Monday, June 27, 2016

St. Tropez is bae (a little rhyme to help you pronounce it right)

Today was incredible. Despite being exhausted, we got up at 8 am and hopped on a 2 hour ferry ride to the notoriously beautiful St. Tropez. The boat first took up to St. Marguerite, where we si he'd to a different, bigger boat. We were only on the island for like 30 seconds but it looked so beautiful and I definitely want to go back and check it out. The ferry ride itself was long but very enjoyable and a great way to see the beautiful French coastline (still working on my pronunciation of Cote d' Azure). When we arrived on St. Tropez, we took fumbled around with a mix of broken French and broken English until we could discern from a bus driver that he could in fact take us to a beach. We walked down a long road and were initially turned down form the first beach club restaurant we tried to go to because it was "full" even though there were only 4 people in the whole we moved down the road and found a place ironically called Key West, and it was way nicer and every one on the staff was so kind and friendly (and unbelievably hot) and we had a nice lunch and water with actual ice cubes (a real luxury here) before heading out to our amazingly comfortable beach lounges. The view was truly amazing this is hands down the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. The water was freezing as usual but so clear and blue that it was very worth it to swim. I wish we could have stayed there all day it was so beautiful. But unfortunately we had to get back to the port so we didn't miss the ferry home so we had the Key West boys call us some cabs. This ended up being one of the most fun parts of the day. The cab was a Mercedes van and the driver based old Biggie and a St. Tropez rap song and opened the van doors as we flew through the town. It was so fun and we got to see a little bit more of St. Tropez. The ferry ride back was nice but I was exhausted from the sun. When we got home we got some gelato and I was in for the night. I think I pinched a nerve in my shoulder so i'm going to try and rest tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Commercial Analysis 3: "Your Future Is Not Mine" Adidas Originals

Nothing makes me happier than seeing one of my favorite commercials of all time win big in Cannes. I first saw this commercial this spring, and instead of skipping through it, watched the entire 30 second YouTube Version and then, hungry for more, went and found the extended version and watched it several times in a row. Its strange and dystopian and the intention or story seems to be vague and completely open to viewer interpretation, much like a work of art. It is fitting that it won in film craft for original song because the music fits so perfectly with the film. Everyone in the video is wearing Adidas gear, and most of it has little to do with sports. This is very different than say the Under Armour Campaigns that also won tonight. Adidas has done an amazing job rebranding themselves in the past year or so. It's not hard to tell, look around you and you'll see it everywhere. They're apparel has become trendy and stylish and a fashion statement. Not just a company who makes soccer cleats anymore. I believe the use of this ad in conjunction with other promotional tactics such as the ties to Yeezy has redefined Adidas as a fashion brand for cool, different, original people, hence the name of the ad. They are trying to appeal to a different demographic than just athletes, but now including artists and musicians and creative minded people who value self expression. Technically speaking, I actually feel like the slightly shorter version has a better pulse, rhythm and flow with the music than the longer one, but you lose some of the amazing imagery when you cut the time in half so all in all I feel the longer with is the more complete work and was therefore the film used to analysis by the jury. It is always impressive to me when a brand can release two different length versions of the same commercial for different contexts and they still convey the same message and don't really sacrifice machine the way of content. This shows that the overall theme and overarching story line are very sound. This commercial is one of the more artistic ones I've seen in a long time which is probably why it appeals so much to me.

Commercial Analysis 2: "Under Armour Phelps" Under Armour, Droga5

This commercial was probably the most impressive of the night in my opinion. It won a very well deserved Film Craft Grand Prix because "its surpassed every individual craft category and the craft became invisible and the story came out." I'm very glad that film craft is a category for awards because the look and feel of a commercial is a huge part of its effectiveness in my opinion. The cinematography of the pieces is truly breathtaking, especially the underwater shots. A film with this caliber of photography immediately captures your attention before content or a message will. Yet that is not to say that the commercial is lacking in story at all. The alternating shots of him swimming and him struggling paired with the lyrics of the song make you feel incredibly sentimental about him as an athlete and, as any sports brand knows well, that emotional connection to an athlete wearing a brand creates emotional attachment to the company. I found myself worrying during this commercial. It was uplifting on the one hand because he is well known by all for being an incredible athlete, but on the other hand I was a little stressed about him leaving the sport and growing older and struggling to still be great. It made the work he was putting in seem that much more impressive, which in turn makes Under Armour seem more impressive. As I learned from designer Stefan Sagmeister earlier this week, all people fundamentally agree on what is beautiful, so having a beautiful ad is a good strategy to lure the viewer in. You won't want to skip a beautiful commercial, especially an inspiring one like this. The only part I didn't like was the tag line at then end, "its what you do in the dark that puts you in the life." I know that all of the commercials involved in this campaign include this, I just think it would have been stronger if they used a slight variation of it for each different commercial pertaining more closely to each particular sport or athlete. I understand the metaphor of course about how hard work behind the scenes makes you great, I just felt it was a tiny bit off in this particular commercial. But all in all I was completely blown away by it and feel it is very effective and that the campaign as a whole is very solid. It is hard to reinvent the architypal inspirational sports commercial, so striving for amazing imagery and a wise use of editing and music in post production is paramount.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Commercial Analysis 1: "Close to Home" AT&T

