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His photoshop skills are renown, his dislike for stock photography is known the world over, his office looks like a construction zone (good for making custom logos) and he sports an angry snake tatt… he’s the most interesting Creative Director in the World… well that part is up for debate, but he’s our favorite creative director – Darren Dunham!

This is the first post in a series featuring our fearless CD Darren’s likes (and sometimes dislikes). While its great to toot our horns, we’d like to highlight some of the work that others are doing that we think deserves some accolades. And whom better to provide these insights than our fearless, aesthetic leader.

So, with no further Ado… The first in the Series – D. Says
Highlight #1 – Opulence, I has it – Direct TV

“This is my current all-time favorite, love the opening “Opulence, I has it” clever, funny, entertaining and the best of the big cable/satellite wars… The tiny giraffe is the best thing I think I’ve ever seen.”
- Darren Dunham

So far working remote has been great. I’ve actually been really productive (maybe even more so as I have no distractions) and able to communicate with clients the way I normally would. However, I’ve hit my first snag – time zones and ical/entourage calendars.

I’ve been traveling so much lately I’m not sure what time zone I’m in and my poor ical/entourage is trying to catch up. I’m taking a ton of meetings on the fly and I always have to double check to make sure I’ve got them scheduled as the correct time. the math get’s crazy due to the variables. Here’s a great example:

1. The client is on the East Coast (EST)
2. My development partner is in Texas (CST)
3. I’m in Idaho (GMT) but will be flying to San Diego the day of the meeting (PST)
4. And I’m told by developer the meeting is at 1:00 pm.

You tell me what time I’m supposed to put into my calendar!  

Fortunately I’ve been on top of it and haven’t had anything go astray. However, I’ve had some close calls and this is definitely something to consider when working remotely, or building a remote team. Everyone needs to be on the same page with time. 

Well, I’ve got to go… I have a meeting, at least I think I do.

Today started with a bang:

6:00 a.m. – Phone call with the folks in Qatar to present some mood boards (I was in the mood!)
7:00 a.m. – check in with the office (still there)
8:00 a.m. – create site charter for new client (and what a site!)
9:00 a.m. – Skype meeting with Breast Cancer Foundation and our friends at BuzzShift (wait a minute, I don’t know how to Skype!)

This was to be my first Skype meeting with a client and I was a little nervous about it. Would my personality come through okay? Would I be able to read the client through a digital window? Would I be able to project strategy via a tiny web cam? And most importantly, would I know where to look? 

And then I realized, I had to get out of my pajamas… well at least the bottoms!

The meeting was great – I felt like I was in the room. I could read people’s body language and see their reactions. It was amazing. I highly recommend it for anyone that is out of the office and needs to conduct a meeting. Much better than a conference call. I’m not sure if I would say it is the same as an in-person meeting, but I’ll have another chance to compare next week when I have my second Skypefest with the same client. 

And if you’re wondering how the day ended… well, it hasn’t yet. I’m packing to head for the airport for a 7:30 pm flight to San Diego to meet with clients tomorrow… No rest for the remote!

Advertising is a service business, especially for those of us on the account management side. I spend most of my time strategizing, communicating messaging points and creating deliverable deadlines between the creative team and the client. Much of this communication is done in-person.

Not for the next two weeks. As of today, I have set up shop 2,000 miles (give or take a few) from my desk and computer and most of my clients. Some of them are remote and will notice no difference. I’m the cheery voice on the phone and the chipper e-mail they receive in their inbox. But for some of my clients I’m the person who brings them donuts or sits in on five-hour meetings to lend some insights. For these people, and me, these next two weeks will be interesting. 

There are also the coworkers to think about. What about them? Those who “enjoy” the sound of my 3-inch heels clacking down our concrete hallways (okay, maybe they don’t enjoy it, per se, but you get the point). I meet with our designers daily, just dropping in unexpectedly (ask Darren, he just loves it!) to share some feedback from a client or some impending deadline that may or may not have slipped someone’s mind. And what about the art of the creative brainstorm? This feeding frenzy of sharing creative ideas via voice, pen, crayon — whatever means necessary. Can this be done as a virtual head? I guess we are about to find out! 

