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 Ogilvy Art Director Monica Parada. Ogilvy won an ADDY in the Integrated Media Public Service Campaign category for their Peace Corps rebrand and campaign launch. Monica strives to break the mold — even if it gets her a face full of cereal.
Tell us about your ADDY-winning Peace Corps campaign.
The purpose was to recruit volunteers, specifically millennial men. We created a whole campaign focusing on “Doing the Unexpected.” It was a great campaign and collaboration.
How did it resist the expected?
We had an element called “Real Life Hacks.” Once a Peace Corps volunteer is out in the field, sometimes they don’t have a fridge or a broom. We teach them hacks through videos — DIY of useful props that they could [create] while in the field. We taught them how to make brooms out of plastic bottles and how to make a fridge out of clay pots, all with very simple and accessible tools that they would have.
What do you think it means to resist the expected?
It means to keep pushing forward and blow people’s minds.
Obviously, we fall into a lot of trends, such as a Tasty Video style. There are so many videos with that style. Break that. Don’t play it safe. You can always explore; you can always discover. Maybe [one of your experiments] won’t be successful, but maybe you’ll start another trend — you never know. Just don’t be scared of breaking the rules and the mold.
What is your favorite piece of advertising of all time?
I loved “Dumb Ways to Die” because it was so unexpected. It was a PSA for train safety and they poked fun at dumb ways of literally dying on a train. When it came out, it just blew my mind.
People don’t want to touch on death or negative topics, [yet] that campaign was all about dying. It was a hilarious angle but also morbid in a funny way. People fall back on “It has to be lighthearted” or “It has to be emotional and tug on the heartstrings” but they shouldn’t be scared to try new things. You can be morbid; if it’s done in the right way, people can and will enjoy and remember it.
What are the clichés that you wish people would start resisting?
- Stock footage. That’s a huge one. I understand when you don’t have the budget to get aerial footage in New Zealand, but use it wisely for moments like that, not for everything.
- Asking for a concept reference. If it’s a brand new idea, sometimes you don’t have a reference. Then [some clients’ response is], “But we don’t know if that’s going to work.” And I say, “Right, because no one has done it. That’s the reason we want to do it, to prove to you that it will work.” At Ogilvy, we have strategists, copywriters, creative directors, and art directors behind this whole idea. It’s not that we pulled it out of thin air with no research or background. There is context behind it, and I wish some clients would trust us more and not just rely on the same [approach they’ve used before], with the excuse of, “But we know this will work, so we want to go with that.”
What about Ogilvy is unexpected?
Most of our clients work on social causes and you don’t see that in every agency. I really like that we can bring a completely creative campaign into a social issue. Also, the people that I work with all come from very different backgrounds, which brings great perspectives to our projects.
What is unexpected about creative in DC?
As I mentioned, I work on a lot of cause-related campaigns. That’s very meaningful, because you are not just selling a product — you are doing so much more, maybe even saving people’s lives. There is so much influence in the DC area and some of our clients can [affect] laws or lives, which can lead to a bigger change in the world.
Why do you feel advertising competitions are important?
It’s always nice to get a pat on the back for the good work that you’re doing. It’s rewarding, and it does boost your morale. It’s also nice to see what’s out there, because you don’t get to see every single campaign [when it first appears].
What advice do you have for someone submitting to the ADDYs?
Think a lot about both what you want to submit and the categories. Sometimes people want to submit a whole campaign, but there’s just one piece that makes it a little bit weak. At that point, it’s better to deconstruct your campaign and submit individual pieces. You’re [only] as strong as your weakest link.
What about you is unexpected?
- I majored in jewelry, so I’m a jewelry designer.
- I feel like a lot of adults stop trying to learn things. From a language to skating or surfing, I’m always up for learning. I just learned how to ski this weekend. A month ago, I learned how to surf. I’m always looking for the next thing to learn.
Join Monica and show us how you’ve resisted the expected by submitting your work to the 2018 ADDY Awards. FINAL DEADLINE IS TONIGHT – Friday, January 26, 11:59PM ET!
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.