Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Denver Fifty 2011: Great ideas can't hide.

Sincere thanks to Bryce Boyer (photography), Ryan Johnson (copy), and Gneural (illustration).

Behind the thinking of The Denver Ad Club's call-for-entries campaign.
In advertising, there's an advantage when you're the audience. You know things outsiders won't uncover in a focus group. So, armed with a lifetime of subliminal creative knowledge, I took on the Denver Fifty creative brief with the excellent Ryan Johnson of Vladimir Jones.

Our challenge.
Get people to enter their best ideas. End needless brilliance un-acknowledgement. Combat the possibility that agencies are holding ideas back because they may not understand the concept of this bigger-than-local show. Inflict a sense of urgency to enter. Then, promise and deliver fame if they make the prestigious few that are The Fifty. 

Our hero, and obstacle.
Creatives. We get distracted. We're always busy. We push the deadline. Wait a minute, what were we talking about? Oh yeah... Basically, we respond to challenges, praise, and deadlines. We fear judgment, but endlessly seek awesomeness. Is it possible to threaten and compliment creatives simultaneously? (Yes, and that's what we did.)

Great ideas can't hide.
What if, in theory, we took the creative's idea entry decision out of the equation? What if they had no choice in the matter? They had to submit to submission. Because the Denver Ad Club was watching. Waiting. Well aware of their great ideas and willing to confiscate them. 

Introducing The Five-0.
Who or what is The Five-0? The audience will never really be sure. What they did know was that The Five-0 was coming after their ideas. A threat and an incentive – encouraging agencies to submit their ideas to The Fifty. Or else.

With Five-0, we liked the play on 'The Fifty' and that it's a slang term for the police. We also liked taking these idea police in an unexpectedly shady, omnipresent direction. Because there is no clear right or wrong in the idea business. The Five-0 were undercover. They were staking out agencies. They were calling out ideas. Curiosity. Paranoia. Good times. 

The photo concept and art direction.
For the photo shoot, I honed in on this creative paranoia with the exceptionally talented Bryce Boyer and a team of amazing people. We pulled off six fun conceptual photos with six actors in six locations in two days. And also a short spot with special effects and original scoring.

I wanted to emotionally portray creatives in moments of idea vulnerability. Protecting and concealing their great ideas. Each shot shows an idea development device. The actors are creative stereotypes I dreamed up. The prima donna, tortured artist, early adapter, quirky guy, witty girl, and rock star. They could all be art directors or writers. The modern wardrobe is neutral and blends into the scenery. Timeless and cinematically-embellished styling.

To build up the unsettling atmosphere, we were shooting in both modern agency and creepy historical locations. It's funny, the first horror movie I saw was Poltergeist. It was most scary because it was shot in a modern day neighborhood. You couldn't write it off as something that would only happen in an abandoned haunted house far, far away. And as a kid, it made you think twice about your own closet.

I wanted all the focus to be on the actor's expression. They have an exaggerated, self-idealized glow about them. The glow that follows true visionaries. Usually, you don't see it. You sense it. They are passionate and you want to believe in their ideas. The whites of the character's eyes are drawn out, capturing pure emotional overreaction.

The line between this going campy or being visually arresting was thin. Our initial casting shots gave us insight into this delicate difference. We found the best direction was the moment you think you may have heard something, but you're not sure. It's subtle, but really intense.

By blending reality, emotion, and imagination – the images came to life. A secondary Five-0 shadow in every shot held the set together. We pulled the blues, greens, and warm tones. Blacks went to dark blues. I didn't want this to be the expected film noir look. I wanted it to be dark, but modern and vibrant.

The ads were posted on Ads of the World, The Denver Egotist, AdWomen, ffffound, and a bunch of other great sites and collections. Lots of thanks to Bryce Boyer (photographer/director/producer), Ryan Johnson (copywriter), Debbie Clapper: Gneural (illustration), Spillt (effects), Post Modern (color), Stephen Zinn (editor), Blorp Corp (sound), Peter Lugo, Ben Marrow, Ben Dicke, Shannon McKinnon, Danielle Lebens, Alaina Reel (actors with Radical Artists), Katelyn Simkins (stylist), Jamie Barkley (wardrobe), and Reese St. German (photographer's assistant), XYZ Graphics (retouching), Vision Graphics (printing), and Sherman Street Event Center and Lee Reedy/Xylem Digital (locations).

And here's the spot. The creative struggles with inspiration. Then she has it and gets lost creating it. And, well I don't want to give the rest away. See for yourself:

The Denver Fifty 2011: Call for Entries from The Denver Egotist on Vimeo.

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