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 Sim LeCompte, a copywriter at Ogilvy. Last year, Sim helped Ogilvy win an ADDY in the Integrated Media Public Service Campaign category for the Peace Corps rebrand and campaign launch. Sim shows us that sometimes inspiration comes from looking at your routine in a different way.
Tell us about the ADDY-winning “Do the Unexpected” campaign for the Peace Corps.
It was a recruitment and rebranding campaign — a really big undertaking. We had to position the Peace Corps for a different audience so we had to come up with something unexpected.
Potential volunteers choose not to go to the Peace Corps because the fear of missing out: People didn’t want to miss out on birthdays, family time, having a child, or getting married, as well as getting work experience. They thought that a 27-month volunteer program would hold them back, so we needed to flip that fear on its head.
Our idea was that all of that can wait. Everyday life can wait. Go to the Peace Corps and do something unexpected. Naturally, we called it “Do the Unexpected.” It was a fun way to reach an audience I’d never worked with before (multicultural millennial men).
How did it resist the expected?
A lot of these types of organizations, especially government ones, speak at the audience versus to them or with them. It’s not a conversation. In this campaign, we wore the hat of the audience, which made the campaign different.
One of the executions was “Real Life Hacks”:
- We created do-it-yourself tricks for volunteers in the field, like how to build their own solar oven.
- We built the website.
- We created a digital ad where we showed multicultural millennial men in everyday, kind of dull moments: In a gym, working out and staring at the super fit guy; in an office and not enjoying what they’re doing; or on a date with a bunch of awkward silences, etc. We played around with that: “You can do the expected or you can do something cool instead and continue your daily life later.”
What does it mean to resist the expected?
Making sure you have new experiences every day because that’s what influences your creative ideas. I’m not a painter, but I’ll paint at home. I read a lot. I go out and do different things. Sometimes take the bus instead of the metro. Even the smallest things can help make sure you’re not being stuck in a routine.
What’s your favorite piece of advertising creative of all time?
I love the Thinx ads that ran on the New York subway. They are extremely cleverly written and rely heavily on copywriting. They show women who were not Photoshopped; you could see that their skin didn’t look perfect.
Some were petite, some were a little curvier, all skin colors. It was so beautiful. Visually, it was very simple, and then copy-wise, it talked directly to their really progressive female audience (people who are okay with period underwear). It’s so unexpected to not use a tampon or a pad that, obviously, they have to reach people who will be open to that.
It’s so honest. It’s so funny. They use emojis at the end. It’s just the most clever ad I’ve seen in a long time.
What clichés do you wish people would start resisting?
- The phrase “think outside of the box.” I feel like that traps me into a box. That’s how cliché it is. Please stop saying that.
- Vague feedback such as, “Push it a little bit more” or “I’m not feeling this.” Tell me what you’re not feeling, what’s not working and I can try to make it better. Copy is so subjective. [You need to] step out of your own personality and look at it from the outside, and a lot of people can’t do that. Something that might seem a little too emotional or not emotional enough to you, might be different for someone else. My job is to figure that out, so help me do that by being direct.
Why do you think advertising competitions are important?
Obviously, we’re not doing the work to win awards. We’re doing it for our clients’ good. However, it’s important to keep the creative team inspired and motivated to fight for something other than just the client. This industry gets tiring because you feel like you’re not doing things for yourself. Everything you create is someone else’s.
Awards help to own up to what you made and get recognized for it. Usually, you don’t get that much recognition — you just create it and it’s done and the client owns it. Once you’re actually invited to an awards show it’s just so exciting. It’s one of the rare moments when we get recognition for our work.
What advice you have for someone submitting to the ADDYs?
Let the creative shine. Of course results really matter, but I think it’s more about the idea and the creative execution of it [rather] than specific metrics and results. Choose the strongest creative piece in the campaign, and push that forward, then cross your fingers.
How does Ogilvy resist the expected?
Compared to other agencies in New York City, San Francisco, or LA that focus on consumer brands, we do a lot more government and cause-related work. The big difference here — which really pushes me — is we come up with concepts that are very hard to sell because the clients are a little bit more traditional. That’s the rewarding part. It’s much more challenging to actually push yourself and try to get these clients to buy the bigger ideas. It’s a different form of thinking.
Another unique thing about Ogilvy is that we get very meaningful campaigns and work. You feel like you’re doing good, which you don’t [always] get from advertising. I went to a party in New York City once where there were six copywriters and most of them were from well-known agencies. They were telling me about their clients and they asked me about mine. I told them all these cause-related [projects] and a couple of consumer brands. They were all so amazed. They kept saying that they would love to work on more cause-related issues and progressive campaigns, and how they hate that they’re constantly working on brands.
What do you think is unexpected about creative in DC?
What’s unexpected is that we’re from a smaller landscape and we get more challenging work like nonprofits, government clients, etc.
Also, I support a lot of causes because I’ve lived overseas in places where the freedoms of speech, expression and press didn’t exist. That’s a big reason why I now live in the US — I am part of a creative scene that will never be stopped by the government. No one can say, “You can’t say that,” other than clients.
That’s what’s exciting to me about being a creative in DC — the freedom to do and say whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt others, and [the freedom] to create beautiful work. This city has a lot of creative potential; a lot of the people may not necessarily work in traditional creative fields, but they have a lot of ways to express their creativity.
What about you is unexpected
From 2006 – 2010, I was a total metalhead. I had black nails and nail polish and bangs and wore really terrible clothing. I listened to angry music all the time. Now I’m this chill introverted person who has nothing to do with that and I’m not angry at the world like I used to be.
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.