I had seen this ad before. But sitting there in the huge Lumiere theater, even though I knew what was coming, I was still shocked, horrified, and moved to tears when the cars collided. This commercial is not only amazing in terms of cinematography and special effects, its story line and strategy are absolutely perfect for conveying the message. It impresses me till no end how in just a fee minutes, the characters are clearly establish so much so that the viewer has actual attachment to them and it mortified at the scene that unfolds. This is due to carefully written lines that situates teacher character firmly in their role as an everyday person with a family and a future. The conversation that probably gets to me the most is the husband in the truck on the phone with his wife. The conversation about the lottery and the dinner choice is so quintessentially human and it seems so relatable you feel like this could be you or someone you know, which is obviously the point. The key to tying an audiences emotions into an ad is making them feel a connection or empathy for the characters or situation. Viewers today also demand authenticity. And the first part of the commercial is so very realistic. Right down to the crash itself, which happens so fast and without warning, just like it does in real life. Unlike in movies, theres no slo mo realization that you're about to be in a wreck. It just happens and its over just like that. Instead its the aftermath thats in slow motion, because that's the part that isn't real. That is the part of the story that cannot happen. You cannot undo the damage of texting and driving and hitting another car. There are no second chances, only first which is the massage the commercial is trying to convey. You just can't do it in the first place. This is a very admirable and effective style of advertising where the brand does not even mention their product or attempt to promote it, and instead only focuses on the harm their product can cause if used irresponsibly. We see this same trend in don't drink and drive commercials put on by alcoholic beverage commercials. It not only teaches a powerful lesson, but it subconsciously establishes in the consumer's mind that this brand cares more about their customers life and well being than selling their product. This sentimentality builds brand loyalty. Instead of shoving a product and all its cool features into an ad, this simple strategy actually seems far more effective in creating an emotional connection between the viewer and the brand. In today's society this type of ad is almost expected and necessary to run a successful campaign. Consumer's expect a lot out of the companies they buy from and so they feel better about buying a brand they feel really cares about them and is trying to promote an important message as opposed to a product. I think this ad is one of the all around best executed ones I've seen in a long time. Every single frame is iconic and it gives you chills no matter how may times you see it. I believe it will be studied and analyzed for years to come as one of the greatest ads of all time.

Festival Day 8

How can it be the last day? Although this week has been exhausting, it has flown by. We grabbed croissants and a cappuccino in JLP before heading into Cannes one last time. The talks we were most interested in weren't for a little later so we did a little shopping before heading over to the Palais. I watched the very end of a talk before heading to Samsung for lunch. I'm mad I didn't know about this earlier in the week because evidently they had this amazing setup on the rooftop courtyard of a building all week. It was a lovely set up. We had some light snacks (and a plentiful serving of a macarons) and hated with some Swedish people at our table. I'm definitely going to miss having casual conversation with some many people from interesting places.

Afterwards, we headed into Debussey for three back to back speeches. The first was called The Disruptive Power of Soft Power about the Columbian guerrilla crisis. I felt bad because I know they talk was very inspirational in terms of its social and national implications, and I could tell the speaker and some of the audience were very moved by his story about freeing guerrilla warriors from their imprisonment in the jungle, but I just struggled to understand the creativity side of the presentation. It seemed much more social and political to me. The campaign ideas were interesting, but i felt the execution was poor and somewhat unprofessional looking. I think I'm definitely starting to develop a certain advertisement aesthetic that I'm found of.

The next talk was amazing. It was called Who Needs Creative Directors Anyway? Two creatives from Forsman & Bodenfors in Sweden discussed their hierarchy-free office structure and how it fueled creativity, responsibility, and trust within their company. The argued that this model made it easier for people to focus on the work itself and the task at hand rather than being afraid of what their superior might think about it. It sounds like an amazing and fun work environment. They showed several commercials (I'm a sucker for videos during speeches) and they were all amazing. It was very cool to see a relatively small agency creating such bug, meaningful, award-winning work.

