DC is more than just our nation’s capital: It’s home to some of the most creative minds in the advertising business. These thought leaders are pushing the envelope, developing award-winning campaigns that inform and inspire far beyond Washington. We sat down with past ADDY Award winners to learn what motivates them to Resist the Expected.
Today’s creative brain is Allyson Hummel, a Creative Director at Ogilvy DC. Last year, Ogilvy won an ADDY for the HHS Administration for Community Living “What is Brain Health” animation. We wanted to find out how Allyson pushes for the ideas that shoot for the stars.
Tell us about your ADDY Award-winning campaign.
Our “What Is Brain Health?” campaign reaches out to older adults to educate them on how to reduce risks to their brain. We did a series of animations and the one that won was “Discover New Talent.” A very important part of brain health is learning something new.
How do you feel the campaign resisted the expected?
People normally get scared about the issue of brain health, so we really wanted to be positive and empowering. Brain health is not sexy. And government work has a reputation for being very expected. So, how can we make it interesting and sexy to people who want to learn about it? In this case, we really pushed the envelope with the animations, making it cool and fun in a very interesting style. This particular animation featured a lot of creative transitions, from a musician to a painter, etc. It was just a really cool thing for older adults and for brain health. We are also fortunate that we have an amazing client and he’s really helped us to push the envelope.
What does it mean to resist the expected?
You want to do is capture people’s attention, and to do that you have to be unique. It gets harder and harder because everything’s been done before. I think when you’re creating something and you’re in that creation moment, you’re looking at a lot of the ideas that you first come up with. They all feel expected and you just have to push yourself to get to the ideas that go beyond that. Those are the very cool, unique ideas that get people’s attention.
What is your favorite piece of advertising of all time?
My sweet spot is public education campaigns. You’re going to laugh because this is very old, but it’s the Partnership for a Drug-Free America “This is your brain on drugs” ad. They dropped an egg on a frying pan and it was so simple, and so effective, and so powerful. I loved it.
And how did it resist the expected?
Clients can get complicated trying to get their message across and creatives can get complicated trying to include everything, which is not what it’s about. It’s really about figuring out how simply we can communicate an idea. For people to remember, sometimes those simple things are the only ones that will resonate. It has to be 30 years and I still remember that campaign.
What clichés do you wish people would start resisting?
- I hate collages. Could people just not ask, “Please show every person and every audience”? Sometimes it’s much more powerful when you use a message from one or two voices or a story from one or two people. Having too many voices can take away from the message and from being authentic.
- Using stock. If you can, you always want to do original illustration and/or photography. Anything original is always better than stock because so many people are using it.
- Asking for things to be too literal. When some clients see a video, they say, “That’s what they said, I just want you to show something that is exactly that.”
What is unexpected about Ogilvy?
Ogilvy is a great brand and it’s a fun brand. The DC office was originally Ogilvy Public Relations, but right now we’re all merging into one Ogilvy. I think it gives us a unique opportunity to go out there and be really creative because people don’t have the origins of the brand like we did with David Ogilvy, the advertising great. We’ve got the advertising DNA in our brand and I think that’s what makes us really unique and special in the market.
What do you think is unexpected about creative in DC?
I don’t think people [outside DC] think DC is very creative. When they think about advertising markets they don’t think of DC. I know in 2008 we got hit hard and quite a few agencies had to close their doors. I do think we can do the unexpected for people and show them that we are creative, that we can do really cool things here. This is a powerful city and the creative should be powerful too.
Why do you think advertising competitions are important?
Advertising competitions are important for a lot of reasons. First, we’re all creatives, but we’re also competitive. I think that competitive spirit, in a good and healthy way, motivates you to do better.
Second, it’s also good to get your name out in the community. To go, “Hey, what’s the best work that’s being done?” It gets us to do better and I think it’s rewarding for the staff to say, “Hey, my work’s really good. I want it to be better. I want to get into that awards show.” And it’s good for clients to say, “What does it take to really do cool work?” It’s good all around, for the community, for the clients, for the staff, for everyone.
What recommendations do you have for someone entering the ADDY Awards?
You really need a fresh perspective. Look at your work and go, “Hey, this is really important work. This is really cool and I enjoyed working on it.” Some people’s [judgment] gets clouded if it was a painful process. It could be great work, but sometimes it hurts too much so you don’t want to enter it or think about it. In those cases, you should have other people review it and get their perspective. I think you need more than your eyes on it to decide if it’s worth entering.
Also, always enter in a lot of different categories because you never know which category yours might shine in. So go for as many categories as you can.
What is unexpected about you?
I’m a mom of four and working full time in advertising. There’ not a lot of us out there, but there are some. You can still follow your passion, do what you love, and have a family too. You can’t have it all, but you can do a lot of things and you can still have a career and a family. You won’t keep your sanity at all times but you can still do it.
Join Allyson and show us how you’ve resisted the expected by submitting your work to the 2018 ADDY Awards.
Meghan Kotlanger, the friendliest of interrogators, is a producer/director at Eastward, a content studio in DC and LA. Eastward is a collective of creatives, driven by curiosity and self-loathing, that bring a range of experiences and disciplines together under one filmmaking roof.
Matthew Rakola, is a photographer with 16 years of experience working with a wide range of commercial, editorial and educational clients. He specializes in making “real people” shine in front of the lens, usually by poking fun at himself.