Working remotely has become a fairly normal thing for many industries. Advertising hasn’t been one of them. So consider this the Jeanne Experiment. Everyday I will blog and tweet about how working remotely went. I’ll be totally honest and discuss the positives and the negatives. One negative has already surfaced — timezones! This is one that already exists having clients in different areas of the country, so maybe I can’t blame this one on working remotely, but tomorrow I will be taking a conference call at 6 a.m. because the client is in the Middle East. Get the coffee brewing!

So, tomorrow I truly start working remotely. I’m armed with VPN to access the server remotely, iChat to communicate with my design team quickly, Skype to meet with clients “face-to-face” and my office phones being forwarded to my iPhone. Let the remote games begin.

This weekend I was introduced to Texas-sized allergies, and as the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. To try to remedy the fact that my eyes itched like I rubbed them with poison ivy and my sneezes rivaled hurricane-force winds, I decided to take some Benadryl. While the relief I gained was fantastic, I once again proved I have the drug tolerance of an infant. The stuff made me so groggy I could do nothing but lie on my couch in slug-like repose. So, why am I telling you this story on the 29 Agency blog? Here comes the point.

Since I could do nothing but lie around, I decided to let the television be my entertainment. While flipping through the usual suspects, I happened upon a fantastic train wreck of a show – Kirstie Alley’s Big Life (on A&E). I am not normally one for reality TV, but the episode I happened to catch had subject matter near and dear to my heart – TWITTER. In this episode the circus-esque cast that lives with Kirstie staged a “Twittervention,” citing the fact that while Ashton Kutcher, the self-proclaimed king of twitter has around 5,000 tweets, Kirstie was coming in at a whopping 14,000! They actually called the episode “They tried to make me go to twee-hab!” The point (if you can call it that) was that Kirstie was spending too much time on Twitter with perfect strangers and not enough time with the real people in her life. Perhaps it was my drug induced haze or savvy marketing sense, but this episode sparked a discussion in my head: How much twitter is too much? And how should Twitter be used.

We’ll be doing a follow up post on what we think as far as what is too much tweeting, and how we feel it is used best. But, until then, we would love to hear what you have to say.

And of course, we’ll be tweeting about this post!

While we love every project we get to be a part of, there are just those specific ones that scratch the creative itch, meet the strategic need and partner us with those that amaze. And, I’m happy to say, we just completed one of those.

People to People Ambassador Programs is a company that conducts leadership programs for the best-of-the-best of high school students. As part of their upcoming New Orleans trip, they decided to launch a cause-related campaign to raise awareness and provide much needed funds for the real needs of the city still present post Katrina. We were contracted to create a brand identity, microsite and video that would help them spread this message.

It all seemed simple enough – brand, website, video. We do it every day. But, we weren’t prepared for what we were about to learn. Based on a fantastic initial idea from our client we decided to center our imagery around the X that was sprayed on each affected building in New Orleans. This X was used to identify four things:
1. If the home was hazardous,
2. What day the rescue team showed up,
3. Which rescue team it was,
4. And how many bodies were found, dead or alive.

With this visual in mind we set out to tell the story. Like the rest of the country, we assumed that New Orleans was pretty much fixed and we would find only minor evidence of damage. You don’t hear about it on the news any more and with disasters like Haiti happening our charitable funds go elsewhere. Well… we were wrong.

When our film crew arrived in New Orleans they were shocked by the devastation that met them. The popular tourists spots had been fixed, but just outside the city was a completely different story. Home after home lay in ruin still bearing the “X” that tells a unique story of destruction.

But, this story is not meant to be one of sadness and despair. When the crew got back and we watched the footage there were a number of people in the office who said, “This is from right now? Not five years ago?” Solidifying what our client was trying to do – raise awareness and make a difference. In that moment, we knew all we had to do was create a vehicle to deliver this message; the American people would do the rest.

Our clients, Scott Cocking and Greg Gould, were true visionaries and totally understood the imagery we wanted to use. Experts in brand building and social media, their input and guidance played a major role in what we feel is and will be a very successful campaign. We love the final pieces… take a look and get involved. Do your part to spread this message of hope and healing.

