creativity Archives - The Professional Creative

February 4, 2021No Comments

The Super Bowl Diaries

One year ago, I was lucky enough to have one of my ideas make it to the Super Bowl as a commercial for the Toyota Highlander. And I documented my whole experience as a creative in a video log. Welcome to Super Bowl Diaries.

In this series I tell the good and the bad. I'll let you judge if it got ugly.

As I grew up in my career, I always looked at those Super Bowl commercials, those super productions, as a world apart. I was always curious about how the creative process happened in those projects. But not the PR-sanctioned behind the scenes crap – I was curious to know what it was really like for a creative to make a Super Bowl spot.

So, when I got my shot, I thought it would be a good idea to document the whole thing. The successes, the disagreements, the difficulties. But especially the feelings. And this is what I put together to share with those who might have the curiosity I once had.

To start with, this is the commercial we made, which aired in Super Bowl LIV in 2020:

Toyota Highlander "Heroes" (2020)

The finished "Heroes" commercial

When you see the finished 60 seconds of the commercial, it's hard to imagine that the process started more than half a year before the air date. So, let me start you off you all the way back to mid-2019, around the time the idea was born.


Episode 01 - The Winning Idea Explained

In this chapter, I talk about the idea we pitched, and how we presented it. I analyze its strengths and weaknesses and talk about why it ended up being picked amongst hundreds of ideas.


Episode 02 - To Celeb or Not to Celeb

Should we use a celebrity? In this episode I talk about the pros and cons on using a celebrity in a Super Bowl ad. Best of all, my present self gives the answers my past self was looking for.

Hindsight is so awesome.


Episode 03 - Picking a Director

In this episode I talk about the importance of choosing the right director, and how that decision is really not as straight-forward as it may seem.


Episode 04 - Keep on Writing

In this episode I talk about how we're not done once we sell an idea. And how we have to keep improving on the work all the way up to air date!


Episode 05 - How Much Can You Fit in 60 Seconds?

In this episode of The Super Bowl Diaries I talk about enriching the visual storytelling through art-direction. To delight the audience and enrich the story.

I also look back into a difference in opinion we had with the director. Whose opinion prevailed? And why?

Once again, hindsight is awesome.


Episode 06 - The Shoot

All is told in this episode! The race against the clock, the compromises, the clash of ideas…

Shoots are tough. Especially when you consider you're probably making the biggest TV commercial you're ever going to make. But just like any other shoot, stuff never goes as planned.

Sometimes you have nice surprises like we had on day 1. Sometimes you have to power through it, like we did in all the other days.


Episode 07 - Post Production

When the shoot is done, we're not done. We're just starting. In this episode I talk about the long and iterative editing process, and how you can sometimes get in a rut when you've been living and breathing the same script for months.

I also touch on color, and the work we did to make each scene have look like specific movie genres.

And hindsight confirms, once more, that idea is king!


Episode 08 - The Curveball

In this episode I talk about the time when things could absolutely have gotten ugly! After we were pretty much done, life throws the biggest curve ball I've experienced in my career.

And we have 48h to make major changes to the spot, or we run the risk of not airing at all.


Episode 09 - Post Super Bowl Blues

Why are we creatives never satisfied? Why do we always compare our work to other people's? Why do we sometimes feel shitty after big achievements?

This episode is deep! One day after our Super Bowl commercial aired I sat down to examine all the different emotions I was feeling. It seems after a great high, comes a great low.

All creatives have to deal with feelings of envy, frustration and resentment. And we have to deal with our infamous creative ego. It's part of our life. But how do we learn to live with these feelings? How do we make peace, and use them to fuel our creativity further?

I share here how dealt with these feelings throughout my career, and how I deal with them nowadays. Which is quite an improvement. 🙂


Episode 10 - Hindsight (finale)

This is it. The season finale! One year later, I look back and go through the biggest lessons I took away as a creative, as we cenceived, produced and delivered a multi-million Super Bowl spot.

