis’ flexible-use packs, an ad agency or corporate client that wants to use an image across multiple campaigns in several media are able to buy that image on one license across channels. “We look at how all of our customer segments are going to use the products,” says Cole, “and we try to get into the mind of the customer and create produces that are customer-centric.”

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new packaging on its site, including a new icon that allows a customer to view footage from every angle of every camera that was involved in a shoot “so you can leverage exactly what the director intended you to have,” says Schaff. “This is about packaging in a way that allows creatives” to exploit footage in new ways. Thompson relates that as the small business sector grows and builds Web sites, the need for high-quality images at fair prices will increase, meaning the stock footage business will continue to flourish.

Accessibility
On the technology front, most motion providers offer a portion—in some cases, all—of their collections in high-definition. What is increasingly important is offering customers quick access to imagery. “Customers now expect—and deserve—to have immediate access to download the highest resolution of each picture that interests them,” states Thompson of Jupiterimages. “Their time to market for their projects has decreased, so it is crucial that our Web sites, search engines and image-delivery systems are supporting their compressed timeframes.” Broadband connections have helped in ease of delivery. “Broadband Internet connections allow for fast and effortless digital delivery of both still photography and footage clips,” says Oringer of Shutterstock. “Instead of worrying about snail-mailing content or e-mailing individual files, our subscribers can now access our entire library online.” Thought Equity recently unveiled
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