29 Agency is looking for a new production artist.

Us: Boutique (aka smaller), award-winning creative services agency in the DFW area. We are known for our unconventional thinking and handmade creations. We thrive on tight deadlines and producing work to be proud of. No prima donnas or slackers exist at our firm… So if you are one, don’t even think about applying.

You: Fresh out of school or just a few years under your belt (or you just really love production). You are looking for a place to enter the work force and would relish the chance to create data sheets and get paid for it. You should play well with others but be able to work autonomously and be able to find out the “answer” on your own. You are looking for a learning opportunity with some of the best creatives and strategists around and aren’t seeking “big agency” atmosphere.

What the job entails:
• Under supervision, execute work in all types of print mediums (collateral, magazine, newsprint, packaging)
• Participate in creative brainstorming sessions
• Contribute original designs for a multitude of projects (branding, packaging, etc.)
• Participate in web design and production (no coding skills needed, but they would be nice)
• Mock up work for presentations
• Preflight and package files for print

What you should know:
• Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4)
• Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
• Basic design principals

Please send portfolio and work samples to jryan@29agency.com. Please include your salary requirements and a list of references.

Again, prima donnas and slackers need not apply.

So, what does it take to produce a television commercial? Apparently two days, a crew of about 15 and me putting myself in harms way… and loosing. And that, is how the story begins.

It was that time of year again. Time to create the latest in the Access (one of our favorite clients) series of television commercials. The scripts had been written, the locations and actors approved (much to Darren’s dismay seeing as how he had to be in them again!) and we were ready to go. So, Darren and I packed our bags and headed on down to the “Keepin’ it Weird” capital of Texas – Austin.

As we descended into the Austin airport we didn’t know what to expect. The day started out with a bang with Big D discovering that the rental car lady had the same birthday as he did (she was super excited and called her manager who consequently had the same birthday as well…we chatted on speaker phone – awkward!) Upon arriving at our destination our day got even better. We had chosen Action Figure to be our production/post house and a better choice could not have been made. We were treated like commercial royalty (see inset couch pics below and name on the marquis), the studio was totally legit (see inset of mammoth Cyc) and the crew… well, they were ridiculously talented.

We had a grueling schedule, shooting three different television spots over the course of two days with multiple locations and actors. We commend our Producer, Meredith, for her skills in herding all of us from place to place and mostly on schedule. So all of this is sounding quite like a walk in the park, and for the most part it was… enter accident prone me.

One of the spots has two women working out at the gym. The camera focuses in on one lady who is running and checking her banking account on her mobile phone. I was not this lady, but rather the filler woman beside her. My task was simple, run on a treadmill. That’s it, no words, no special movement, just put one foot in front of the other… yeah, that didn’t quite happen.

I actually managed to make it through the whole commercial sequence, it was the dismount that got me. In order to exit the scene I had to step over the other woman’s moving treadmill. Well, I glanced at something at the last minute whilst mid stride and managed to step down with my right foot on the moving part of the treadmill. My foot went flying out from underneath me and the next thing I know I was fully launched in the air… and as most of you know, what comes up, must come down… and come down I did, right on my exposed right hip and knee. I scrambled to get up before anyone noticed the almost 6 ft blonde woman lying on the ground, but the loud thud I made didn’t allow me to do that. With much protestation I declared that I was fine and that it didn’t hurt (man that was a lie). I picked my ego up off the ground dusted it off and tried to move on to the next shot… albeit with a limp. Consequently, the bruise on my right hip is grotesque and resembles a great tie-dye Tee… The pic below doesn’t quite do it justice, but you get the gist.

That night we had a fantastic meal with Ariel (the director) and Meredith. We chatted about the shoot, movies and of course food. A lovely evening to end a great day of filming. But, it had to come to a close because we all needed to do it again the next day.

Day two was all about Darren. And, while the big man won’t tell you this (because he is actually very humble) he is a dang good actor and the camera loves him. So, for twelve consecutive hours he put up with me and the director stopping him and “taking it from the top.” A good sport to say the least. Fortunately, Darren is also less accident prone than I, and managed to stay upright the whole day!