What does it feel like, one year later, when you can count with the gift of hindsight? Did the things that bothered me then still bother me now? Did the details I fought for mattered?

Some of the lessons are pretty obvious. Others won't be what you expect.


I hope my sharing of this journey helped you somehow. Or at least entertained you.

I truly believe in sharing the things I learn in this business – which often feels counter intuitive. Ad culture is still very much about hiding ideas from others and hogging credit. And that's the part that needs to change, because it's killing us.

If you want to check out some other lessons I've shared, check out The Professional Creative on Instagram.

If you want to go even deeper, check out this Masterclass on creativity for ad creatives I created with the help of some of the best creatives in the world: Striking Creative Gold.

Let me know what you thought of this whole shebang. Leave me a comment below, or get in touch!

Cheers.

Leo

January 7, 2021No Comments

The Super Bowl diaries teaser

Click here to see the full series

Last year, I was lucky enough to have my creative work make it to the Super Bowl.

I know it's a rare occasion. It might be a once in a lifetime kinda deal. So I thought I'd document it. I made a video log of our creative process and everything that happened during the production of the "Heroes" spot we created for the Toyota Highlander.

I tell everything: the good and the bad. You tell me if it got ugly...

We are one month away from the Super Bowl 2021, so I thought this would be a nice time to share my experience as the excitement builds towards the biggest stage of TV advertising this year.

"Heroes" aired on Feb 2, 2020. When having a guy in a hazmat suit was still OK.

The last 11 months have been pretty rough, but hopefully these videos can inform and entertain creatives like us a little bit.

Super Bowl spots this year are expected to be a bit of a downer. But if my colleagues are doing their job right, they'll be doing everything to break that expectation.

July 13, 2020No Comments

Angel Garcia on creativity, the gaming industry and growing up in California

Me (Leo Rosa Borges) and my good friend Antonio Marcato had the opportunity to chat to Angel Garcia – a designer who's had his hand on some of the biggest marketing projects in the gaming industry. He's now at Facebook, and tell us about the creative path that led him to where he is now.

Read more

May 15, 2020No Comments

Pandemic constraints, meditation, and the magic of the first idea.

I spoke with my good friend and fellow professional creative Antonio Marcato (Creative Strategist @ Facebook) about a few themes involving creativity.

His perspective on the relationship between meditation and creativity was really a great lesson!

Here's what we talked about:

- Creativity in uncertain times and how constraints force us to be more creative
- Meditation and how it helps the mind in our creative efforts
- How your first idea is special, and should not go to the trash
- Risk and reward in brand communication
and much more.

Definitely worth the time. Enjoy, and let us know what you thought.

April 4, 2019No Comments

The Battle of the Bastard Ads

To arms, marketers! The battle of the bastard ads is about to start!

Game of Thrones is by far the biggest brand in pop culture right now. With the last season about to start, we can see a flood of brands rushing to associate themselves with the HBO hit show, both officially and unofficially. Everybody wants to rub off some of that sweet sweet mojo GoT has built for itself. Hailed as the "best TV show ever" (and that's pretty fair, because everybody LOVES it, including yours truly), it has become the IT thing in advertising in the last few months.

Oreo re-created the famous opening sequence with – guess – Oreo cookies!

Mtn Dew re-recorded the theme song with the help of Migos.

Bud Light had a Super Bowl spot with The Mountain and a fire-spitting dragon.

Last year, Johnny Walker launched a "White Walker" whiskey. These are just some of the examples out there.

I have to say, even I was pretty happy just to have ads I created in the special edition Entertainment Weekly magazine that came out about Game of Thrones. Any association with the GoT brand gets us ad people giddy.

We can be more creative

On creative grounds, though, this kind of advertising is really not the best we can do. I often say that ads relying on hot celebs, pop culture icons and/or someone else’s intellectual property are the cheapest form of creativity. Even though they are the most expensive to make! And that makes sense, because the brand is effectively buying relevance for its message, rather than creating it.