The last talk of the festival was with Blake Mycoskie the founder of Toms shoes. He was awesome. It was so inspiring to hear about his amazing entrepreneur success story -- especially because it was both lucrative AND has helped literally millions of people. Its so amazing to hear about all the good you can do with a good idea and a lot of hard work. He talked about how spending money on social causes is actually a good business strategy because it  does wonders for your brand loyalty. He, along with others this week, have opened my eyes to the joy that using your creativity to help others can bring. I'd never really thought about that side of the business before but I definitely do now. Afterwards, we got a picture with him and I tweeted it and he favorited it! And he's verified and y'all know how I feel about that haha.

Waiting in line for the award show we met an interesting man from India who had been to the festival 15 times and was serving as a juror. He seemed very interested in us and told me to come work in India and gave me his card. I probably could't see myself moving to India but hey you never know where connections might lead you. The award show was super long but the commercials were incredible. My favorites were probably the AT&T Close to Home, the Netflix House of Hards, every single Under Amour ad, Hennesy the Picards, the Old Spice ads, and of course the Adidas Your Future is Not Mine. I'm especially drawn to beautiful cinematography and craft, superior storytelling, and a clear but clever message. I love ads that make me feel a distinct emotion. It was a good way to end such an incredible week.

Afterwards we went to a somewhat stressful dinner (the language barrier is very real) then took an amusing Uber ride home to JLP to finish up our assignments so that we can go to St. Tropez tomorrow.

Festival Day 7

I think was starting to lose steam by today. I went to several talks for Entertainment Lions, starting with an interview between Richard Frankel of Spotify and DJ Mark Ronson. I had been pumped for this all week, being a big fan of music and especially interested in its used in advertising and branding. Although hearing about Ronson's productions process, I struggled to see how it related to advertising or any of the audience in the room who were not music producers themselves. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to hear about his creative process and how much work goes into making a smash hit. The creative process of a music producer is just like any other. It begins with inspiration and an idea, morphs into planning, then into playing around and lots of hard work until its perfect. And then of course comes the judgement stage where its effectiveness and execution is determined by the public's opinion of the work. Like with anything directed at consumers, you can find an idea brilliant and alluring, but if your target audience doesn't get it, then your idea has failed you. I was a little starstruck to be in the same room as such a highly acclaimed producer.

After that I saw a panel about Music in Colour. I didn't really understand what the company was, or what it was trying to accomplish, and I frankly found the music video they had created very childish and dumb. This was honestly one of the only talks all week I was truly disappointed by. Maybe I just don't have any understanding of their very specific corner of the industry, but I just did not understand what they were trying do or why they were relevant to this festival (harsh, I know).

From Athlete to Enterprise: Building Brands outside of Sport was actually pretty interesting. And not just because Victor Cruz was part of the panel, although that certain brought a certain amount of hype to the conversation. I'm especially interested in sports and sports branding (my lifelong dream has been to work with Nike) and so I felt right at home in this discussion. It was very interesting to hear the inside depiction of what its like to be an athlete signed to a brand and all that goes into promoting it. Cruz made the point that once athletes are at a certain level, they're often selective about who they choose to represent because they want to work with a brand they believe in and share values with. That means that if brands want a certain athlete to endorse them, they have to make sure they're image is something high profile athletes would feel proud to represent. This comes back to how a brand's image is just as important if not more important than its actual products.

I was exhausted and headed back to JLP. I was planning to come back for the award show but got all the way back to Cannes and realized I had left my badge (rookie mistake I know) and just decided to head back for the night. I had a nice dinner full of meaningful conversation (and pizza) by the ocean. One they way back we stopped for gelato and witnessed a drag queen performance in a nearby restaurant as we passed. It was interesting to say the least. I decided to go on a long walk to clear my head, and put in my head phones and went on a 5 miles hike to the other side of Golfe de Juan and back. I very much need time like this to clear my mind and organize my thoughts after a crazy busy week where I'm surrounded by people and activity at all times. It was very nice to get some fresh air and have some time to myself. During the day at the festival I tend to think all about what my career will be and all my goals. But at night or when I'm alone or outside like this, I can think a lot about what will actually make me happy and keep me inspired.

