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 subject is Mia Regalado, President of video production hub Cerebral Lounge, who teaches us the importance of pushing yourself even when you need to rip things apart and start all over.
You’ve been a part of many ADDY Award-winning campaigns. Tell us about your favorite.
We did one in 2009 that was a true team effort — all of Cerebral was working on it from start to finish. It was a “pop-up book” promo for a wedding-themed lineup on TLC. It involved design, 2D motion graphics and a lot of 3D elements, with a fairly short turnaround. It took all of our specialties to bring the promo to life.
It was a lot of fun and it felt like a big accomplishment to have us all put our stamp on it. I was the editor but the entire team was equally involved. We were there all weekend, each in our own rooms doing different aspects of the job.
How did it resist the expected?
It just felt very different. You didn’t see a lot of animation, especially at the time, like it. Late at night, we’d discuss what would take the spot to the next level, to make it really blow your socks off. We’re sitting there with an actual pop-up book — one of the newer books where the pages fold in unexpected ways and pop out in unexpected ways — so we’re looking at the promo and talking about how everything feels right but something is missing. Then, something just shot off the [book’s] page. It just came off, and I said, “You know, that’s what’s missing. We need something to just grow in a way that we’re not expecting.”
[In the promo,] there was one page where the couple is looking at wedding cakes, and we adjusted it so that a long table would pop out with a bunch of cakes on it; that helped us push the limit and made us say, “Yes! Now it’s feeling like it’s been elevated to a new level.” That was just a fun moment of exploration and discovery, and was really cool. We knew it meant a lot of work and a lot of changes, but it didn’t matter. We just said, “We’re doing this thing. We want to do it right.” So that was a big, fun turning point.
What does it mean to creatively resist the expected?
I think it can mean several things. On a mundane level: Don’t stop at the first conclusion that you come to. If you’re editing or designing or animating, don’t just stop at that first conclusion. Really push yourself. I’ve got a cut, yes, but watch it, live with it, think about it. When you wake up in the morning, do you think differently about it? Is it as good as it can be? What could be better? When you watch it, there should not be any reservations. You shouldn’t stop and say, “This part’s OK.” You want everything to feel right.
How do you feel Cerebral Lounge resists the expected?
We always try to bring our own ideas and opinions to projects. We operate under the notion that people are coming to us for our creative input, not just to carry out what we’re told to do. Obviously we want to make the client happy, but they come to us for our ideas and creative vision, and we’re happy to take the reins and move ahead.
We try to stay fresh and young and think of new ways to do things, expand our skill set and not look at technical difficulties as pitfalls. We embrace them and just go for it, trying to know no fear. We embrace the future and new technologies, knowing that we will figure them out.
What is your favorite piece of advertising creative that resisted the expected?
I remember absolutely loving a spot for the Cabrio. It was just gorgeous, very unlike other car commercials. No dialogue, just a group of young adults in this Cabrio with the top down, driving, and just experiencing the night.
It was a different approach to selling a car: It wasn’t pushing the car on you or talking about how fast it went or how well it stopped or its safety. It was just young adults in a car enjoying the night, letting their arms and hands wave in the wind. For two or three years [after I saw that spot], I would look for the opportunity to capture its essence.
What are the creative clichés you wish people would start resisting?
- The temptation to go to stock footage. I hate [when folks] just grab a bunch of stock footage and cut something together. Sometimes it’s the way you need to go, but a lot of times it’s more expensive because you have to pay for that footage.
- For some reason, whiteboard has made a resurgence. It was cool when the UPS guy did it a long time ago, but now there are plug-ins that give you the whiteboard effect. [Can’t] we do something better? If we’re going to do whiteboard, can we rethink how it’s done?
Why are advertising competitions important?
They give you a good avenue to see what other people are doing. We don’t always see everything that’s being produced, so it’s nice to see how other agencies or post-production houses are approaching work.
You get to see a lot of fun, different creative. You see trends, which is important, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people in our community.
Speaking of community, what do you feel is unexpected about the DC creative market?
There are actually a lot of creatives here. [That’s] because it’s not just the agency world, but also people who service the government and networks, so there is a good talent pool here.
I think it’s a total [misconception] that you need to go to New York and LA. In fact, it’s a very saturated market there; there’s an opportunity to expand more here. I know a lot of editors, 3D artists and designers that have worked in New York for a long time and their roles are very defined, where here, we do a little bit of everything. We get to expand our roles and grow our skill sets horizontally.
What advice do you have for someone submitting to the ADDYs?
Don’t be afraid to share your work.
Some people want to share everything they’ve ever done, but a lot of us get too self-critical and we don’t want to share. That’s a mistake. Don’t be afraid of putting your creative up for all to see. People want to see it.
What is unexpected about you?
I play in a band, which I think catches people off guard. I play bass and sing backup in E. Joseph & the Phantom Heart, a fun, all-original band. It keeps me feeling like I have an artistic life outside of work. And I’ve always loved music, so it does a lot of good for my soul.
Join Mia 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.