As the day came to a close I think everyone on the set was really excited about what had been accomplished. Darren and I raced to the Austin Airport where, once through security (Darren takes longer to get reassembled than most girls…), we sat down to enjoy a BBQ meal from the famous Salt Lick BBQ. Nothing like a cold one and some BBQ to put a period on the day.

The spots are now in post and we can’t wait to see the final outcome. What did we learn from this experience? We are willing to do just about anything for a client – create, direct, act and even take a hit.

Thanks to the creativity of a few agencies the advertising that runs during the Superbowl has become as famous as the climactic close to each football season. Who can forget the Budweiser frogs, Apple’s 1984, Jordan and Birds “Nothin’ but Net” and my personal favorite, Terry Tate office line backer (”Hey Janice” gets me every time).

But, for whatever the reason, we have seen a steady decline in the creativity of these immensely expensive ads. The media costs alone justify these spots being the best any agency has to offer. For 30-60 seconds you have a captive audience of millions. So we ask, is this the best they can do?

Take this year for example. While we loved the E*TRADE baby the first time we saw him, enough… we get it, you’re a baby, you buy stock… your CGI face is creepy. Move on. And GoDaddy.com? Wow, those spots lacked any creativity and focused completely on the hormone raging male audience (not a bad one to go after during a sporting event, but c’mon). In fact, a great deal of the ads were geared toward this audience. Megan Fox in a bathtub, gratuitous flatulence jokes, men without pants singing about having no pants, you get the picture.

However, there were a few bright spots in the bunch:
Vizio had a great spot about their new Internet apps program. There was no gratuitous nudity, farting or drinking. In featured Beyoncé and a cast of Internet video favorites like the baritone voiced singer of Chocolate Rain, the Numa Numa Guy and David after the dentist.

Maybe I’m just showing my age, but HomeAway’s “Hotel Hell Vacation” trailer was awesome. Anything that involves Clark Griswald has my attention.

Bud Light, who was every where had a bunch of ho hum spots, but there was one that we definitely liked. The “Lost” spot where the survivors of a crash would rather drink Bud Light and party than get off the island they have been marooned on. Pretty funny stuff… especially the jet engine hot tub.

Dorito’s spots were also hit or miss, but the spot that had us laughing was the one with the little boy who slaps the guy about to take his mom out on a date saying “Keep your hands off my Mama and my Doritos.”

Hyundai’s Ten Year ad showing a 50 year old Brett Favre was also pretty good. Maybe because we feel for the old man of football, but the spot got our attention.

We have to tell the truth and say any commercial that has Betty White in it has our vote. The geriatric marvel lent her superior acting skills to a Snicker’s spot in which she gets tackled repeatedly.

And Google… the giant that never advertises. The spot was so simple and so to the point. It completely demonstrated what Google does and the breadth of services. Pure Genius…

These are of course just our personal opinions and we have yet to have the opportunity to create a Superbowl ad (please read this as we would LOVE to create a Superbowl ad for people to pick apart) so it’s sort of unfair for us to judge… but hey, that’s what social media and the blogosphere is about! So, dear readers, tell us what you thought. Was there a gem in there in that we missed? Or disagree with our opinion? We want to know.

For those of you living under a rock, you can view all of the spots at Hulu.com

Coke – It’s Very Famous
Pepsi – For when they don’t have Coke

This is what “creative” tag lines we would have to look forward to if advertising wasn’t allowed to be creative. This weekend, I got a glimpse into what advertising would look like if we could only say and show what was… and it was horrifying. The Invention of Lying is a movie about a world where no one can tell a lie… Not just that, they can’t show anything that doesn’t exist. This means that all movies, books and advertisements are 100% accurate and historic and there are no such things as actors, just people who read these facts on film. Check out one of these awe inspiring spots for Coke…

Coke Commercial – Invention of Lying

While we have been promoting company advertising that showcases truth in advertising, we don’t promote advertising that has zero creativity. It is the creativity in a spot that engages consumers and endears them to a particular brand. Now, this doesn’t give free license to do whatever you want as far as advertising goes. We still support truth in advertising, but just beg that agencies do it with a flare of creativity.

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