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Creative Directors Doing it the Animated Way

Rick DeMott interviews three agency creative directors to find out how they go about deciding when to use animation as well as what talent for a commercial spot.

How do animated commercials get made? Thats the question we were curious about. AWN decided to interview three top advertising agency creative directors to find out how they make the decision to go animated over live-action. In addition, we asked the important questions about how they pick who will create the animation for them and how they seek out new talent. In an animation industry that seems to be recycling ideas instead of inventing new ones, it is interesting to hear what these advertising execs have to say about creativity and originality.

Peter Crosby can be an animated person. Photo courtesy of Peter Crosby.

Peter Crosby can be an animated person. Photo courtesy of Peter Crosby.

Peter Crosby, Odiorne Wilde Narraway + Partners/San Francisco

Crosby attended the University of Dayton, Ohio, graduating with a B.A. in Commercial Design with concentrations in Marketing and Philosophy. After working as a junior art director in Rochester, New York, he took a job at Montgomery Zukerman Davis where he wrote and art directed several bad TV commercials. Despite this, he was promoted to senior art director. Later he moved to little-known agency Paradigm Communications as senior art director where he was later promoted to group head on the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning account. There he won numerous local, regional Addy awards and the occasional national award. He then moved to The Zimmerman Agency, but after six months, he returned to GSD&M/Austin where he eventually became senior writer/co-acd.

After moving to Miami with his wife, he took the senior copywriter post at Turkel Schwartz and Partners/Miami where he only stayed six weeks before being lured to McFarland & Drier/Miami. However, even in his short reign at TS&P, his Joes Stone Crab campaign for TS&P took Best of Show at the Addys. For his year at McFarland & Drier/Miami, he worked on South Florida Ford Dealers, Dominos Pizza and the Florida Lottery spots, while he taught Concept & Copywriting at the Miami Ad School. From there he was offered a copywriter post at his current home, OWNP. During his seven-year tenure, he was promoted to senior copywriter, then associate creative director. Hes done work for Electronic Arts, Burger King, Lucky Brand jeans and has been repeatedly asked to judge award shows across the country. His work has appeared in Adweek, Communication Arts, the One Show, the New York Festival and on his parents refrigerator.

The decision whether to go with animation or live-action all starts will the concept. That dictates the approach, generally. If, however, the concept doesnt demand a specific type of approach, we go looking for new or unexpected ways to execute the concept.

We dont usually have to convince clients to use animation. With the level of technology available today, our clients now see the advantages of using it over more costly, sometimes less controllable live-action shoots.

When determining which talent or production house to use, excellence is the price of admission. There are lots of great animators out there. They have to be great to even get considered. Weve told our client what the spot, or effect, will look like and the animation has to live up to that expectation. If were not convinced someone can pull off what we want, well look elsewhere. Appropriateness matters the most. The best animators wont necessarily have the right style for the job. Its all about making our vision for the spot come across in the commercial.

We have people weve worked with before who offer a degree of comfort for us, but if we see something new that we like, well pursue it. One of the advantages of animation is its ability to do things that arent possible in live-action, things that can make commercials more interruptive to stop people, make them pay attention. And thats getting harder and harder to do. People think theyve seen it all.

We look for new talent by keeping our eyes open. The creatives at our agency screen award shows and vendor reels on Fridays. Well have a creative department lunch and order pizza. After seeing an outstanding commercial or film, we search out who created the project. Our broadcast department is really good at finding directors, animators, effects people, etc., with only the smallest clues. In get the contact information, we just request it from our production department, they make a few calls and the next day, the reels on our desk. Its kinda spooky, actually.

The best way to get into any agency is to do work that agencies think is cool. Make us come after you. Or bring along Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That seems to work really well, too.

Rhythm & Hues did some nice work for us recently. We did a spot for Electronic Arts NASCAR Thunder video game using CG cars racing each other over licensed footage from the movie, Ben Hur. The car animation is amazingly realistic. The effect was powerful.

Margie Weeks recently started her own agency, Outloud LLC. Photo courtesy of Outloud LLC.

Margie Weeks recently started her own agency, Outloud LLC. Photo courtesy of Outloud LLC.

Margie Weeks, Outloud LLC

Weeks has had diverse career as art director and illustrator, culminating in the launch of Outloud, LLC in March 2002. Most recently, she was creative director/vp/muse at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc. At CDP since 1987, she has worn many hats, taking the creative director role in 1998. She has been responsible for developing many campaigns, including ones for Procter & Gamble, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Jiffy Lube International, ReMax, Lifebridge Health System, Armstrong World Industries and Ocean City tourism. Her illustrations for a Campaign For Our Children Website (room411) resulted in a 1997 New York Art Directors Award.