Festival Day 6

Due to our inability to get a cab home the night before, I was exhausted and got a later start than I meant to on Thursday. However it worked out because I arrived and was able to slip into the end of a Proctor & Gamble speech in Lumiere called Raising the Creative Bar. This particular presentation was very work heavy and I found myself crying over Olympics mom commercials (story of my life) in the dark and thinking about how much I love emotional ad campaigns. It got me thinking about how people make a video truly sentimental. Like at what scene does your throat start to feel tight. How are the cuts and different scenes strategically laid out to form a cohesive story that bears so much sentimentality and emotional weight. I wonder if the original story boards for these ads include notes like "people will probably start crying here." Because people have mentioned repeatedly this week that stimulating viewers emotionally is one of the number one tactics in advertising. Its ads like these that attract a lot of attention and get a lot of shares and win Lions. These P&G ads truly strike a chord with me and it blows my mind how there can be multiple ads about the mothers of olympic athletes and the campaign doesn't even feel repetitive. That is some impressive strategic work right there. 

I stayed in the theater and watched another talk hosted by Getty Images about photojournalism on the frontline of war and conflict overseas. The two photographers, Brent Stirton and Lynsey Addario told incredible stories about some of the things they witnessed while working and how they captured some of these crazy, haunting, and iconic moments. A lover of my photography myself, this once again opened my "what job could I be happy doing" thoughts. Capturing a moment with a camera requires so much vision and God given eye that it would seem sad to not be able to use this skill of mine in some capacity in my work in the future. These photo journalists are relevant to the industry conversation because they are doing a very specific type of advertising. Instead of drawing attention to a brand, they are bringing awareness to important issues and providing a glimpse of situations the rest of the world would not otherwise be able to see. Its the photographer's job to capture the essence of the scene in a way that tells a story to the uninformed viewer. It made me very excited of the independent study I'm doing this fall to create my own photo book of work.

That evening I met up with some friends at YouTube Beach. The vibe there was so fun and I began to get very sad that we only had a couple days left. We had fun cocktails and tacos and ended up getting to see this amazing band of three insanely talented British guys who sang, beatboxed, and played guitar. The beatboxer in particular was so ridiculously talented that it was hard to even comprehend what he was doing. As I stood in a lively crowd full of fun, smart people all dancing and laughing and talking to one another, it dawned on me my newfound vocation as a global citizen. Back home in America, when you meet someone from other country its a rarity. Here, everyone is from everywhere, but people are all discussing the same passions and sharing ideas in a myriad of different languages, accents, and dialects. Its so inspiring to feel such a sense of global community. I think being able to travel like this is so invaluable and I feel it should be an integral part of a person's education. If you never go and expose yourself to experiences interacting with people of other cultures, your view on life is very small and narrow-minded. I've only been to one physical country on this trip but in a way I feel like I've been all around the world just from talking to people from every single continent and hearing their unique stories and opinions. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to get to broaden my horizons and expand my perspective. This might be one of the most valuable things I take away from this trip.

A big group of this headed to dinner before venturing into the marina in hopes of sneaking into a yacht party. It was certainly not easy and took a lot of begging and passing back but we finally snuck our way into the Elite Daily Daily Mail yacht party which is the biggest, most rave-like of them all. It was super fun and jam packed full of all the coolest people in Cannes letting loose and partying together in a fashion that I can only imagine is unique to this festival. I met an interesting guy from LA who said he'd give my website and look and pass my card on to some of his friends and colleagues (guess that means I need to put in some extra work on my website to make it look A1). We ended up at Gutter Bar before grabbing an Uber back to JLP. 

Festival Day 5

The next morning, TimeWarner put on a talk between Anderson Cooper and Anthony Bourdain. They opened with a cool montage which, once again, drew my attention to my sentimental feelings about working in film. This whole week has been a constant quest for me to figure out what I like to do and what moves me and inspires me. Bourdain said that when he's filming a place, he's giving us a subjective impression of it through his eyes. He says this makes it an impressionistic, honest portrayal. Anderson Cooper (who was delightful live) inspired me to maybe start making my own little video journals just for fun. That could be something I could start doing next year that could help me learn and understand videography and editing better and might be a cool way to show work. This was one of my favorite talks so far.

Followed by my least favorite talk so far: Gwyneth Paltrow. She was shallow and uninteresting. She had no real advice to offer and I would not call her a creative innovator. She's a borderline entrepreneur if anything but her brand lacks authenticity or personality and targets a bizarre audience. She made it clear she cares little about giving back or changing the industry for the better. 

