Today’s creative brain is Alexis Findiesen, Associate Director of Technology, at CHIEF. Last year, the agency won an ADDY for the National Park Foundation website redesign. Alexis says she’s empowered by being brave.
Please tell us about your ADDY Award-winning project.
We won for the responsive design of the National Park Foundation website. It was a collaborative effort between all departments. We made sure it [succeeded] strategically from a design standpoint and from a development standpoint.
How did it resist the expected?
The details. The thoroughness. As Zaid White [CHIEF Associate Director of Design] would say, “It’s the design sauce.” It’s all those extra things that make something really special.
Every section, every button, every headline was thought about and tested thoroughly. We were bringing the site up on our own phones at home and having conversations as a team about how to handle a certain call to action or image treatment or about ways to make the site more accessible.
You don’t always have the time to do that, and you don’t always have a client who is as wonderful as the National Park Foundation. We got a really special treat on this project. It was the meeting of many worlds coming together in just the right combination.
What is your favorite piece of advertising?
My favorite is the Old Spice commercial The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. Nobody had done anything like that before and I just found it hilarious. It had punchline after punchline of random things you would not think of: “Here are diamonds, and I’m on a horse.” It resonated with me. I had never thought about Old Spice before. I [thought], “Oh, my grandfather used that.” Now I have my husband wearing it.
What do you think it means to resist the expected in the world of advertising?
The Old Spice example is a good one because the actual execution came out so seamlessly, but a lot of work went in behind the scenes so that it would have impact and be believable. Resisting the expected is putting a ton of work into a piece so that the end product is so well executed it looks [effortless].
What clichés in advertising do you wish people would resist?
I hate stereotypes. Anytime there’s a stereotype in advertising, I look at it and I think, “That’s lazy writing.” I want something different. I want somebody I know to be on the screen, somebody who has a little life to them. Not every woman is a stay-at-home mom, and not every man is handy with a chainsaw. It’s just ridiculous. It’s sexism. It’s racism. I want things to be more creative than that, across the board.
Also, I’m so over talking babies.
How does CHIEF resist the expected?
Our slogan is, “Be brave.” That’s actually a mantra that we repeat to each other throughout the day: “Hey, be brave. Try that thing out. See if it works. It’s okay if it breaks. Let’s just try it and see. It could come out to be something amazing, incredible.”
We generally operate under the lens of, “I think you could do that better.” We’re all ready for that from each other — we all dish it out, so we all expect to take it. It’s a very even playing field. Everyone has a say; even if their opinion doesn’t wind up in the final product, it’s still valuable. It can spark an idea. [“Be brave” is] empowering too. You feel ferocious and it makes you think, “I can do this.”
What is unexpected about creative in DC?
People don’t think of DC as a creative space, so that makes it unexpected all on its own. When people hear about things coming out of DC, they say, “Wait, what?” Then they’re pleasantly surprised, and that’s wonderful. DC is really starting to make a name for itself. Even New York is starting to recognize us.
Why do you feel advertising competitions are important?
It’s incredibly important for peers to challenge each other and awards do that. We’re in both a collaborative and competitive environment and that’s what is so great about awards — they make people work harder. Also, getting recognition for all that hard work is a little extra something special. After you’ve been working on [a project] for eight months and killing yourself, [an award] makes you feel really accomplished and then, on your next project, you drive yourself even harder.
What was your favorite campaign from last year?
There were so many wonderful ones. I remember being very impressed that the University of Maryland, where I went, had submitted so many student designs. I was just pleasantly surprised.
I was also impressed by how many nonprofits were represented, and the causes that were being supported and recognized. It made me feel good that we were one big band together.
What is unexpected about you?
I met my husband while playing World of Warcraft [WoW]. We realized that we lived a state away from each other; when we met in person, we started dating immediately. We didn’t get married in WoW, but he did buy me flowers in WoW several times, and he wrote me love letters in World of Warcraft.
Come see all of the work that resisted the expected this year by attending the 2018 ADDY Awards on March 29th at Gypsy Sally’s.
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.