This follows the Hollywood trend of preferring not to innovate. How many more super hero movies do we freakin' need? And we've already seen Dumbo and Aladdin. But they do it, because they KNOW it's going to do well. It may not do AMAZING, but it will not do bad either. So, why create something new? Big brands in advertising like these safe bets too, and fork out millions to use celebs and OPIP (other people's intellectual property). A big example is Walmart's "Grocery Pickup" commercial, where they use every famous car from movies everybody loves. The commercial was a hit – but let's be real: people love those cars, and the movies they star in. They don't necessarily love Walmart, although it hopes all that love rubs off onto their brand.

That's a bastard ad: the value comes from someone else's IP, not from what the agency created. And that always feels kind of cheap to me, as a creative.

In contrast, there are great ads, TV and otherwise, that we know and love that don't rely on borrowed interest at all. Unilever "Moms", "It's a Tide Ad", Always' "Like a Girl", the list goes on and on. A good example that I love is the iconic Samsung's "Ostrich", by Leo Burnet Chicago. All that value was created in-house, with great ideas.

The role of the creative

The role of creatives in advertising is to add value to a piece of communication by creating a meaningful connection between audience, brand, product and culture. That's hard, and takes talent. It takes creativity. It takes sweat and tears. Adding the DeLorean from Back-to-the-Future to your ad, takes mostly money.

The bittersweet thing is, this tactic works. People eat that stuff up (literally, in the case of Oreos). Brands do get to bask in the glory of Game of Thrones and get their piece of the pie. They meet their KPIs and everyone's happy. And that's part of the business.

Don't get me wrong, I'd jump on the opportunity to have Jon Snow (and Wolf's Claw) in one of my ads – #sofun #blessed #adlife. But I just want to point out that creativity in advertising goes much beyond that. We can CREATE interest, rather than borrow it for a hefty fee. We can innovate. We can transform brands and change the course of the world.

Let's not fall into the Hollywood trap and just keep re-making, re-booting, and doing what's safe. Creativity is about innovating and pushing the boundaries. That's what the ad industry is really about.

July 26, 2018No Comments

Graph: Creativity vs Discomfort

We all need to constantly be reminded of this one simple fact, even if creativity is our daily job. Even walking in every day with the mission to create can become comfortable – and that's something professional creatives need to watch out for. We may fall into the trap that is believing that if we come in, learn the ropes, rinse and repeat we'll be creative forever. Comfortably.

That's far from the truth. Because creativity requires discomfort.

I like to define creativity as the act of using your imagination to bring into the world something that wasn't there before. I stress the last bit that refers to originality – because if you make something that already exists, you're not being creative, are you?

creativity vs discomfort chart

Chart: Well, there is such thing as "too much discomfort". Try to find the sweet spot, not the point of no return.

Originality is an absolute pre-requisite for creativity, because creativity lies only in what didn't exist before you created it.

And that's the crux of my point with discomfort and creativity. Read more

March 13, 2018No Comments

The Brainstorm Is Not Dead

There's a lot of buzz around brainstorming not being a thing anymore. This Forbes article is but one of many debunking the myth of brainstorming being great for coming up with ideas. But guess what? 70 years later, brainstorming is still around. And for one reason:

It has a very cool name.

Alex Osborn, the man who invented brainstorming, didn’t get everything right, but the name “brainstorm” was certainly a home run.

alex osborn

Alex Osborn, the father of Brainstorming, asking for ideas over the phone.

Since the late 40’s when Osborn – who happens to be the “O” in BBDO – gave brainstorming to the world, his creation has been scrutinized, debunked, evolved, changed and re-adapted. The brainstorming techniques used today by IDEO and other creative companies are so different from Osborn’s original process they should not be called brainstorms. Yet, they are, because no one wants to let go of that supercool name.

Would you rather tell your wife/husband when you get home that you took part in a “brainstorm", or in a group idea-generating session?

“Brainstorm" for me, any day of the week, please.