She has received numerous National awards for her work: The OToole Award, National and local Addys, The Mobius Award, NYC Ace Award for Business to Business and the Avon Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Communication Arts, Print and Creativity as well as screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Most recently, her work for Jiffy Lube International, Lifebridge Health and ReMax received national television honors winning 11 Telly Awards.

Before joining Carton Donofrio Partners, Margie was a film designer for special effects and animation at Woo Art International in New York City. She produced commercials for Skittles, Bold detergent, Jif peanut butter, Clairol, Tonka Toys and the U.S. Armed Forces. Margie received a B.S. degree in Studio Art from Skidmore College, studied film at the Corcoran School in Washington, D.C., Design at the University of Copenhagen and has a M.S. degree in Communications from Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York.

When I come up with a concept for television I am mostly concerned with the strength of the idea first, then I determine what is the best way to communicate that idea. In this day of special effects anything can be done, so my decision to use animation is not because you cant shoot it live-action, but based in the art of communication. Animation streamlines the idea, usually making it easier to understand. I also believe in the extreme delight factor. Animation engages and totally delights the audience.

I have used animation in categories that are steeped in live-action such as with real estate with ReMax, healthcare with Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, The National Aquarium, Jiffy Lube, Anti-Smoking and Teenage Pregnancy Prevention. The use of animation as an insert works well to describe technology or scientific reasons that a product is better than another. It is a good way to provide a reason to believe. I have also used animation in the logo treatments, which is a great way to brand a logo.

I must say I have been so fortunate to have worked with some of the best animators in the world Cordell Barker, Sue Loughlin, Alexandra Korejwo, Raimund Krumme, Daniel Guyonnet and Caroline Leaf. I am an animation groupie; I am always looking for new styles and new talent. I get drawn into the beauty of the techniques, the humor of the line, the power of the color and the magic that unfolds. Good animation is an emotional ride, the spots that I have done run the gamut from serious to funny, scary, imaginative and downright weird. That is the beauty of the genre; it delivers a message in an unexpected way.

When it comes to finding new talent, I pretty much always start with Acme Filmworks. Ron Diamond and Holly Stone listen to what I am trying to communicate and then they always have something for me to look at. I am always looking, when I see something on television, I start the research the next day. My producer uses spot search and I love to see students work.

There are three spots that are very dear to me and have really cut through the clutter of traditional advertising, they are: Every Move You Make, by Alexandra Korejwo; Everything You Want to Be, by Sue Loughlin and my all time favorite, Bone-Heads, by Cordell Barker. Each one of these spots are jewels.

Jacques DuFour created cereal icons like the Honey Nut Cheerios bee.

Jacques DuFour created cereal icons like the Honey Nut Cheerios bee.

Jacques DuFour, Saatchi & Saatchi

DuFour is an advertising veteran who has worked on some of the most recognizable animated commercials in history. He began his career as an animator and animation director, then moved over into commercials. He is responsible for designing and bringing to life the Honey Nut Cheerios bee. He has also worked commercials featuring the Trix rabbit, the ChocoPuffs cuckoo bird and the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

I only work on animated commercials. So its very important to interview the artist who may be working on the project. Well have the idea of what we want, but we want to know how they will get us there. What are their ideas about the style and the effects used? Everything starts out with the storyboards.

When picking a production company to work with on a particular spot we do look around a little bit. We search around for artists who are open to try something new or have a different style. The way I find new talent is to speak with animators. They have a better grasp on production and they know what work is being done. When I see a film or commercial that impresses me I absolutely seek them out. I want to know how they do that. I look in publications to find new talent. We dont just use U.S. talent we use a lot in Europe. The CPW (Cereal Partners Worldwide) is good place to look outside the U.S.

The best way to show us your work is by sending us your portfolio. Most of them we receive are on CD or DVD. Its up to the artists to initiate the contact, but we are very open to submissions. Some of the production companies that we like to work with are Calabash in Chicago, DUCK and Uli Meyer out of London.

Rick DeMott is managing editor of Animation World Network. Previously, he served as the production coordinator for sound production house BadaBing BadaBoom Productions and animation firm Perky Pickle Studios. Prior to that position, he served as associate editor of AWN.

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Rick DeMott
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