After those, Lacey and I got lunch and headed put o The Girl's Lounge to see Channing Tatum. W were literally 3 feet from him. Although the topics of conversation were super raunchy it was very cool to see someone you're such a big fan of talking about such personal topics in such small, intimate, casual setting. He was funny and friendly and very much like he is in his films. And just as good looking in person as everyone would hope haha. After his interview ended, I bolted past the crowd to get my free manicure before they closed. Not 5 minutes after I sat down, Channing walks in with Joanna flanked closely by Shelley. The closed the door and drew the curtains and I was definitely not supposed to be in there. They asked him sore more questions, took some pictures, and exchanged business propositions. I couldn't believe how close I was to him. It was a very fun afternoon. 

Afterwards, we walked over to the Yvonne Yacht for a party with some people from Sito Mobile. It was very fun and I ended up making a new friend, Daniel, the Australian from LA, who gave me lots of advice and insight about working. He told me to do something I love and that if you're passionate about what you do you'll work harder and success will follow. Everyone we met was very funny and nice and had lots of casual advice to give. I met a guy who worked for Twitter and told him I would redesign his business card and tweet it at him haha. Although we couldn't get a cab back and ended up stranded in Cannes until 6 am, the night was super fun and beneficial. It made me feel better knowing I didn't have to have it all figured out yet and that being personable and enthusiastic can get you a long way when starting out in the working world.

Festival Day 4

And so begins the day of celebrity speakers. 

We kicked the morning off with Anna Winter who was was very interesting and inspiring. She urged the audience to aim higher, dare to be different, use all our gold, and make interesting friends. She reenforced the idea that moving forward and changing is much better than just moving up. She is so smart and accomplished and it was truly amazing to get to see her speak in person. She has accomplished so many things in her lifetime and made touched the lives of so many people across every single industry. It was truly an honor to get to hear her two cents. 

Next we got to see Will Smith speak. He said the only mission statement worth having is to improve lives and that people can honestly tell when you've thought about them in your work and that consideration for your audience really shows. He also said the most important thing to do is to live by your values. He was very funny and lively in person and it was very cool to get to hear from a different type of innovator who's talent based career has given him a wide breadth of knowledge about creative industries. Sometimes celebrities can be disappointing. But in this case, he was everything I had built him up in my mind to be. Funny, smart, personable, and well spoken. He proves that actors are truly artists and innovators just like anyone else in the creative industry. 

Next we saw a talk between Shelley Zalis and Linda Yaccarino of the Girl's Lounge and SNL ladies Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer, and Cecily strong discussing women's equality. Vanessa said something that stood out to me, "trust your instincts; don't only do what you think you're supposed to be doing." She reminded me to go after things you actually love and enjoy rather than what you think you should be doing career wise. 

Next, we saw Ryan Seacrest interviewing Usher about his creative process. Usher urged us to find a good mentor to lean on for advice and to keep working for your vision and that if you really believe in your idea, eventually someone else will too. Both guys were funny and exciting to listen to because they've both had such successful and innovative careers despite taking vastly different paths. The only real downside to the speech is that we were front row and could barely see or hear because of the hoard of paparazzi clustered by the stage. It was frustrating because this is supposed to be an educational and professional environment where top tier creatives come to share ideas and inspire one another and those photographers turned it into a press zoo. I'm honestly shocked the festival staff allowed that to happen. It sort of distracted from the intimacy of getting to hear influential people talk in such a laid back setting but it was interesting nonetheless. At then end we shouted Go Dawgs and Seacrest shouted it back.

Later that afternoon, we walked to a nearby hotel to meet Oliver Stone. While we were waiting, we talked to a Grady grad who now works for Wieden and Kennedy. He was very funny and helpful and he reminded me of my long term goal to make ads for Nike. Up until this trip, I didn't know much about how agencies worked, and it was very helpful to learn that most big brands don't really do their own branding, someone else does. So maybe a goal wouldn't be to try and get a job at a big company like that, but for the agency that works for them. It got me thinking about a lot and about how that might be a possible place I'd like to work hard to apply for. This year I want to really develop my portfolio with all types of different work, including videos and writing and fake brand redesigns. I just want to show people that I have lots of cool ideas, even if I don't fully know how to execute them yet. When Oliver got there, he talked a little about himself and then opened the floor to questions. He insight was interesting because he's been in the film industry a long time and worked with a lot of people. He told me if I ever wanted to work in film to meet a lot of people and try to get jobs in places where the industry is prevelant and make connections. He talked about how film was moving way from truth, but somehow I find that taking artistic license with the truth and manipulating a story to make it flow better and appear more beautiful is an art form in and of itself.