Many articles today that debunk brainstorming still take as reference Osborn’s model, which was flawed. There's plenty of science out there to prove it. Many better ways to come up with ideas are at our disposal. Heck, telling everyone just to have ideas on their own works better than Osborn's brainstorm. Yet, it was the starting point to all the knowledge we have today on idea-generating. Fact is, nowadays, "brainstorming" has come to mean "generating ideas" – either in group settings or individually. To which there are many different techniques – some of them have nothing to do with the original brainstorming from the 40s.

Osborn got a few things right, though, besides naming it “brainstorm”. Here are my 3 favorites: Read more

January 26, 2018No Comments

I’ll know it when I see it — how to deal with bad feedback

Now, it was make it or break it. We had been going back and forth with the client for days, and this was the last chance to get the layout approved the way we knew was better. Earlier that week, we had heard very specific feedback from the client – the kind that makes you angry as a creative, because it feels arbitrary and outside the client's expertise: "Move the product away from the headline so it doesn't overlap". What? Why???

Up to this point, all our discussions had happened over email. On the agency side, we thought this would be just something they'd let go, if we pushed back a little. "The creatives feel it works better as it is".

That wasn't enough, and I saw our ad being pushed further and further into the ordinary.

You see, clients and creatives have the same goals, but they look at things from different perspectives. The clients were doing what they thought was best for the job, but they didn't understand the consequences of making the changes they suggested. What sounds like a simple change for the untrained eye, is actually a major blow for a layout that was intentional in every detail. Taking the product away from the headline would undo the point of tension, which was carefully crafted to direct attention to the product feature – while flattening the layout and taking away most of its visual appeal.

So, as it was our last chance, I met the client face-to-face. I said exactly what I wrote in the previous paragraph, while showing them the layout we recommended, next to the one incorporating the requested change. I also took the time to explain the feeling we get from graphics that break expectations, and how that tension draws the eye. I took the time to explain how overlapping elements give a sense depth to the page that makes the product "pop out." All the things we know and feel as we design a layout, I put into words so they could understand.

"I just wish you guys would take us through your thinking, like you just did, more often. Now that you made us understand, we'll go with your recommendation". These are invaluable words, coming from a client.

Once I was able to communicate the reason behind our creative choices, we got on the same page. If I hadn't been able to translate to them why the product overlapping the headline mattered, we'd be left with a damaged relationship and a bad layout in major national publications. Read more

January 17, 2018No Comments

Like germs to Purell: 99.9% of ideas get killed

Ask any professional creative: The fact is that the vast majority of our ideas end up in the trash.

This reminded me of Purell and its famous tagline: Purell. Kills more than 99.9% of germs.

That's about the same amount of ideas that get killed by CDs, ECDs, CCOs, account people and clients, collectively. Of course, that's just a rough average. Sometimes, 100% of your ideas get killed!

One of the things I quickly learned in the world of professional creativity is that, to come up with winning ideas, we need to come up with lots of ideas. Lots and lots of them. Really. Piles of ideas. Read more

January 8, 2018No Comments

Did you just call me an artist???

I remember the banter among my colleagues from back in the day, at design school. We'd tease each other calling "artist" those who did a nice job or came out with a nice design for a project. No one liked it.

Being creative is highly associated with being artistic. It shouldn't be. Although art can hardly live outside creativity, one can certainly be creative without creating art. The problem is many people believe they can't be creative because they are not artistic.

It’s about time we separate art from creativity.

Creativity manifests itself in many forms outside the world of art. A new product, a new app, a new system, a process, or even a new way of organizing your closet. These are all examples of creative endeavors, and they are not art. "Creativity os not a talent. It's a way of operating.", as put Joh Cleese eloquently in this famous talk.

Creativity comes in handy when the possible solutions for a given problem are endless.

Read more

SCG-Master-key-visual-final05x

Learn the secrets to coming up with brilliant ideas.

And stop wasting so much time with re-work. Learn with some of the best ad creatives in the world, including CCOs, ECDs and CDs from top agencies.

© The Professional Creative 2020