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 interviewee is Chris Kennedy, a composer from Noise Distillery (formerly Clean Cuts Music), who teaches us the importance of reinventing trends — specifically, not getting tied up in them.
You’ve won many ADDY awards, but tell us about your favorite.
It was almost 10 years ago, for a trilogy of cool video games called Drawn. We submitted the trailers that we scored for those games. Drawn was an adventure, like Myst: It was a compelling story about a little girl who does drawings that come alive.
What was your role and what was the experience like?
I wrote the music and coordinated with musicians. We had to book all the musicians and bring them into the studio. It’s pretty awesome when you get real players — that human element puts meaning into something that [already] had life.
We had solo instruments: violins, voice, French horn, trumpet, trombone, and other orchestral instruments one at a time — an ongoing parade of musicians coming through. You want to say as they get added in, [the music] starts to take life, but it almost has to get deconstructed before it gets built back up. You’re replacing things one at a time. It’s not totally organic, but you know in the end, once they’re all in, it’s going to work. There’s this leap of faith that once you put the first one in, [you’ll feel] “This is different.” It needs everybody to have that take shape.
How did that project resist the expected?
The whole project was unexpected. The games themselves were a different take on that style of adventure game. The effort put into marketing and advertising Drawn was certainly unexpected.
Musically, what we were able to do was also unexpected. It was a very lush soundtrack. We recorded orchestral players [including] a whole string section, so it was a bigger to-do than typical. In that way, it was unexpected and unique.
What does it mean to resist the expected in the world of advertising?
Reinventing what’s going to be the next trend. Any trend or pattern has a lifespan and can’t go on forever. How we can determine what comes next? What are going to be the patterns we follow? What’s going to be hip and what’s going to be different? We have to continually reinvent ourselves.
What is your all-time favorite piece of advertising?
84 Lumber in last year’s Super Bowl. It was pretty compelling; it was political, not in a literal way, but it was about people building a wall. They only showed 60 seconds of it during the commercial, and then you had to go online to see the conclusion. That one has just stuck with me.
Why did that resist the expected? What made it compelling to you?
- The message and where it was being played: “We’re going to make this statement because these are our values. This is what we believe in.”
- It told a full-blown story that was moving and passionate.
- All the elements that went into it: The music and cinematography were great. It was just well done all around.
- It wasn’t afraid to take a position on something that had nothing to do with their product.
What clichés do you wish people would resist?
I feel like we’re in this moment of “How can we reinvent that without doing that exact same thing?” Musically, in trailers, the Inception “BWAAA” sound has been with us for a long time. People have started resisting it and they’re doing that same idea, just with different approaches — instead of something that’s real low, they do something really high.
Thinking holistically about trailers, their structure is so formulaic at this point. That’s something I’d like to see us move away from.
Why do you feel advertising competitions are important?
I think it’s always important to recognize good work. We should be recognizing quality work in all fields.
What advice do you have for someone submitting to the ADDYs?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. (That’s boilerplate.)
What do you love about being a creative in DC?
The culture here. People from all over the world come to DC and bring their talents, history and culture. It shows up musically. We have a very diverse range of musicians in this true melting pot where you hear all sorts of different things.
What is unexpected about you?
I’m pretty active; I like to go surfing in the winter.
I go to the great shores of Maryland and Delaware all year. I won’t let the winter stop me. The weather is not a hindrance; it’s just the thing you have to deal with.
That’s like a lot of things in life. If you like to surf, you shouldn’t just wait until summer. Figure out a way to do it all year. Obstacles are always going to be thrown in your way. Just roll with them, figure it out, get the right equipment to deal with it or the right help. Whether it’s in work or surfing, it’s getting just the right wet suit.
Join Chris 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 conviction, 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.