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 Zaid White, Associate Director of Design at CHIEF. Last year, CHIEF won an ADDY for Responsive Design for the National Park Foundation’s website redesign. Zaid shared his approach to the creative process and his favorite palindrome.
Tell us about your ADDY Award winner.
I was the lead designer and we were striving to create a compelling experience for our client. We’re not in the business of making templates and trying to fit our clients into them. [Instead,] it’s about letting the client’s uniqueness come through.
Our approach is to first understand our client, what they’re trying to achieve, and then to really connect with the idea. We work to get into their mindset to a point where we feel a bit of the emotion that drives them.
What does it mean to resist the expected?
You’ve got to get past “safe”.
Sometimes [creatives] look for the shortest path. That could be a joke or something that’s in line with a trend or an established style. Those are fallbacks, they’re safe. If you quickly jump into those, you’re not giving yourself a chance to really explore and find something new, different, or unexpected.
What is your favorite piece of advertising of all time?
It’s not a specific ad. Subaru is able to create truly emotional ads — not just knee-jerk, funny, or sad. I can explain the creative: A family is buying a Subaru and have their little girl in the back, then they flash forward to the point where [the dad is] handing over the keys. It’s just so effective at triggering — because I’m a parent, it triggers all of those little parental reactions. Subaru just taps into them so deeply, but at the same time, it’s completely genuine. This is at the heart of what Subaru’s trying to do, which is make better and safer cars.
What clichés in advertising do you wish people would resist?
The idea that surface-level or slapstick humor is the only way to convey anything. The other side of that is to pull on negative emotion. Just avoid emotional extremes.
How do you feel CHIEF resists the expected?
It’s in our approach: making a solid connection with the client. If we can build that trust, [we can] really take them to where they want to go. Our brand ethos is “Be Brave” — build trust and make great things.
What do you feel is unexpected about DC creative?
We’re always trying to sniff out [the space] for creative thought or execution: How much are we being contracted to execute a set of predefined tasks versus really helping them rethink what they’re doing and take it to another level? How can we as creative people, synthesizers of design thought, create that unexpected space and that new experience?
Why do you feel advertising competitions are important?
That’s a tough one. I don’t even want to comment because they’re not all the same. I will say, it just felt special last year to be recognized in the mix with that community.
What advice do you have for someone submitting to the ADDYs?
I think it has to be work that not only you are proud of, but that your client is proud of as well. If you’ve got that combo right, then it’s award worthy.
The National Park Foundation project had the best team dynamic — probably the best client interaction I’ve ever had. I feel like everything was built on that trust. That is ultimately what we’re super proud of. The fact that awards have come out of it, without that being the goal, is so much more rewarding.
What is unexpected about you?
I played and wrote music through college for a funk rock band. I played guitar, wrote the music, and sang backup. The band was called “Oojeejoo.” It’s a palindrome and a nonsense word. We said, “What are we gonna call it?” “I don’t know, Oojeejoo?” You need a name if you’re going to play shows and it just stuck.
Join Zaid 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.